Stokes stands strong


England @ 7/5
Draw @ 4/1
Australia @ 11/10
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  • Root or Stokes to score a 1st innings century and England to win @ 6/1
  • England to have a 1st innings lead – @ 10/11
  • Fastest ever individual Test century (Less than 54 Balls) to be recorded in the match – @ 22/1

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The first Ashes Test certainly lived up to the hype, and for any sports fan who didn’t know that the Ashes was happening, the odds say they do now! Ben Stokes’ England played an aggressive style of cricket which clashed with Pat Cummins’ Australia’s more reserved and traditional approach. It was a match that, from the moment Zac Crawley dispatched the first ball to the fence, was loaded with drama and you simply couldn’t take your eyes off it.

At the end of the five days which had absolutely everything, the Australians came out on top by the finest of margins. This was mainly thanks to unlikely heroes with the bat Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon, the latter who delivered one of his all-time great performances in green and gold.

“I am not going to change the way I have gone about my cricket because it’s the Ashes.”

Looking ahead to the Second Test, can we expect more of the same? Australia are now favourites 21/20 to win at Lords. Ultimately, this is a must win for England who simply cannot afford to go 2-0 down. There are similarities between this Ashes and other series played in England in the past, most notably 2005 where England also went 1-0 down before surging back to win 2-1, but also more recently with comparisons drawn with 2019.

With rain forecast for central London this week, it is looking likely it will play a part in the game. This leads to the question about how England will approach this game. Will Ben Stokes stick by his words and risk going 2-0 down to try and force a result? Or will he play the game on its merits and just make sure that England avoid going 2-0 down. Luckily for us, Ben has been pretty clear on this. Immediately after defeat was confirmed, he announced, “I am not going to change the way I have gone about my cricket because it’s the Ashes.”

One of the big changes ahead of the 2nd Test is that Joe Root has taken over as the world number one Test batsman from Marnus Labuschagne after his scintillating 118* and 46 in the first Test. That first innings was Root back to his brilliant best when England really needed him. He is 13/5 to repeat that form and top score for the three lions once more but England will be hoping that they don’t need to rely on the man from Sheffield and that one of their other middle order batsmen step up. Ollie Pope had a very quiet first Test, but his class is evident and a score for him can’t be far away with the odds on him notching 50+ currently at 2/1. His record at Lords is fantastic with his top score of 205 coming there as well just over three weeks ago.

From the Australian perspective, the lack of runs from a middle order containing batsman who are currently sitting third, fourth and sixth in the ranking must be a concern. Without Usman Khawaja, they would have been dead and buried in the 1st Test. The quality which their batting lineup contains is undeniable, but Smith and Labuschagne’s form can’t be ignored. The way in which Stuart Broad dominated them in the 2nd innings at Edgbaston shows that they’re not quite up to their usually lofty standards. They’ll be hoping Khawaja can maintain his hot form and add another ton to his tally. He’s currently 9/2 to do just that at the Home of Cricket.

From an English perspective, let’s hope that Stuart Broad can pick up where he left off last week. He’s 14/5 to be England’s leading first innings wicket taker and it would be a surprise if he wasn’t there or there abouts. I’m sure David Warner is looking forward to renewing his rivalry with Broad after he got him in the 1st Test last week. Broad has now got Warner 9 times in Test cricket and is 3/1 to get him out for less than 10 in the 1st innings at Lords.

One of the big talking points which surrounded the first Test involved the England skipper himself. Even Joe Root admitted that England’s declaration on day 1 caught him by surprise as he was taken from the crease at a point when he was well on top of the Australian attack. This attacking move immediately drew criticism when England failed to take a wicket in the ensuing four over spell that evening.

As the culmination of the Test drew nearer, however, with weather intervening on two separate occasions, it became apparent that without the aggressive declaration a result other than a draw would’ve been hard to come by. The decision by Stokes put the pressure onto the Australians, and resulted in England having a first innings lead, albeit a very small one! Did England have a chance to bat Australia out of the game? Potentially. But ultimately, that would have gone against the philosophy which Brendan McCullum and Ben Stokes have tried to advertise to the cricketing world.

A lot has been made about the importance of this series for English cricket, but it’s not just English cricket which needed this series. What that first Test showed is that Test cricket is by no means on its way down or becoming irrelevant. There has been so much made about franchise cricket taking over and the idea that Test cricket should be treated like the IPL. But the way in which the Edgbaston Test dominated the media and gripped viewers worldwide illustrated the impact which this England is having on the world of cricket. Bring on 11am tomorrow!

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