Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook tells England to be ready for Australia backlash

Captain keen to avoid any premature sense of superiority following first Test victory

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The Independent Online

There was no suggestion of misplaced joy about England’s captain, no hint of swaggering confidence. Anyone who had not seen the Cardiff scorecard would have presumed from Alastair Cook’s guarded, downbeat countenance that England were down in this Ashes series.

Perhaps Cook was anxious to allay any notion that the job is done when it has hardly begun, that the fortunes of the two teams have been rapidly reversed, that England are now dominant and Australia subservient. That is not how it works.

England can hardly believe what happened last week. The exultation at Sophia Gardens as they won by 169 runs matched (well, almost) any rugby union Grand Slam that has been celebrated in the nearby streets over the years. But the regrouping, the focus on the next part of the campaign must have taken place on the return across the Severn Bridge.

Thus Cook wanted to avoid any premature sense of superiority. He and his team know that Australia intend to throw the lot at them this week at Lord’s during the second Investec Test. Before the whole series started he was chipper, keen to let the world know that England did not intend simply to show up. Now it has gone better than he could have dreamed, Cook has to try to keep bottled what it is they have found.

 

“It’s always nice to be the underdog,” he said, obviously remembering how good it felt when nothing was expected – except, of course, that the sack might have been waiting if it went as predicted. “Australia probably still are favourites – they only have to retain the Ashes, I suppose. But as I said before, the series is not played on paper or on potential, it’s what people deliver out there. The next challenge is at Lord’s.”

That was as animated as he became. He did not want to concentrate too much on the opposition but he sensed what is coming, so he made a studied effort not to be optimistic, to avoid predictions or offering the remotest opening.

Cook also has selection issues about which he was reluctant to go into detail. After their triumph in Cardiff, England would certainly have fielded an unchanged side at Lord’s. They probably still will but it has not been straightforward getting there and Moeen Ali, their spinner, will still have to pass a fitness test this morning on a side strain, though the indications are that he will. Cook said the medical team were wrapping the players in cotton wool.

Moeen’s possible replacement, Adil Rashid, the Yorkshire leg-spinner, was being seriously considered but his sore spinning finger has complicated that possibility. Small wonder that Cook was playing it all low-key.

As for Australia, they could only be bullish and had to convey the idea that they still believed they were as good now as they were supposed to be last week. They will have a new wicketkeeper in Peter Nevill after Brad Haddin withdrew for family reasons, and a different No 6 in Mitchell Marsh, who will after all replace Shane Watson.

Michael Clarke, the tourists’ captain, said he genuinely did not know the team despite overnight leaks in Australia of Watson’s fate. But when Adam Voges lined up at first slip in fielding practice,  Watson’s usual place, everyone knew the decision had been made.

It is as bold as it is hazardous. Australia are making one change they do not want to make but which has been forced upon them by unfortunate circumstance, and another they feel they have to make to save their tour. They are in trouble and that is compounded because it is so unexpected.

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England captain Alastair Cook fields the ball in the slips during a nets session ahead of the second test (Reuters)

Haddin’s family is with him in London and he was in the Australia team photo. Although there are few details, he is staying with the squad and Clarke said he was sure Haddin would have a part to play later in the series.

The tourists will feel obliged to assert themselves, the home side certain to assert themselves right back. If Australia must do so, there is no question of England going back to old ways and trying to protect their lead. The pitch will be more lively than for the opening match but no one should expect a firecracker.

Both captains played down history. England had not defeated Australia at Lord’s for 75 years until 2009. Now they have won two consecutive Tests against them at the ground. None of this seemed to count for anything for Cook or Clarke. But England were worn down by history for three- quarters of a century. Every four years or so they would roll up to Lord’s and hear the story of how Hedley Verity took 14 wickets in a day.

Only when Andrew Strauss’s side won six years ago was history overturned. It means something and none of the three Australians who lost here two years ago – Clarke, Chris Rogers and Steve Smith – will want to do so again.

It is difficult to imagine that everything will go as well for England as it did last week, when they thrust aside the bad habit of a year and took most of their catches. Of the 17 offered, 16 were taken. Australia accepted 12 and spurned two. So often does the taking of catches change things, as does their dropping. When the latter happens, bowlers have a knack of not creating chances any more.

But England have also bowled better than Australia so far. They relished the surface and they knew the lengths from which they would profit. Their quintet, Moeen included, looked a force. Australia are hoping the introduction of Marsh, more incisive with the ball than Watson, may lend them an extra edge if the swingers are muted. But the swingers, the Mitchells, Johnson and Starc, will seize on anything with a little carry.

This match will determine if Cardiff was a false dawn, a mirage. New England have more cause for optimism than their captain was willing to show.

Tendulkar’s son bowls at England in the nets

Arjun Tendulkar, the son of India legend Sachin, bowled at England in the nets at Lord’s ahead of the second Test against Australia.

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Credit: Reuters

The 15-year-old plies his trade as a left-arm medium pacer, as well as being a batsman, like his father.

The youngest of Tendulkar’s two children, who is staying with his father in St John’s Wood, was given advice by England bowling coach Ottis Gibson and has already caught the eye of former Pakistan left-arm paceman Wasim Akram.

The Lord’s official Twitter account said: ‘“@sachin_rt’s son bowled at @Englandcricket in the nets this morning. Only at Lord’s! #LoveLords #Ashes”

Second Test details

Probable teams:

England A N Cook (capt),  A Lyth, G S Ballance, I R Bell, J E Root, B A Stokes, J C Buttler (w/k), M M Ali, S C J Broad, M A Wood, J M Anderson

Australia M J Clarke (capt), C J L Rogers, D A Warner, S P D Smith, A C Voges, M R Marsh, P M Nevill (w/k), M G Johnson, M A Starc, N M Lyon, J R Hazlewood.

Umpires K Dharmasena (SL)  & M Erasmus (SA).

Weather Dry and overcast, with patchy sun in the afternoon. Maximum temperature: 24C.

Television 10am-7pm, Sky Sports Ashes (Highlights: 7-8pm, Channel 5).

Odds for second Test England 11-8 Australia 7-4 Draw 11-4.

Pitch report Likely to be a traditional Lord’s surface, with a little in it for both disciplines. Quicker than Cardiff, with scope for plenty of runs.

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