Lack of experience in their batting order and also Tim Paine’s captaincy along with the unavailability of a fifth bowler were the major reasons for Australia’s heart-breaking loss in the third Test at Leeds. They also had to be at the receiving end of Ben Stokes and his brilliance.
Australia need to re-look at their strategies and personnel post the performance at Leeds where after dismissing the hosts for 67 in the first innings, they allowed them to dominate them in the second innings where they couldn’t dismiss the last pair of Ben Stokes and Jack Leach when 78 runs were still required to win.
They had to endure Jofra Archer and his brand of vicious fast bowling where he got the ball to jump out of nowhere. That ensured the visitors batting mainstay Steve Smith had to sit out of the Leeds Test and his replacement Marnus Labuschagne impressed one and all with his batting and grit (213 runs in 3 innings at an average of 71).
Heading into the next Test match at Old Trafford, Manchester Australia should be looking at making some team changes to strengthen the balance of their team and get back to winning ways.
1. Steve Smith for Marcus Harris
Steve Smith. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
It would be stating the obvious when one points out the fact that Australia missed Steve Smith in the Leeds Test. The world class batsman on his return to Test cricket after serving one year ban has dominated and controlled England. After scores of 144 and 142 in the first Test, all the talk in the English media was how to get Steve Smith out.
Well, one of the methods as shown by speed sensation Jofra Archer was to bounce him out. The fiery dual between Archer and Smith led to rather unfortunate circumstances as Smith had to miss the remainder of the game due to concussion and Labuschagne became the first concussion substitute in the 142-year history of Test cricket.
With the visitors looking to get back to winning ways, they will be boosted by the inclusion of the former skipper into the playing XI for the fourth game. Marcus Harris had an uneventful return to the side at Leeds. He would have to make way to allow Usman Khawaja to open the innings with David Warner followed by Smith.
2. Mitchell Marsh for Matthew Wade
Mitchell Marsh. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)
One of the major reasons for Australia’s choke at Leeds where they couldn’t break the 10th wicket stand was the lack of a reliable and handy fifth bowler in the playing XI. The likes of Marnus Labuschagne or Travis Head were not effective in sustaining pressure or stopping the run flow.
Also, looking at the next game where Smith will be back to boost the batting line-up, it makes strategic sense to bring in the all-rounder Mitchell Marsh in place of Matthew Wade. Wade had multiple failures at Leeds and considering he is a backup wicketkeeper, his fielding pales in comparison to the likes of Travis Head.
Mitch Marsh is yet to completely prove his potential in the Test match arena. He has hit 1215 runs in 31 games at a modest average of 25.1 and has taken 35 wickets at 43.9. These stats may not inspire too much confidence but being the only all-rounder in the squad, his role would be to hold one end up when he bowls and add crucial 30-40 runs down the order when he bats.
It makes strategic sense to include him for the next game in place of a struggling Matthew Wade. That would bolster the balance of the team and give more options for Tim Paine, as he clearly missed a fifth bowler who could reduce the workload of the four main bowlers at Leeds.
3. Mitchell Starc for James Pattinson
Mitchell Starc. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
Australia have employed a rotational policy as far their fast bowlers are concerned in this series. They played James Pattinson and Peter Siddle in the first Test, went in with Josh Hazlewood and Siddle at Lord’s and bought back Pattinson for the Leeds Test. The common faces across the games were Patt Cummins and Nathan Lyon.
Mitchell Starc has been rested post the World Cup 2019 where he ended up with the most wickets in the tournament (27). The premier fast bowler would be looking forward to getting back on the field to down the baggy green. Australia could use his exploits with the old and new ball at Manchester.
The visitors would need Starc in place of Pattinson to get back to winning ways in this Ashes series. He has grabbed 211 wickets in 51 games with eleven five wicket and two ten wicket hauls. Also he is a vastly improved batsman down the order at the No. 8 slot. He has scored 1377 runs at an acceptable average of 21.78.
Mitchell Starc would provide the following benefits for Tim Paine and Australia if selected: He is equally good with the new and old ball. His exploits with the old ball especially the accuracy of his yorkers will come in handy. With the middle-order being a little fragile and not performing as expected, it becomes important that all batsmen contribute. With Starc joining Cummins, Hazlewood and Lyon the tail will surely add valuable runs.
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