England v Australia, The Ashes, 4th Test, July 19-23, 2023, 11.00 hrs Local Time, 20:00 hrs AEST, 15:30 hrs IST Where: Old Trafford, Manchester
The rival leaders of the closely contested Ashes series, Pat Cummins and Ben Stokes, unexpectedly decided to take a vacation from cricket to regroup. Cummins had a quiet week of Netflix binge-watching from the comfort of his bed while indulging in his wife’s delicious Thai Green Curry before leaving for Manchester. He spent time with his one-and-a-half-year-old son Albie in the peaceful environs of north Yorkshire during this time. Similar to how he opted to prioritize his time with his own family, Stokes occasionally went on coffee dates with his teammates and made the most of his time on the golf course.
For captains in the midst of a highly anticipated Ashes series, where the prized urn hangs in the balance, this unique method may seem odd. It does, however, reflect the current trend where teams and players can momentarily disconnect from cricket, refocus, and recharge when there are no tour games. Cummins and Stokes prioritized self-care and rest in order to play at their best despite the buzz surrounding this series, which was predicted by many to rival the iconic 2005 Ashes match in terms of excitement.
Everyone involved—including the spectators—gets a much-needed break during the lengthy interval between the third and fourth Tests. It enables us to consider how intense the first three Test matches were, which have really demonstrated how evenly matched the two teams are. The best Test series are frequently marked by outstanding cricket played by outstanding sides or by two excellent teams making errors while putting up compelling displays. The eventual result of this series has primarily depended on whose team has avoided making significant mistakes at pivotal periods, according to an analysis of its turns and turns.
After the Leeds Test, a senior English player admitted the razor-thin margins and told this website, “The score-line could easily be 2-1 in our favor, 3-0 in their favor, or even 3-0 in our favor.” He wasn’t overstating it either—the race has been that tight. The strain is sure to rise more with only two Tests left. The forthcoming Test is also anticipated to be significantly impacted by the weather in Manchester. Stokes, who is already setting the tone, has pushed his squad to play with even more intensity.
The possibility of more heated cricket simply heightens the intensity of the series. The emphasis on scoring runs fast has been considerably reduced in England as they move toward a more balanced strategy. Australia, on the other side, has consistently favored the long game throughout the series, frequently outpacing England in terms of run pace.
This only adds to the excitement of the series, with the prospect of more intense cricket. England has noticeably toned down the emphasis on scoring runs quickly, shifting towards a more balanced approach. On the other hand, Australia has remained steadfast in their preference for playing the long game, often surpassing England in terms of run-rate throughout the series.
Following England’s success in retaining the Ashes, Australia decided to take their foot off the gas and disperse across England and the continent as part of a bigger strategy to maintain focus without becoming overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task at hand. This plan calls for skipping tour matches, favoring red-ball cricket by choosing to withdraw some players from the IPL, and occasionally taking a somewhat more defensive stance to counter England’s perceived aggression. All of these steps are included in Cummins’ and his team’s strategy for methodically achieving their goals.
Due to their separated positions, the players, including Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne, had restricted access to the nets for almost a week. They have made up for this, though, by making frequent use of the Old Trafford netting lately and treating it almost like their temporary home. Both teams have been forced to seek refuge indoors as a result of the ongoing heavy rain that has hindered outdoor practice sessions. Despite its possible significance in defining the era and determining the destiny of the Ashes, this has contributed to a very subdued build-up to the next Test. A home side victory in this Test would pave the way for an exciting championship game at The Oval the following week. If such a situation materializes, this conflict over the urn could surpass any previous encounters in its historical significance and intensity.
What to expect: It has rained a lot this past week in this historically significant area of England, Manchester, which is known for its regular downpour. Old Trafford’s outfield consequently has a lush appearance, which is unusual for a Test match anyplace in the globe. But ever since Australia’s first practice three days before the game, the field has had an oddly drab appearance. The playing surface at Old Trafford mimics that of the first Test at Edgbaston as opposed to the live grass seen at Headingley. Given the excitement that may arise from a dynamic pitch when these two teams battle, it is to be hoped that it does not play like Edgbaston did and instead displays some liveliness.
England: Moeen Ali has demonstrated his versatility by taking on a variety of positions for the England Test team. There is some justification for his recent fixed promotion to No. 3 in the batting lineup because he previously held that spot. The peculiar nature of the circumstances surrounding this elevation, though, emphasizes how unanticipated his return to Test cricket for this series was. Curiously, the likelihood that the Australian fast bowlers will pitch the ball up to him in that position might work to his advantage. No cricketer with a comparable degree of experience has probably had to return to the team as frequently as James Anderson has during the course of his career. Notably, England will have their oldest pace attack since 1928 as a result of his return. However, Mark Wood’s lightning-fast thunderbolts, which have been known to reach speeds of 96 kilometers per hour, will overwhelm the discussion regarding age. With Moeen Ali taking on a new role and James Anderson making yet another comeback, they both bring tremendous experience and expertise to the England Test side, which heightens the interest of the team dynamics.
Playing XI: Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Moeen Ali, Joe Root, Harry Brook, Ben Stokes (c), Jonny Bairstow (wk), Chris Woakes, Mark Wood, Stuart Broad, James Anderson
Australia: It is definitely astonishing that, at this point in the Ashes series, Australia must pick between Todd Murphy and Cameron Green for the final slot in the playing XI. Australia may play without a specialist spinner, something they haven’t done in a Test since 2011–12, due to Nathan Lyon’s injury and Mitchell Marsh’s outstanding performance in Leeds. Australia showed signs of being willing to play without a specialist spinner during their training sessions two days prior to the game. Following their batting workouts, Travis Head and Marnus Labuschagne were spotted practicing their spin bowling, suggesting probable roles as supplemental spinners. Murphy’s online conversation appeared to be more concerned with upholding Labuschagne’s standards for the young off-spinner rather than preparing for a Test match. Captain Cummins has also dropped hints in recent days, further suggesting Australia’s strategy. On Tuesday, July 18, Green joined Labuschagne and Smith for a net session in the indoor nets, providing the last confirmation. Australia will now have five seam bowling options and a lengthier batting lineup than they have had in this century as a result of this move. The unanticipated events surrounding Australia’s pick of its spinner and the lineup changes they have made have added an intriguing dimension to the team’s make-up for this vital Ashes encounter.
Playing XI: David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Cameron Green, Mitchell Marsh, Alex Carey (wk), Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins (c), Josh Hazlewood