England is on the brink of another Ashes defeat. They last made contact with the urn back in 2015, and haven’t won a Test since the 2010-2011 Ashes. Going by form, and potential, England look like they will continue to remain winless. They have some nice names in the squad, but very few have performed. The batting, in the first to games, depended too much on Joe Root, and Dawid Malan, while the bowling remains hit and miss. With England in a must-win situation, they could bring in some changes ahead at Melbourne.
Haseeb Hameed’s technique was good for the India tour back in 2016, when he made his debut, but the technique that worked then is failing him now. Playing with low hands, Hameed struggles against the balls that bounce higher. While Rory Burns has been under greater scrutiny, Hameed’s technique puts him further under the scanner. Rory Burns himself hasn’t looked comfortable at all, with a first-ball duck at Brisbane set the tone for England.
Burns though will likely get another chance, while Zak Crawley steps in for Haseeb Hameed. At 6’5”, Crawley’s height will make him feel less uncomfortable against the bounce. He is a free-flowing batter, with a nice range of strokes, which may help England set the tone early in the innings. Zak Crawley has a career-best of 267, but his form has also been an issue over the last year, which makes the opening puzzle all the more difficult.
Ollie Pope is a batter with loads of potential, and a nice technique, but his batting hasn’t been good enough so far. With a long career ahead of him, England may want to give Pope some time off before he loses confidence, after a tough series. His approach has been a little puzzling as Pope didn’t look to comfortable against the likes of Starc or Lyon during his brief visits to the crease.
With very few options in the squad, England will have to go back to Jonny Bairstow yet again. Bairstow has been in and out of the side, and has struggled through the year in the longer format. He was in top-form back in 2016, and did a decent job at Australia on their last visit, but Bairstow struggled to kick off from a few good seasons. He is second on the list of ducks this year among England batters.
Mark Wood was in great touch in the first Test, reaching a high pace and using the Australian conditions nicely. Being the only express pace bowler in the England squad, and one with injury issues, England was wary of overworking him, and rested him at Adelaide. His pace has put the likes of David Warner in some discomfort, and after a game off, Wood could be back at Melbourne.
England initially planned to have a wide range of express pace options for the Ashes. They groomed Jofra Archer, and Olly Stone only to see both suffering injuries, ending their Ashes hunt. Injuries to them left Mark Wood as the only bowler who could reach high speeds.
With Wood returning, Woakes seems the most likely to go out. He hasn’t been at his best, and is still struggling to crack the code on Australian pitches. He is in the firing line among the Australian batters, leaving Woakes in some trouble. His batting has been good, and it’s fair to say that he has been their best batter after Root, and Malan, but his batting alone may not be enough to keep him in the side.