England head into the 4th Test at Trent Bridge off the back of a bizarre victory at Edgbaston which saw them take a 2-1 series lead in the space of little more than two and a half days. But despite having the upper hand on the scoreboard it won’t be plain sailing for England, with Paddy Power ambassador Kevin Pietersen flagging Adam Lyth’s constant struggles at the top of the order and Jimmy Anderson’s absence from the England bowling attack as areas of concern.
The Yorkshire opener was named as one of Wisden’s cricketers of the year for 2015 but after a promising start against New Zealand, Lyth has struggled as opener against the Baggy Greens, and Pietersen had some strong words on the Yorkshire batsman:
“Like several others before him, Adam Lyth is finding out the difference between Test cricket and county cricket. It’s a huge step up and you don’t get as many loose deliveries you would at county level. He needs to be busier at the crease – occupy it more and look like he owns it and belongs there.”
Lyth averages nearly 42 om first-class cricket, but just 22 at Test level and just 12 runs per innings in the Ashes series. The top runscorer of the 2005 Ashes series has urged the current opener to exude more confidence at the crease.
“At the moment, it doesn’t look like he’s there to score runs and play attacking cricket, it looks like he’s there to defend. It looks like he could get out on every single ball. That’s no way to be at the top of the order. He’s got to be positive and look to score, not to stand around and push and prod at deliveries. He obviously has the talent though, so hopefully we can see him really pushing on at Trent Bridge.”
Pietersen stresses the importance of an improvement, largely due to the impact low opening partnerships have on England’s middle order.
“Losing one of your openers cheaply puts huge pressure on the middle order. England have found themselves two or three down far too cheaply too often in the last few Test matches. They need to improve it.”
Any issues with England’s batting where covered up by an awesome display of bowling at Edgbaston. Steven Finn took eight wickets in the match and Stuart Broad took three, but arguably the most influential spell came from England’s leading all-time wicket take, Jimmy Anderson. The swing bowler took seven wickets in the match and the movement he achieved caused real issues and doubt for the Australian batsmen. Pietersen speculated that the tourists will take solace from Anderson’s absence for the 4th Test:
“Jimmy Anderson’s absence makes a huge difference. What he did in the first innings at Edgbaston shows why. It gives the Aussies a psychological lift. Knowing they don’t have to face the skill and movement of Anderson’s bowling at the start of an innings is a huge boost. Any batsman, coming to England, facing Jimmy on an overcast day and on a green wicket would be worried about facing him, so it’s not unique to the Aussies. He’s world class.”
“Aside from the skill and the wickets he takes, Jimmy energises the team. You know that any ball can take a wicket. He’s quite vocal on the field. That’s what gets him in the zone and that’s what helps him bowl better. It’s never anything personal, it just helps him and seeing that aggression can give his team-mates a lift.
But strong performances from England’s other pacemen mean the situation isn’t as dire as it might otherwise be.
“Despite his absence, England’s bowling is still strong. Steve Finn was excellent in the last Test, Stuart Broad has had an excellent series and Mark Wood has had a promising start to his Test career. I like that mix of bowling.”
Pietersen was also keen to hammer home the importance of the England players not just settling for a draw in the next two Tests:
“England can’t have any thoughts in the back of their minds about a draw being acceptable here and another draw at the Oval. You look to beat Australia. The players showed last week that they’re comfortable with being aggressive, they need to maintain that for this week. In swings and seams a lot at Trent Bridge so they need to be confident of beating Australia there and sealing the Ashes victory.”