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By Paul Newman for the Daily Mail
Published: 21:31 GMT, 3 August 2015 | Updated: 21:51 GMT, 3 August 2015
England’s turbo-charged victory at Edgbaston has set the Ashes alight and left Australia, hot favourites before the series, with almost all the problems entering Thursday’s fourth Test.
Aussie captain Michael Clarke betrayed his state of mind on Monday. Speaking to Australian radio station Triple M, he clung to the hope that England will be considerably weakened by Jimmy Anderson’s absence at Trent Bridge rather than backing his own team to come good.
‘As much as you don’t wish injury on anybody, I hope it can play a part like in 2005 when we lost Glenn McGrath,’ said Clarke. It sounded like a captain who is increasingly desperate.
Here are the issues the Aussies are facing as they bid to avoid losing the Ashes at Trent Bridge this week for the fourth successive time in England — and with a Test to spare.
England batsman Joe Root jumps for joy as England sealed an eight-wicket victory at Edgbaston on Friday
Ian Bell (right) and Root embrace after steering England to a 2-1 Ashes lead after winning the third Test
Defeated Aussie captain Michael Clarke looks dejected as he talks to former spin bowler Shane Warne
There is no doubt Australia’s impressive fast-bowling artillery made them pre-series favourites but none of their quick men has bowled as well as Clarke would have hoped, particularly when English conditions at last presented themselves at Edgbaston.
Mitchell Starc has produced the odd brute of a delivery — witness the ball of the match that bowled Alastair Cook in the second innings of the third Test — but has often been very wayward. The suspicion remains that Starc, who is struggling to control the Dukes ball, is a better one-day bowler.
Then there is the supposed McGrath bowl-a-like Josh Hazlewood, who may have taken wickets in this Ashes but has been far too expensive. Hazlewood was the one who should have given Clarke control in Birmingham but he blew it.
He and Starc are now under pressure from the old workhorse Peter Siddle and it would be no surprise if Australia turn to the man who knows Trent Bridge better than any of their bowlers through his time with Notts.
Mitchell Starc has been wayward this series despite producing the odd brute of a delivery
Josh Hazlewood may have taken wickets during the series but has proved too expensive
One man whose place is not in doubt is Mitchell Johnson, but he remains an intriguing figure in this Ashes. When hot — as with the ferocious deliveries that took out Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes in the same over — he is very hot. But it was his demeanour by the end of Australia’s defeat that will encourage England.
Not only did Johnson seemingly not have the trust of Clarke — he wasn’t used until England reached 47 of the 121 they needed — but the fervent Edgbaston crowd appeared to get to him when he lost his run-up and bowled his last delivery of the match from 24 yards. Which Mitch will turn up at Trent Bridge? England supporters might be able to influence that.
Mitchell Johnson did not seem to have the trust of captain Clarke in England's second innings at Edgbaston
The Haddin effect
It has been no secret there are divisions within the Australian camp which have become issues now things are going against them.
Brad Haddin, a thorn in England’s side over recent years, has become the unwitting spark of murmurings of huge discontent because of his omission from the Edgbaston Test.
The irony is that Haddin, 37, looked ripe for replacement by the impressive Peter Nevill — particularly when he dropped Joe Root on nought at Cardiff — before pulling out at Lord’s for family reasons.
Yet it was the decision to turn this into a form issue by coach Darren Lehmann when justifying Haddin’s omission at Edgbaston that has caused discontent in the squad.Captain Michael Clarke was believed to oppose the move. Poor Nevill, who justified his selection at Lord’s and Birmingham with gloves and bat, is caught in the middle.
‘I’ve just kept my head down,’ said Nevill yesterday when asked about the anger over Haddin’s fate. ‘The great thing is that Brad has helped me prepare as best I can. The way he has carried himself has shown he is a wonderful person.’
So wonderful, indeed, that senior players would very much like Haddin beside them at Trent Bridge where he so nearly won the first Test two years ago. He won’t be.
Brad Haddin's omission from the team at Edgbaston has caused discontent in the Australia dressing room
Haddin's replacement Peter Nevill has justified his selection with gloves and bat at Edgbaston and Lord's
Unquestionably the biggest problem Australia face is the form of captain Clarke, who seemingly needs to win the last two Tests to stop himself being replaced by Steve Smith and ushered towards retirement. Unless, of course, he falls on his sword first.
It was fascinating to read Brendon McCullum in Monday's Sportsmail saying that Clarke has suffered through not having the support of his superiors.
That is in stark contrast to last year when Cook found himself under enormous pressure as England captain but, crucially, retained the full backing of all around him.
Aussie skipper Clarke's form is a real concern for the tourists and is fighting to keep his job in final two Tests
It looks increasingly tough for Clarke to regain the form that has brought him 28 Test centuries. His woeful inability to deal with Stuart Broad, in particular, and Steven Finn at Edgbaston has had a knock-on effect on the struggling middle-order batsmen who follow him, Adam Voges and Mitch Marsh.
Then there is Clarke’s captaincy, which has not looked so ‘funky’ with his side under pressure and without senior players like Haddin and Shane Watson alongside him.
Cook has undoubtedly out-captained Clarke in this series.
His batting aside, Clarke has been out-captained by English counterpart Alastair Cook in this series
So what will they do?
Voges looks sure to pay the price for those middle-order frailties by losing his place to Shaun Marsh, which may cause a batting-order reshuffle.
But it would be a sign of weakness now if Clarke were to drop himself to No 5, where he averages twice as many as he does at four. He needs to front up rather than slide down the order.
The big question is whether Siddle comes in for either Hazlewood or Starc, again a sign not only that Ryan Harris is being sorely missed but that this formidable Australian attack do not have the same mastery in England as elsewhere with the Kookaburra ball.
Australia batsmen Adam Voges looks set to pay the price for his poor form and be replaced by Shaun Marsh
Only when the pitch resembled a sub-continental one at Lord’s have England been out-bowled and it is up to the Trent Bridge staff now to ensure they do not produce a repeat of last year’s pitch.
That was so lifeless that Anderson scored 81 on it and the International Cricket Council issued Notts with an official warning.
England missed a golden opportunity to kick Australia when they were down at Lord’s — the pitch was a mitigating factor — and they cannot afford to do it again.
Australia are there for the taking. England must not waste another gilt-edged chance.
Veteran bowler Peter Siddle could yet be called upon to replace Hazlewood or Starc in the misfiring attack