Australia left Lord’s defeated and dejected having become the first Australian team to lose to England at the home of cricket for 75 years. They now face an uphill struggle to claw their way back into the Ashes with the next match at Edgbaston crucial if they want to stay in the series. However, before that all important match, they will face Northamptonshire in a warm up for the Edgbaston clash.
The loss at Lord’s has caused the tourists a number of problems, not least the selection dilemma of whether to persist with paceman Mitchell Johnson. The left armer, the scourge of the South African batsmen in their recent series, has been erratic in the Ashes so far, struggling to find a line and length to trouble the English on a regular basis. His bowling is the major concern for Ricky Ponting, who may need to reshuffle his bowling attack to cause England any problems.
Brett Lee was all set to lead the attack with Johnson after his brilliant performance against the England Lions a week before the first Test. However, a side strain suffered in that match has meant that Australia’s most experienced bowler has missed both of the first two matches and he is set to miss out on the Northamptonshire game as well.
Ponting is likely to rest one of either Ben Hilfenhaus or Peter Siddle for that game as Johnson continues to try and find his form. That will give a chance to Stuart Clark who will try and stake a claim for a place in the starting eleven. Clark was the leading wicket taker in the 2006/07 Ashes but he has struggled with injuries and form of late.
It isn’t just the bowling attack that is causing Ponting a headache or two, Philip Hughes flatters to deceive at the top of the order, following the Jekyll and Hyde path of Johnson. He scored heavily in his debut series against South Africa, but after Steve Harmison uncovered a technical weakness against the short ball, has suffered at the hands of a fired up Andrew Flintoff. Shane Watson is another man that is aiming to make his Ashes debut in this years contest, and he will no doubt get a chance to push for selection in the game against Northamptonshire. His injury has been blighted by numerous injuries but he is praying that he can finally put his injury woes behind him and become a fixture in the Australia top order.
Like Ponting, a number of other senior players will be rested in this tour game to give some of the fringe players a run out. Graham Manou will get his first game behind the stumps with Brad Haddin given a break and Michael Clarke will give a chance to some of the other batsmen to try and make a name for themselves. Michael Hussey will captain the side, and try to harness the obvious talents of the Australian team.
Northamptonshire, staff and players alike, are raring to go for the Australian’s visit. They drew a two day tour game against the Aussie’s back in 2005, and all the players cannot wait to test themselves against the best in the world again. Not least, England U19s star David Willey, who said:
“There’s a good chance I will be playing. It would be a fantastic opportunity.”
Northants coach David Capel has named his team for the match, which interestingly doesn’t include any of their three South African players or England spinner Monty Panesar. In their place, Capel has favoured youth in picking Ben Howgego, Alex Wakely, Willey and also Jack Brooks who makes his first class debut.
David Lucas, fresh from picking up twelve wickets in their recent championship demolition of Gloucestershire, retains his place in the team and Niall O’Brien returns to the side captained by Rob White.
Northants have nothing to lose in this game and will be looking to do just as Sussex did before them, and try to unsettle their touring counterparts to try and aid the national team who will be waiting at Edgbaston for them. Australia on the other hand, have many selection issues to resolve ahead of the Test match and will hope that this tour match will give them some answers.
© Cricket World 2009