LONDON, July 17 (Reuters) - Australia will be greeted by blazing sunshine and a venue where they lost only once last century when they arrive at Lord’s on Thursday for the second Ashes test against England determined to level the five-match series.
Britain is engulfed in a heatwave which is forecast to last throughout the match and conditions for the first test at Trent Bridge were reminiscent of the Indian sub-continent.
After heroic last-wicket stands in each innings, Australia eventually lost by 14 runs on Sunday. But they will be buoyed by the resilience and resource they showed at the midpoint of a horrible year in which they have been beaten 4-0 in India and failed to advance past the first round of the Champions Trophy.
The touring side’s cause was hardly advanced with news on Tuesday that their former South African coach Mickey Arthur, who was sacked 16 days before the Trent Bridge test, had alleged he was the victim of discrimination and was demanding reinstatement or $3.6 million compensation.
Despite the narrow margin in Nottingham, England were ultimately deserved winners and James Anderson at the height of his powers produced the decisive deliveries of the game to account for two of his 10 wickets.
Anderson removed captain Michael Clarke in the first innings with the perfect delivery, a ball which swung late into the batsman then evaded the outside edge to hit the top of the off-stump.
The second key wicket was the final ball of the match which vice-captain Brad Haddin, whose gritty 71 had threatened to snatch victory from England’s grasp, edged to Matt Prior.
Australia will relish the sun and the surroundings at the home of world cricket. To recover from one-down and regain the Ashes, though, their top-order batting must fire and Usman Khawaja may come in at number three to replace the out-of-form Ed Cowan.
”He had a tough game,“ said new coach Darren Lehmann. ”We’ve told Ed how we want him to play and how we want him to bat. That certainly hasn’t changed from when he first came into the side.
”He’ll be disappointed with the shots. So are we.
“We’ve certainly got to bat better as a top order, that’s probably the key. We’re going to bowl very well and we know we can control their batters. It’s a matter of making more runs.”
Clarke, who enjoyed a wondrous 2012 with 1,595 runs at an average of precisely 106, failed in both innings after his buildup was hampered by a chronic back ailment.
The only other Australian batsman of comparable pedigree is the highly gifted but perennially frustrating Shane Watson who contributed 46 to a second-innings opening partnership of 84.
Australia urgently need an innings from Watson of a stature to match his talent and Lord’s would be the perfect setting to shrug off the under-achiever’s tag.
But he will be under even more pressure after it was reported in Australia that Arthur had claimed Clarke had described his former vice-captain as “a cancer” in the side.
Another option is to drop a batsman and play five specialist bowlers with off-spinner Nathan Lyon joining Ashton Agar. Agar, who fell two short on his debut of becoming the first number 11 in test history to make a century, took two for 82 from 35 overs in the second innings with his left-arm orthodox spin.
In contrast to Australia’s fragile top order, England’s key batsmen scored runs at critical times at Trent Bridge.
Jonathan Trott contributed 48 to their modest first-innings 215 and captain Alastair Cook (50) laid a solid foundation in the second with Kevin Pietersen (64).
The crucial innings came from Ian Bell, whose 109 in more than six hours was perfectly calibrated for a sun-baked pitch demanding intense concentation with its low, slow and sometimes unpredictable bounce.
England have named the same 13-man squad for the test with the final decision again resting between the pacemen Steven Finn, Tim Bresnan and Graham Onions.
Finn, given the new ball in the first innings, dismissed two of the first three Australian batsmen cheaply on the first day.
Thereafter life was more difficult. He took no more wickets, conceded 117 from his 25 overs and was entrusted with only two overs on the final day which went for 25 runs as Haddin decided he was the bowler he could attack.
England - Alastair Cook (captain), Joe Root, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Jonny Bairstow, Matt Prior, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, Steven Finn, James Anderson, Graham Onions.
Australia - Shane Watson, Chris Rogers, Ed Cowan, Usman Khawaja, Michael Clarke (captain), Phillip Hughes, Steve Smith, Brad Haddin, Ashton Agar, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Peter Siddle, James Pattinson. (Editing by Robert Woodward)