The Ashes series between England and Australia is set up nicely with two Test matches to go. The fourth Ashes Test will begin on July 19 at Old Trafford.
The visitors are 2-1 ahead in the series and have a great chance to win the series in England and retain the Ashes urn for the fourth successive time. Ben Stokes and his men will yet again have to play out of their skin to level the series. They are still two wins away from completing a turnaround after being 0-2 down in the Ashes for the first time since the 1936-37 series.
England fourth Ashes Test team news:
Meanwhile, ahead of the fourth Test in Manchester, both teams have announced their respective playing XIs. The hosts have made one change to their line-up from the previous Test leaving out Ollie Robinson for veteran James Anderson.
Anderson, soon to be 41, hasn’t been at his best in this series picking only three wickets in 77 overs he has bowled. Moreover, with Australia batting for longer periods and England bowling more, Anderson and his bowling mates have not had the desired break they would have wanted between innings. He was rested at Lord's and will be raring to go in the crucial Test match, starting on Wednesday (July 19).
Among other players in the playing XI, Jonny Bairstow will be under pressure with no score of substance in the last four innings. Apart from the 78-run knock in the second innings of the Birmingham Test, he has returned with scores of 20, 10, 16, 12 and 5 so far. He has also been dismal between the stumps, dropping eight catches with the gloves, and grabbing 12.
The likes of Zak Crawley and Harry Brook have scored at a strike-rate of close to 80 but there hasn’t been a big knock from them apart. Stokes has found himself in situations from where he is expected to do miracles for his team. The skipper has continued to lead from the front, playing magical knocks,. but he would love more support from his top four.
It also remains to be seen if Moeen Ali continues to bat at three after Brook’s successes at five. Moeen advocated to bat at the said number in the second innings at Headingley and England might just give him the license to play freely at the top of the order with Brook succeeding in the middle. He has been officially slated at No.3 for the Test, but it could change based on the game situation.
Strangely, Joe Root hasn’t been at his best ever since the Birmingham Test with scores of 10, 18, 19 and 21, which has hurt England, making their batting even more brittle. However, England will be delighted with the fact that their other veteran bowler Stuart Broad has been at his best this series with 16 wickets, making him the highest wicket-taker in the series, while Mark Wood starred on his return in the last Test with seven wickets in the match including a five-wicket haul in the first innings. Chris Woakes’ addition to the bowling attack has certainly lent balance to the side with batting strengthening as well. He is also a handy batter, and helped England to the target in the third Test.
Australia fourth Ashes Test team news:
Coming to Australia, they have been at their very best since they landed in England. They first won the World Test Championship (WTC) final beating India and then pocketed the Ashhes Tests at Birmingham and Lord’s that were kind of closely contested. They would be gutted to not seal the series at Headingley despite having England six down at 171 chasing 254.
They have made a couple of changes to their playing XI and for the first time in more than 10 years, they will be going into a Test match without a frontline spinner. An injury to Nathan Lyon has certainly spoiled their plans and with Todd Murphy not having much to do at Headingley, they have decided to leave him out in favour of Cameron Green.
Green had a niggle in the last game and hence missed the Test. He was replaced by Mitchell Marsh, who stroked a brilliant counterattacking century and also bowled brilliantly to become undroppable. Australia have proper five fast bowling options for the fourth Ashes Test now with Steve Smith and Travis Head expected to fill in as spinners.
Also, five fast bowling options mean that there will be enough rest in between spells for the pace trio of Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and the returning Josh Hazlewood. Scott Boland is making way for Hazlewood who was rested for the third Test after a summer of injuries that even saw him skip the latter half of the Indian Premier League and the WTC final.
With the bat, Australia have continued to show faith in David Warner despite his twin failures at Headingley. Usman Khawaja has been a class apart in this series so far with 356 runs (the highest run-getter) to his name. Smith, like Root, has also had an indifferent series on either side of the Lord’s Test. Apart from 110 in the second innings at Lord’s, his scores read 16, 6, 34, 22 and 2.
The biggest positive for the visitors has been Head, who has weathered the short-ball storm and has found a way to score runs in an attacking manner. He might also have to bowl in this Test match with Australia dropping Murphy for the game. Marnus Labuschagne’s sudden decline in form will be a cause of concern for the visitors. His poor run has also seen him give up his No.1 ranking in the ICC Test charts.
With the ball, skipper Cummins has led from the front with 15 scalps while Starc, though expensive, is just behind with 13 wickets. Australia will be hoping that their left-arm pacer steps up yet again in this crucial Test match.
ENG vs AUS 4th Ashes Test playing XIs:
England: Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Moeen Ali, Joe Root, Harry Brook, Ben Stokes (C), Jonny Bairstow (WK), Chris Woakes, Mark Wood, Stuart Broad, Mark Wood.
Australia: David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Mitchell Marsh, Cameron Green, Alex Carey (WK), Pat Cummins (C), Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood.