Inconsistent England eye Ashes glory
England head into the fourth Test against Australia at Trent Bridge starting on Thursday knowing they are just one win away from recapturing the Ashes yet being equally aware they`ve yet to string back-to-back victories together in Tests in 2015.
London: England head into the fourth Test against Australia at Trent Bridge starting on Thursday knowing they are just one win away from recapturing the Ashes yet being equally aware they`ve yet to string back-to-back victories together in Tests in 2015.
Since drawing their series opener against the West Indies at Antigua in April, England`s next seven Tests have seen them alternate between winning and losing.
Indeed their eight-wicket win in the third Test at Edgbaston, which put England 2-1 up in the five-match Ashes series followed a defeat by the huge margin of 405 runs in the second Test at Lord`s.
England will also be without all-time leading wicket-taker James Anderson, who took an Ashes-best six for 47 at Edgbaston but was subsequently ruled out of the fourth Test with a side strain.
It is the first time Anderson has missed a Test in three years and means he won`t be able to add to his exceptional record at Nottinghamshire`s headquarters which has seen him take 53 wickets in eight Tests, including 10 during England`s thrilling 14-run win in the corresponding Ashes clash in Nottingham in 2013.
England would like to recall Durham quick Mark Wood, whose absence through injury paved the way for Middlesex fast bowler Steven Finn to take a Test-best six for 79 on his return to the side at Edgbaston.
However, they will have to decide if he Wood is over the ankle trouble that forced him out at Edgbaston, with Liam Plunkett and uncapped Derbyshire left-armer Mark Footitt standing by.
Australia left-arm quick Mitchell Johnson insisted Anderson`s absence would leave a huge hole in England`s attack.
"It`s a massive loss for them," he said. "Whoever they bring in will have big pressure on them."
Meanwhile England opener Adam Lyth is set to keep his place despite managing 72 runs in six innings at an average of 12 so far this series.
Stuart Broad, set to lead England`s attack in the absence of longtime new-ball partner Anderson, is just one wicket away from joining Test cricket`s `300 club` on his Nottinghamshire home ground
But that is not his main concern.
"We are consistently the most inconsistent side," said Broad.
"There is no point ignoring and pretending it has not happened.
He added: "It is all about breaking it down into the simplest form as players, so focusing in on our individual jobs on Thursday morning and not thinking about the exterior things like 300 wickets."For Australia, captain Michael Clarke is desperate to end a mediocre run of form.
Scores of 10 and three at Edgbaston left Clarke with a meagre series aggregate of 94 runs in six innings at an average of under 19.
But a defiant Clarke dismissed suggestions he no longer has the desire to do well in Test cricket.
"People can certainly have a shot at me about my performance, but they can`t have a shot at me about my hunger and my will to play this great game," he wrote in his Sydney Daily Telegraph column published Tuesday.
It is Adam Voges, averaging 14.60 this series, however, who is in greatest danger of being replaced by reserve batsman Shaun Marsh.
Australia would dearly love more of the aggression from Johnson that saw him produce two rip snorting deliveries that yielded the wickets of Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes in the space of three balls during England`s first innings at Edgbaston.
"I`m scratching my head a little bit about not continuing on from that (first over), and that`s something I`ll look at this game," said Johnson.
Meanwhile Nottinghamshire groundsman Steve Birks is under pressure too after last year`s Test pitch at Trent Bridge was officially classed as "poor" after a run-glut draw between England and India proved heart-breaking for any bowler above medium-pace.
But Broad said overhead conditions often held the key to the outcome of matches at Trent Bridge.
"If it is blue sky, it is good to bat. If it is cloudy it can be good to bowl."