England’s lower order had a bit of fun on the third morning at Headingley, with Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann both scoring quickfire 60s, but it only delayed the inevitable.
Australia fully deserve to be level at 1-1 now, and England were utterly outplayed in all areas of the game in the fourth Test. As seriously for them, there are also quite a number of issues surrounding their side as we all go to The Oval for the series decider.
Ravi Bopara at no. 3 is the biggest issue of the lot, although Andrew Flintoff’s fitness for the final Test will obviously be a huge subject over the coming days.
I cannot see any way that England can retain Bopara at three, and the batsman I would bring in if I were the England selectors is Joe Denly of Kent.
Robert Key is also another option at three, but Denly has always impressed me – I have played against him on a couple of occasions – and he has done well for the England Lions.
Key has played Test cricket before, of course, and Ashes cricket at that, but when you have two players with an equal claim to selection I would always go for the younger man.
What England never seem to do well is to judge when they should best promote their best young players. Guys always seem to have to serve much more time here than they do in other parts of the world. I’ve seen Denly, and I would say he is ready to make the step up.
As for Australia, they go to The Oval with spirits sky high after the manner of victory at Headingley. Mitchell Johnson’s five-wicket haul in England’s second innings was also timely. He is very close now to his best, and he was far more consistent in his bowling throughout the Leeds Test.
Johnson has copped a fair amount of stick during this series, up to now, but his pace has always been good and his line and length were also much better at Headingley.
He didn’t lose anything in terms of aggression, but he grouped his deliveries fairly consistently and swung one back quite markedly to get Paul Collingwood lbw on the second evening.
A couple were very quick indeed and quite unplayable, and he is now one of the leading wicket-takers in the series from either side. It is good to see him showing English audiences just what he is about.