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Outplayed and out-fought, England face selection headache

aussie-cricLONDON: Stick with a team that has been thrashed by Australia or ring the changes? That’s the dilemma facing England’s selectors when they meet on Tuesday to select a team for the third Ashes test following a 405-run humbling at the hands of Australia in the second test at Lord’s that finished prematurely on Sunday. “There are some good players on the outside and we’ve got a selection meeting,” said England’s coach Trevor Bayliss, an Australian appointed shortly before the start of the five-match Ashes series. “I’m not going to speculate on what exactly will happen until Tuesday.” That didn’t stop just about every England cricket fan from speculating on Monday after England collapsed to 103 all out in its second innings, chasing a massive 509 runs to win after four days in which Australia rediscovered its lost form after losing the first test in Cardiff. For some fans, it’s a question of how many players to drop.

The bowlers were generally spared from criticism on Monday, but a list of batsmen - including opener Adam Lyth and Gary Ballance, Ian Bell and Jos Buttler - are all in the firing line. Buttler has been successful as a wicketkeeper so will probably be spared although he only managed 13 and 11 at Lord’s. England’s real problem is the top order. “Eight times in the last seven tests England has been 50 or less for 3 after 15 overs,” said ex-captain and opener Mike Atherton, pointing out a problem that threatens to cripple England. Captain Alastair Cook has rediscovered his form this year. He was in the runs in the home series against New Zealand and scored 96 at Lord’s in the first innings, England’s highest scorer in the game. But apart from a century against New Zealand, Lyth has failed and Cook’s quest for a convincing opening partner continues.

There has not been a settled partner since Andrew Strauss retired three years ago. Bayliss said players needed confidence. “What you’ve also got to do is give the players that are in there as much confidence as possible as well,” he said. “They are obviously good players and the reason they are in the team is because they are thought of as the best players in England at the moment.” Ballance has scored heavily in the past, but Australia appear to have exposed a fundamental flaw in his complete lack of foot movement, a rare fault in an international batsman that has been concealed by an impressive eye for the ball. And veteran batsman Ian Bell, one of England’s classiest players until recently, has only managed 128 runs in his last six games for England. At 33, there are calls for Bell to be put out to grass. England may fiddle with the batting order, promoting in-form batsman Joe Root to No. 3 from his present position at 5, where he has found himself struggling with the tail. Bayliss also weighed into the debate about English pitches after Australian bowlers found life in a wicket where England could get almost no bounce or movement. “We’ve got no control over what the wickets are like, but certainly a flat wicket plays into the Australians’ hands,” said Bayliss. “We want to win this series and for anyone to win a series you have to take 20 wickets per match,” he said. “A flat wicket suits not only their batters but also the bowling attack they’ve got, more so than it does ours.” While England was collapsing on Sunday, Jonny Bairstow was busy scoring a century and showing he is in the form of his life for his county Yorkshire. Bairstow averages over 100 this season and is the favorite to be given another chance for England. —AP

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This article was published on 21/07/2015