It’s amazing what a box of Duke balls and 11 Australians can do to a country’s mood. This time three weeks ago, the biggest concern England had was where to host the World Cup celebration party. Contrastingly, the last five days at Edgbaston have just opened a can of worms.
As far as England Cricket is concerned, here have been several assumptions about how the World Cup has affected the red ball side of things. Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow, both white ball heroes, looked jaded throughout the 1st Ashes Test. Moeen Ali, another member of the white ball squad, looked the shell of a cricketer who finally seemed to be shedding the ‘anything but the primary spinner’ badge he had been walking around with since his international debut.
To me, cricket, more than most sports, is a game of perspective. One man's positivity, for example, is Geoffrey Boycott's idea of a fiery existence in purgatory.
It’s easy to forget the perspective of the defeat. England were a bowler down from the eighth over of the Test match and although each innings saw a positive start they were ground down by the omnipresent Steve Smith. There’s a lot to be said for a full five-man attack, and although impossible to foresee, you do wonder whether there's an alternate reality in the ether where 122-8 became sub-200 all out with Anderson still fit.
The five-man bowling attack that shrunk to four effectively became three on day four with the apparent absence of any end product from Moeen Ali. This time fourteen years ago, before a second Test that England were also going into one nothing down, a different finger spinner was hoping to get a second shot at the Aussies. That man, is now Director of English Cricket, and the apparently imminent dropping that week never came. The rest, as they say, is history.
This time, however, things feel different. Moeen was amending his action on day four, with elbows pointing in directions they never have previously. The lack of confidence, shown my Moeen is likely to be a continuation of his dropping from the ODI side in favour of Liam Plunkett. His replacement this time, is likely to be the slightly less strapping Jack Leach.
Leach didn’t have the best time against Ireland, with Woakes and Broad needing no assistance during Ireland's second innings. Leach bowled 3 overs for 26 runs in the match, figures not out of place if the game had been a T20I. Leach has the benefit of being a left arm orthodox bowler, an apparent weakness of Steve Smith who only averages 35 against left arm spin.
It's early days, but first Tests often set the trend. When they don’t they’re usually thrillers. 1981 and 2005 spring to mind. It’ll be disappointment or tension then, neither ideal for blood pressure.
Also read – Ashes Best bowling figures