The Ashes is delicately poised after three Test matches, as we look forward to the fourth Test, starting this week.
James Anderson has been ruled out of the remaining two Tests, having not recovered from his calf injury. There has since been some discussion over whether the now 37-year old will call time on his Test career.
Australia will buoyed by the fact Steve Smith will rejoin the team for the fourth Test, and with Marnus Labuschagne in fine form, having scored three consecutive half-centuries, this adds some much needed stability to the Australian batting line up.
Mitchell Starc is someone who I feel should have been in the playing XI in the previous Test, and after his performance in the tour game against Derbyshire, which ended with the Australians winning by a convincing innings and 54 runs, Starc showcased his ability to clean up the tail with fast and accurate yorkers, picking up four wickets. He absolutely should be in the playing XI for the fourth Test.
The battle that we all want to see will kick off once again this week as Archer vs. Smith will be reignited.
There has been a lot of talk from both sides about this intriguing battle, and it’s been highly enjoyable and entertaining, but it all comes down to what happens on the field. Will Archer finally dismiss Smith? Will Smith continue his dominance?
Australia have called on former captain and legend, Steve Waugh to help mentor the team ahead of the fourth Test. He will also be involved with overseeing the preparations of the team for the remaining two Tests. After the chaos that erupted on the final day of the third Test, Australia could certainly use a wise head like Steve Waugh.
In terms of team changes, England have decided to give Jason Roy a chance batting lower down the order for the fourth Test and will give an opening berth to Joe Denly, who scored one half-century in the series thus far. Time will tell if batting at four will help Roy find some form in the Test arena, or if he will continue to struggle.
Australia on the other hand may be looking at dropping middle-order batsman Matthew Wade, who despite scoring a century in the first Test, has made only two double digit scores in his six innings’. Reports suggest Mitchell Marsh, who made 74 batting at number 3 in the tour game against Derbyshire, may be included as a way of negating the left-handers in the batting line up that Stuart Broad and Jofra Archer in particular, have had particular success against.
There may be a bit of rain around in Manchester over the course of the five days of the fourth Test but it shouldn’t cause too many delays. Cricket in September in the UK is always a difficult one.
The fourth Ashes Test starts on Wednesday 4th September at 12pm SA time.