The Ashes: Learning from Australia's Huge Victory

Australia's Shaun Marsh (Getty)

The third test in the Ashes begins next Wednesday, which gives us plenty of time to assess what went so right for Australia, so wrong for England, and how if should change your betting preferences going into the Edgbaston test.

Was it Really a Batsman-Friendly Wicket?

There was a lot of talk during the opening salvos of the second test of how Lord's would present a batsman-friendly pitch. But what exactly did this mean? Ostensibly, it meant that it was flat, slow and with little lateral movement. This favoured bowlers who could get the ball go to at the bat naturally quickly, such as Australia's Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc, who both starred with the ball.

Australia coach Darren Lehmann had been pilloried in certain sections of the press for picking his fast bowlers based on pure speed, rather than whether the bowler could generate swing, for example. This was one of the reasons why Peter Siddle, previously quite a successful bowler in Ashes tests, was in the Australian squad but not the starting eleven.

Ever since England's 2005 Ashes success, selectors have stuck by a principle of having a mixed bag of fast bowlers - straightforward seamers, and swing bowlers, who could make the ball travel across the bat, and possibly cause problems through more than just brute strength. Of course the use of swing and its cousin reverse-swing had been two of the factors in England's successes of 2005, 2009 and 2010/11.

However, the quick bowler who might have caused damage at Lord's, Steven Finn, was out of the starting eleven, having not been a frontline England bowler since the complete deterioration of his technique in the 2013/14 Ashes tour. Although there were useful wickets for him against West Indies and New Zealand, he was not seen as being ahead of Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Mark Wood and all-rounder Ben Stokes for a bowler's place.

Perhaps the mistake for England was to misjudge the pitch conditions at the supposed home of English cricket - something of an embarrassing mistake in the wake of being skittled twice, very cheaply, by the Australian attack.

Bowlers Cannot Do it Alone

This was not the only issue for England, though. While Australia only has to tinker around the edges of its side, England must debate a complete reconfiguration of the batting line-up, while reinforcing selectors' trust in those who failed but remain. Stokes, who got run out in annoying fashion on the fourth and final day of play, must be aware he cannot afford a similar mistake. Adam Lyth doesn't yet look like an Ashes opener.

The lesson for all bettors is this: don't judge a test series on the strength of one test. Just as one swallow does not make a summer, so too one good England performance does not necessarily lead to another. The Lord's test proved that. What you must do, in time for the next test, is monitor the form and fitness of players on both sides. This includes the county form of new inclusions in the England side.

Also take a look at previous scorelines at Edgbaston tests relative to others in the series. The Birmingham ground has a tendency to produce close matches, though groundsman Gary Barwell advises he has not been told what kind of wicket to produce by the England & Wales Cricket Board, even though Alastair Cook has said that he favours an "English" wicket when it comes to home test matches. Watch this space, and watch the state of the grass next week.

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