Test Match Preview

The second leg of the multi format Ashes series gets underway today and the segment most are looking forward to: the Test match. Given that this happens only once every four years in Australia it makes the event that much more special. In this Test match preview I’ve asked some special people to help us in that endeavour.

Bat first declare at the end of day one with as many runs as you can make, and then you control the game – former Australia Test captain Margaret Jennings

The Numbers Game

Australia presently lead the series 4-2, with four points on offer in the Test and six further points with the three remaining ODI matches. A victory for the home team makes it 8-2 and thus the Ashes are retained without playing a single ODI. A draw, while not the main intent is far more beneficial than a loss. As long as Australia do not lose this match they will be reasonably comfortable going into the ODIs still holding a two point advantage.

England on the other hand, must win this Test match to give them any chance of winning the Ashes. Indeed, the same scenario occurred in 2017 where the match ended in a lifeless draw. England must be bold with both batting and declarations. They have plenty of incentive.

I would like to see a very confident approach from England, from the start. Batting needs to be patient but positive and good shot selection is vital. With runs on the board Sophie Ecclestone is my match winner – Former England captain Jan Southgate

The Conditions

Hampering the desire for a win will be the weather. There is rain forecast for two of the four days. This will add pressure to both captains. The pitch is not spin friendly. This season’s domestic cricket has seen the bat dominate and the fast bowlers picking up the wickets.

The only Test played at this ground was a men’s Test played between Australia and Sri Lanka three seasons ago and it was dominated by batters and quicks. This makes one recall the North Sydney Test in November 2017 where bat dominated and declarations were not bold. Day one will tell us plenty about what both camps have in mind. We already know one thing: both have bolstered their fast bowling stocks.

For Australia to Win

Be focused on building solid partnerships, but ensure the tactics are a bit more aggressive this time around, with the ball and in terms of declaration. Think there will be more criticisms if there’s another draw – Australian writer Brittany Carter

With the emphasis on pace Australia have very good options, even given that they lost one along the way to injury. Ellyse Perry is bonus for them, with being a number four batter and fast bowler in one package. Tahlia McGrath offer that as well. Australia’s two allrounders will get plenty of work.

Darcie Brown is likely to get the nod on the basis that she is the quickest of the bunch. Megan Schutt is a certainty with experience and nagging inswing. Which of Stella Campbell or Annabel Sutherland will play? Or will the home team play both?

Jess Jonassen and Ash Gardner both provide spin options with newcomer Alana King set to receive her Baggy Green Cap this morning.

Will Beth Mooney play? It would seem so. Ten days out from a fractured jaw injury and this player is training already. She’s a tough one and one suspects she will play. The interesting thing will be the openers. Will they go right/left combination and if so, who? Meg Lanning is in fine form and may choose to open the innings as she did so marvelously in the T20 match in Adelaide. Alyssa Healy is the likely option but form hasn’t been great of late. The left hand option could be Mooney or vice-captain Rachael Haynes. Lanning is spoilt for choice.

The middle order is rock solid around Ellyse Perry. Gardner and Jonassen in the lower middle order emphasises the depth in the Australian batting.

Former Australian Test captain Raelee Thompson has the recipe:

First and foremost is to start game with a plan to win game and nothing else. To win you must have the idea that 4 days means 4 innings and you can’t bat longer or you start using precious time. Challenge batters to make as close to 300 runs as they can so captain can declare.If you can get opposition out in less than a day, then use time wisely and don’t waste it chasing records.

Believe in your team, believe your batters can make runs in any circumstance, your bowlers can do anything and most of all, keep thinking ahead of the game. Change the field, have slow bowler one end, fast bowler at other. Bring fielders in, pressure batters by putting fielders on wicket in their view and keep first slip. After observing all these “rules”, you’ll be a winner.

For England to Win

Winning the toss would be a good start! Bat first and you control the game – England journalist Rafaelle Nicholson

England have already shown that they want to get on the front foot by selecting fast bowler Lauren Bell. They understand the importance of this match and the need for speed.

Like Australia they have good options, first and foremost allrounder Natalie Sciver who will be doing plenty of work. Katherine Brunt is a certainty – her experience and passion alone ensure her selection. She is one of the few players in the team to have won a Test match in Australia.

Kate Cross is another who has won a Test in Australia and it seems likely that England will draw on that experience as they will do with swing bowler Anya Shrubsole. At the other end of the spectrum is Lauren Bell, the quickest of England’s bowlers and seen by supporters as a sure winner. In the two England A matches on tour so far she shone with wickets in the first and was wicketless in the second. Both tracks were not friendly for bowlers, but if there is something in this Canberra pitch then hopefully Lauren can exploit it.

Select Lauren Bell and you maximise your chances of taking 20 wickets – she has a lethal inswinging yorker and the Aussies have never faced her before – Rafaelle Nicholson

England’s middle order is solid with Heather Knight, Amy Jones and Nat Sciver. Either side of that there are questions to be asked. The lower order does not run nearly as deep as the Australians and the top order is functional without looking too scary for the opposition.

That said, there are plenty of runs in the middle order and the wild card of Sophia Dunkley might just prove the difference.

Late news: Charlie Dean set to debut.

The Result?

The bookmakers have Australia at 7/4 and England at 15/2. They don’t like parting with money those folks and haven’t given odds for a draw which with the ugly weather ahead looks the likeliest outcome.

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