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Cricinfo Newsletter - England v Australia, Second Test

England v Australia, Second Test, Edgbaston 09.30GMT, August 4-8
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Plenty for England's captain to ponder ahead of the second Ashes Test
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Ashes bubbling up nicely
After an opening day which lived up to the hype, the Lord’s Test went to type, with Australia drawing first blood in what was to become a gruesome mauling. The Aussies are unlikely to change a winning side: if it ain't broke and all that. It's England who need to fix some parts of their game - and fast, having shown shades of old in the opener, with dropped catches and batting collapses aplenty, as they were comprehensively Warned and McGrathed. But one swallowing of pride does not a summer make. Although there are no axes hanging over England's top order, the questions still remain despite the selectors aiming for consistency and naming the same squad, plus Paul Collingwood. This Ashes contest is simmering nicely and, at Edgbaston, it could really sizzle.
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England XI (probable) 1 Marcus Trescothick, 2 Andrew Strauss, 3 Michael Vaughan (capt), 4 Ian Bell, 5 Kevin Pietersen, 6 Andrew Flintoff, 7 Geraint Jones (wkt), 8 Ashley Giles, 9 Matthew Hoggard, 10 Simon Jones, 11 Steve Harmison
Australia XI (probable) 1 Matthew Hayden, 2 Justin Langer, 3 Ricky Ponting (capt), 4 Damien Martyn, 5 Simon Katich, 6 Michael Clarke, 7 Adam Gilchrist (wkt), 8 Shane Warne, 9 Brett Lee, 10 Jason Gillespie, 11 Glenn McGrath
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Michael Clarke Having turned in scratchy performances in the one-day series and finding himself well short of form, the pressure was on Clarke at Lord's. Despite this he responded magnificently with an elegant and classy 91 on his Ashes debut. A ravishing half-century against Worcestershire this week confirmed that Pup is very much back in touch, to solidify and enliven Australia's middle order.
Kevin Pietersen After talking the talk KP didn't just walk the walk at Lord's, he positively strutted, his bat silencing the doubters and rousing the spectators. He showed his team-mates how to play the Aussies; with a bold heart, bold bat and bold belief. Bold hair is optional. Fast becoming England's man for a crisis and responding to each SOS with a calm assurance that belies his inexperience at this level. But he needs his team to rally round him: he can't do it all himself - yet.

 

Ashley Giles More problems for England's spinner. Following scathing criticism of his performance at Lord's, he and a selection of former players have jousted unceremoniously in the written press between the Tests. His leg-stump defensive line is likely to be retained, although the recent heavy rains in Birmingham have juiced up the pitch and could yet see Collingwood - a late addition to the squad - getting a call-up instead.
Adam Gilchrist Yet to dominate England's attack, his difficulty in scoring off Andrew Flintoff in the one-dayers continued at the Lord's Test. Dismissed twice from around the wicket, caught behind and bowled through the gate, Gilchrist's aggressive counter-punching strokeplay has been his downfall so far this series. It is by no means panic stations - this form-blip is rare - and his keeping has been exemplary.

 
Steve Harmison
While the media lavished praise on McGrath for his nine wickets at Lord's, little mention was made of England's spearhead who took eight wickets and moved back into the top ten of the world rankings. Touted before the series as England's major weapon, he hardly put a foot wrong in the first Test, bowling with a ferocity not seen by a home bowler at Lord's for years. Notably, Harmison struck Australia's top three batsmen; Langer on the arm, Hayden on the head and Ponting with a particularly vicious delivery which cut his cheek. The radar is on target, and he remains a genuine threat to Australia's ability to post big totals.


Edgbaston

Edgbaston has stood proud as a Test venue for more than a century since its debut in 1902 when Australia were bowled out for 36 by Wilfred Rhodes. These days it's one of the finest venues in the country - a far cry from the "meadow of rough grazing land" that became Warwickshire's third home at the end of the 19th century.

The ground hosted Brian Lara's world-record 501 not out, against Durham in 1994, and in 1999, played host to perhaps the single greatest one-day match in history - the tied World Cup semi-final between Australia and South Africa in 1999.

But it is to the latest Test that all eyes, and thoughts, will now turn. It is England's most successful ground: they have won 50% of Tests played in Birmingham. Another stat to interest both Michael Vaughan and Ricky Ponting is that Edgbaston has been favouring the side batting second of late. Of the last 13 Tests, the team batting first has won only once, the team batting second has won nine times.

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