The build up to the second Ashes Test has been somewhat overshadowed by the news that Andrew Flintoff will retire from Test cricket after the series. However, both teams have a number of dilemmas to think about before the match that begins tomorrow.
Flintoff’s participation in the match is also in doubt after he has been suffering from a knee injury after the drawn Test match in Cardiff. He was unable to bowl during England’s first training session and he has undergone a bowling fitness test today to determine whether he will be fit to play in his last Test match at Lord’s.
After England scraped through the first match coming out with a draw, there are number of selection issues that they must address. The bowling attack failed to deliver any amount of threat to the Aussie batsmen who enjoyed the Welsh sunshine with four of them making centuries. The lacklustre attack only managed to oust six Australian batsmen in their innings and only after they posted a huge total of 674 which has brought serious questions to the minds of all concerned with English cricket.
Stuart Broad, despite his obvious improvement in the recent past still lacks the wicket taking spark that is needed if England are to regain the Ashes. He only managed to take one solitary wicket and his place will be under threat from the in form Durham duo of Graham Onions and Steve Harmison.
The fast bowling pair are the two top wicket takers in county cricket this season, and Onions was unlucky to lose his place in the England side at Cardiff. Monty Panesar is the likely candidate to miss out on the faster, pace friendly pitch at Lord’s despite his heroics with the bat to pull England out of trouble, with one of the two fast bowlers to take his place.
It would make sense for England to play the two form bowlers in England but that would mean a risky decision to leave out Stuart Broad.
England could be without Kevin Pietersen as well, with his Achilles still proving to be troublesome. The ECB have said that he will be fit for the match tomorrow however, having received a cortisone injection to get him through the match.
Australia on the other hand, will be without Brett Lee who is still struggling with the side strain that kept him out of the opening Test match last week. He picked up the injury after the warm up game against the England Lions, although he is hopeful that he will be fit for the third match of the series.
The tourists are likely to name an unchanged side to that which came so agonizingly close to beating England at Cardiff although the form of Mitchell Johnson, a bowler that was predicted to set the series alight, is a concern. He bowled rather erratically in the crucial final sessions of the first match, which will give England some confidence against a bowler that was so destructive against South Africa recently.
England were lucky to avoid the defeat in Cardiff, and so the series remains at 0-0. With the recent announcements from Andrew Flintoff, there would be no other fitting farewell to the home of cricket for the all rounder than a win against Australia, and I’m sure his teammates will be wanting to give him one last hurrah.
© Cricket World 2009