Ashes 2015: I hope Michael Clarke stays 'toss fit' - but really, more turf on a day-one track is vital for the good of the game

The Aussie Angle: Picking Mitchell Marsh was a big tick for the Australian selectors. He'll get belief from this

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The Independent Online

“Heads,” says the captain.

“Heads it is,” calls the match referee.

“We will have a bat,” replies the elated captain. “Tell the 12th man to get the beers on ice as we are winning this match.”

We are only two Tests into this seesawing 2015 Ashes series and we have witnessed two emphatic wins, first for England in Cardiff and now Australia at Lord’s.

Here, Australia batted first and had their top-order batsmen scoring centuries to create enormous scoreboard pressure. Their fast-bowling cartel (Mitchells Johnson, Starc and Marsh, plus Josh Hazelwood) and Nathan Lyon then bowled in partnerships to squeeze England for runs. Quick scoring in their second innings took the game away from the home side and then ruthless attacks with the ball led to a total capitulation on day four.

OK, let’s sing the song, boys. This victory was right out of the “How to win a Test match” blueprint.

There have been some calls from the media centre that there shouldn’t be a toss and the opposition captain should have the right to choose what they would prefer to do once they have thoroughly investigated the turfed 22 yards. I’m not totally against this scenario but would have a preference for a less calculated ruling. Also I’d like to see pitches prepared where it is not a certainty that the captain who wins the toss will bat.

The essence of a Test match pitch is that it provides a contest between bat and ball. Yes, there should be times when either skill dominates but the challenge is to produce a track where the balance evens out over the four or five days. It is always a test for curators to make sure they have the balance between getting the pitch even and leaving just enough moisture and grass cover to get a strip which provides incentives to all players. But please, we need more pitches with grass on them on day one. They will force the toss-winning captain to weigh up the possibility of bowling first and the toss-losing captain to not regret the fall of the coin too much.

Familiar faces at lovely Lord’s

Jeez, I loved my time at Lord’s again this week. It’s such a wonderful cricket ground with beautiful surroundings. There isn’t any red carpet at the Nursery End but there was the usual who’s who of Aussie cricket swanning around: Merv Hughes, Rodney Hogg, Kim Hughes and it was great to see the ever-smiling Geoff “Swampy” Marsh, who was David Boon’s batting partner, loyal vice captain to Allan Border and achieved the rare feat of winning a World Cup as a player and coach.

Swampy flew over for the Lord’s Test and with two sons in the Australia squad he would have been on the plane just hoping to see one of them play. It was younger son, Mitchell, who received the nod from the selectors to replace Shane Watson leaving the quieter but stylish Shaun to run out the drinks.

Mitchell gave a lot of youthful enthusiasm to the Aussies at Lord’s. He started off with a bang – driving his first ball for four but was dismissed playing-on to a ball that kept a bit low. But his selection was a big tick to the Aussie selectors: he bowled fast in both innings and dismissed some good batsmen. A handy second innings cameo of 27 runs off 19 balls with two powerful sixes is just what you want from your No 6 all-rounder. All in all, I reckon he will get a tremendous amount of belief from this game.

In the end Australia proved in this Test match that the Cardiff loss was the “minor blimp” that Australia coach Darren Lehmann described pre-Lord’s. Steve Smith looks like Australia’s high-scoring No 3 for the new generation. Chris Rogers’s first innings was an epic and let’s hope everything is OK with his health. Dave Warner and Michael Clarke had confidence lifted with some fluent second innings runs. There was also an impressive debut by wicketkeeper Peter Nevill. Johnson is still a massive threat. Starc and Hazelwood will have big wicket-taking series. And most of all, I hope Clarke  stays “toss fit” between now and the Edgbaston Test.

Damian Fleming played 20 Tests for Australia and is the author of ‘Bowlology’ 

Twitter.com/@bowlologist

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