Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook hints at changes to the top order after yet another collapse

If England are to regain the urn, they cannot afford always to be three wickets down with so few runs on the board

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The Independent Online

Alastair Cook has dropped a strong hint that England will drop at least one member of their struggling top order for the next Ashes Test.

The misfiring trio of Adam Lyth, Gary Ballance and Ian Bell find themselves under pressure after all three failed twice at Lord’s, where Australia crushed England by 405 runs to level the series at 1-1.

If England are to regain the urn, they cannot afford always to be three wickets down with so few runs on the board. This problem is likely to be top of the agenda when the selectors meet tomorrow to discuss the squad for the third Investec Test, which starts at Edgbaston on 29 July.

Asked whether players should be dropped, Cook said: “Good question. Certainly, over the last three or four months we have found ourselves too often 30 for 4 or 40 for 3, and that’s not ideal under any circumstances.

“You saw how Australia batted in this game [reaching 337 for 1 after the first day] and you know how the first innings sets up the game for you, so it’s certainly something we’ll have to look at over the next couple of days.

“It’s hard always to expect the middle order to get us out of trouble so that’s an area of concern. It’s something the selectors might have to look at. I don’t think it’s about where people bat in the order.

“It’s up to the players. People have to get stuck in and we haven’t quite managed to do that in this game but you have to remember the state of the series after a game like this. It’s 1-1 and all to play for. We need to show character at Birmingham and I’m sure we can.”

The batting options for the England selectors are limited although Jonny Bairstow is in  the runs, made another century for Yorkshire and averages over 100 for the season.

The Lord’s surface also caused controversy, with Australia accusing England of requesting a slow pitch to negate the threat of Australia’s pace attack, particularly that of Mitchell Johnson.

If that was the plan, it backfired spectacularly. Johnson took 37 wickets to help Australia claim a 5-0 whitewash in the 2013-14 series Down Under and he was at his hostile best again here. He finished with match figures of 6 for 80 and helped Australia to demolish England in just 37 overs for 103 in their second innings.

Whatever the answer, Cook made it clear what he would like to see in Birmingham. “A good, old English wicket,” he said. “This one certainly wasn’t prepared to my specification, as everyone seems to be talking about.

“Everyone knows the MCC: you certainly don’t get too much control over that. We want to play on English wickets and the Lord’s pitch probably wasn’t too ‘English’, but that’s nowhere near an excuse. We were totally outplayed over four days.

“It is down to the team to play the cricket on whichever surface you’re given. We didn’t play very well and it’s up to us to adapt to the conditions in front of us.”

After a potent bowling display on the second afternoon, Johnson said he hoped to have reopened a few English wounds from the last Ashes series and he was as good as his word. The England batsmen simply could not handle the sustained menace and they have much to consider about how to combat Johnson during the next week.

The Australia captain, Michael Clarke, said: “Mitch was the same as he’s always been. We’ve always seen how good an athlete he is and this was a good example. He is a great weapon to have in your team and I used him a bit better here than I did in Cardiff.”

Clarke added that he expects Chris Rogers to be fit for Birmingham. The opening batsman had to retire early after suffering “a sudden dizzy spell”. Cricket Australia added that Rogers would be monitored overnight.

Rogers missed the recent Test series in the West Indies due to concussion after he was hit by a net bowler. Here at Lord’s he was struck on the helmet by Jimmy Anderson on the first ball of the second day, but Clarke believes the latest incident bore “no relation” to the two occasions when he has been hit by the ball. “I’m confident he’ll be right for the next Test,” Clarke added.

England’s poor starts... and heavy defeats

v West Indies, April-May 2015

First Test 34-3, 52-3

Third Test 38-3, 18-3

v New Zealand, May-June

First Test 30-4

Second Test 62-4

v Australia, June-July

First Test 43-3, 73-3

Second Test 30-4, 48-4

Australia’s biggest wins by runs over England

562 runs, The Oval, 1934

409, Lord’s, 1948

405, Lord’s, 2015

England’s all-time heaviest defeats by runs

562 v Aus, The Oval, 1934

425 v WI, Old Trafford, 1976

409 v Aus, Lord’s, 1948

405 v Aus, Lord’s, 2015

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