In the preview to the Edgbaston Test, it was clearly mentioned that Australia will not go into the match as favourites in spite of having thrashed England at Lord's. It has been that kind of a series for both sides. England eased to triumph at Cardiff and Australia did the same in the second Test. If anything, Australia would have been confident going into the third Test. But, that did not help them much as England exposed their batting under conditions favourable for bowlers. Yes, Michael Clarke took a positive decision by batting first in spite of the nature of conditions. But, as England were to prove soon, Australia did not have the resources to survive.
If one takes away Chris Rogers' dogged effort, it was a most disappointing batting show, and Australia would need something miraculous to save the Test from here, a win is far away in the equation. What will worry the Aussies even further is the fact that the conditions though in favour of bowlers were not completely unplayable as far as the batsmen were concerned. But, only one man batted as if he knew how to survive on this surface. There have been tougher pitches on which batsmen have survived, and with a bit more caution and temperament, they may have been able to put up a better show.
The fact of the matter, looking at Australia's weak showing at Edgbaston, is that the current Aussie batting outfit wasn't good enough to survive on a pitch that was a challenging one, something which great batsmen thrive on. The form of their entire middle and lower order is a major source of concern. In fact, if you take away Rogers' and Steven Smith's performance in the series, most others have proved to be failures. Another failure from skipper Michael Clarke means that his spot in the team would come under the scanner, particularly if Australia lose this Test. Time seems to be running out on Clarke.
The lack of experience in the batting is also not helping the team's cause. Adam Voges made a brilliant debut in West Indies, but against pace and swing, he has stood exposed in four innings. On Thursday as well, Voges failed to make an impact. He will be under extreme pressure the next time he comes in to bat. Mitchell Marsh and Peter Nevill also got out cheaply at Edgbaston, which meant there was no lower order rearguard job. It is too early to be harsh on the two since they have just entered the team. But, with the Ashes on the line, Australia might reconsider whether to go back to experience in case the newcomers fail.
In contrast, England should be extremely pleased with the manner in which they fought back after the Lord's embarrassment. Yes, conditions were in their favour, but they still need to be credited for the manner in which they bowled. James Anderson stood out, and was well supported by Steven Finn and Stuart Broad. The fact that England needed only three bowlers to clean up Australia was a massive achievement. But, they must now ensure that they build a big lead with the bat. England cannot afford to slip in spite of being in the ascendancy, for Australia will be waiting to pounce on them.
--By A Cricket Analyst