Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen have stolen the headlines in the build up to the third Ashes Test having both suffered injuries after the historic win at Lord’s.
Pietersen has been forced into an early exit from the Ashes series due to his Achilles injury whilst Flintoff has been taking extreme, slightly space-age, measures to make sure he is fit a raring to go for both the Edgbaston game and the remaining two Tests. Flintoff has been undergoing a procedure in which his knee is strapped into a brace designed by NASA each night to put pressure on to his injured knee and hopefully this will allow him to play in all of the remaining matches. Ian Bell, a one time England fixture, has been recalled to deputise for Pietersen, but his worryingly low average in previous Ashes series is causing a certain amount of anxiousness for England’s fans.
The only indication that Andrew Strauss has given on selection is that Monty Panesar has been released to join up with Northamptonshire so will therefore not feature at Edgbaston.
Ian Bell and Graham Onions have both suffered minor injury scares aswell having been struck down by injury in training yesterday. Bell twisted his ankle in a warm up game of football while Onions was struck on the finger whilst batting in the nets. Strauss however has confirmed that both will be fit and available for selection for tomorrow’s start.
Strauss did not want to give away too much about team selection though, stating that he will inspect the pitch tomorrow morning and then decided on the formation of his bowling attack according to the weather conditions.
Australia on the other hand have been suffering their own problems, however they are problems of selection rather than injury.
Mithcell Johnson is the main concern of captain Ricky Ponting and his fellow selectors as his form has plummeted during his time in England. Even against a depleted Northamptonshire team, Johnson struggled taking just one for 107 in the match and many pundits were calling for him to be axed. However, Ponting has shown faith in his bowler and said that he will play at Edgbaston, although he will be used differently, rather than the new ball bowler that tore apart South Africa.
Philip Hughes was the other man under pressure to perform and it is likely that he will feature as well after returning to some sort of form with 65 in the second innings of the tour game, however his competence against short pitched bowling remains a worry.
Shane Watson may make his Ashes debut in the third Test match having proved his fitness in scoring 84 against Northamptonshire batting at number three. His promising career has been blighted by a succession of debilitating injuries, but maybe this Ashes series will be his chance to finally show what a class act he is.
Meanwhile, whilst all the team selection dilemmas are growing, the Edgbaston groundsman Steve Rouse has had problems of his own with the wicket at Edgbaston proving very difficult to prepare with the amount of rain that has fallen in the weeks leading up to the match. Rouse has famously described the pitch as being like ‘jelly’ and is said to be struggling to prepare a good enough pitch in time for the Test match. It looks as though it will be an old fashioned, low bouncing English seamer so Steve Harmison is looking likely to miss out yet again in favour of the skiddier pace of Graham Onions.
Both teams have had much to think about in the lead up to the crucial third Test match, with changes being made in both camps. This match will be the last chance for Australia’s under performing players to show their worth, whilst England have been hit by a number of injuries to star men within the team. All eyes are now on Edgbaston, and if this year’s clash can come close to the drama of 2005, we are in for a treat.
© Cricket World 2009