The last time England lost a Test at Old Trafford was in 2001, against Pakistan; since then, they’ve won six out of seven, and were only a wicket away from winning the one that got away. Australia haven’t lost here since 1981, winning three out of five since then, but they were lucky to get away in 2005, when they were nine down for 371 chasing 423 for victory.

For England, Old Trafford is, results-wise, their best home venue over the last decade and more: among venues where they’ve played five or more Tests since 2001, their win-loss ratio of 6 at Old Trafford is the highest. They’ve been utterly dominant here during this period, averaging more than 40 with the bat and less than 28 with the ball. They’ve scored 13 hundreds and conceded only six to opposition batsmen, and their bowlers have a strike rate of 50 balls per wicket, compared to 74.2 for the opposition bowlers.

There is a lot of talk about this pitch taking spin and everyone is caught up in the fact England may play two spinners and Australia may follow suit. I think it would be a huge error and I think Lyon should play and leave Agar out of this one. It is must win, intense pressure and he is not quite ready for that. Plus, the facts don’t support two spinners.

Over the past eight Tests, there is evidence pace has taken far more wickets and the average is close but still in favour of the pace bowlers. So Australia should play three pace bowlers and Lyon. I think Warner should play and drop Hughes. The latter can’t play spin and if England play two of them, he will just fail twice.

 Wickets           Average             Strike          5WI/10WM
 Pace    186  32.13  56.9 7/1
 Spin      73  33.75  68.1  6/1


Not a lot in those stats is there?

The reason why the spin stats for England are so good here is because of Panesar: in three Tests at Old Trafford, he has taken 25 wickets at 16.72, and a strike rate of 34 balls per wicket. In each of those three Tests, he has taken five-fors in the second innings.

Despite it being his home ground, James Anderson has only ten wickets from three Tests, though at a pretty good average, while Swann took six in the only Test he has played here, against Bangladesh in 2010.

 Bowler Tests  Wickets  Average Strike Rate  5WI/10WM
Monty Panesar  3  25  16.72  34.1  3/1
James Anderson  3  10  27.10  3.92  0/0
Graeme Swann  1  6  18.33  29.3  1/0
Stuart Broad  1  0  –  –  0/0

So if Monty doesn’t play Australia have some sort of hope.

Michael Clarke is the only Aussie to have played here and in his two innings in 2005 he scored 7 and 39.

The captain winning the toss here has chosen to bat in the last 14 Tests. The last time a team fielded first was England in the 1993 Ashes, and it didn’t work out well for them: though they dismissed Australia for 289 in the first innings, they lost the Test by 179 runs.

This wicket does not fall apart and has a very high average fourth innings score. In the last four fourth innings, England scored 231 for 3 to beat West Indies, Australia finished at 371 for 9 to draw in 2005, West Indies scored 394 when chasing a target of 455, and England scored 294 for 4 to beat New Zealand. So I don’t see the merit in playing two spinners as it is far from a knurling raging last day turner.

There is always a however, and this however is that it has been an unusually hot two months and this wicket will no doubt be drier and so I expect last innings runs.

Over 16 years between 1989 and 2005, England found themselves 2-0 down after as many Ashes matches no fewer than six times. On all six occasions England produced an improved display, yet not once did they ever actually win the third match, usually giving up the urn as a result. NO the shoe is on the other foot. Don Bradman’s 1936-37 Australian side are the only team ever to have overcome a 2-0 deficit after as many Tests to win the Ashes.

An Australia defeat will mean seven consecutive Test match losses for the first time since 1888.

The form guide does not read well.

England: WWWWD

Australia: LLLLL

This is the side likely to be given the job of saving the Ashes.

1 Shane Watson, 2 Chris Rogers, 3 Usman Khawaja, 4 Michael Clarke (capt), 5 Steve Smith, 6 David Warner, 7 Brad Haddin (wk), 8 Peter Siddle, 9 Mitchell Starc, 10 Ryan Harris, 11 Nathan Lyon.

I would swap Warner and Watson in that equation. Get Warner in early and leave Watson to play the spin. It looks a good side. But England are just so dominant. And they love winning here. But there is rain forecast for Friday and Saturday.

I am looking to start with a back of the draw but I am going with a lay of England. I think to win a Test with rain forecast for two of the days makes them too short at 1.85 and I am hoping Australia bat first this time as they lost the toss in the first two games.

If they can bat well, then England’s price will rapidly rise and I am going to take them on to start.

Lay England for 3 units @ 1.85 and wait for further trades. 


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