Starc's ankle clouds Lord's chances
Peter Siddle appears a likely Australian inclusion for the Lord's Test after Mitchell Starc bowled in obvious pain on a difficult day three in Cardiff, leaving Nathan Lyon to admit the heavily favoured tourists needed to "compose themselves" following numerous unexpected setbacks.
Having suffered from ankle trouble on day one of the match, Starc did not take the new ball after Australia's tail were bundled out on the third morning, and when he did come on to bowl it was clear he was favouring one leg. Starc required painkillers to get to the bowling crease and though he delivered some typically challenging deliveries, he will be facing an uphill battle to return to full fitness for the Lord's match, which begins only four days after this one.
Lyon said the team had been lifted by Starc's determination to get back out on the field though clearly struggling to move with his usual freedom, and expressed hope that the left-armer would be able to keep going. However a history of ankle troubles - he had bone spurs removed following the 2013 India tour - does not augur well.
"Starcy's performance carrying an injury is fantastic, to have the courage to come out there and still bowl consistently 140kph the credit goes to Mitch," Lyon said. "We got the rewards so lucky enough the bowlers dug deep today to give him a couple of extra days rest before the second Test. Starcy is a world class bowler and surely he'll keep going."
It is the second significant blow to Australia's vaunted bowling attack inside a week, after Ryan Harris announced his forced retirement from the game due to a cracked tibia sustained as a result of bowling on his worn out right knee. Siddle and the recently-arrived Pat Cummins are now far closer to contention for spots in the team than they would have expected to be at the start of the tour.
Having been backed by virtually every pundit in the lead-up to this series, Australia have been humbled thus far by a young England side playing with far more energy, aggression and invention than they have been known for. Added to the discipline shown by the experienced bowling duo of James Anderson and Stuart Broad and it has been a most compelling combination. Lyon conceded the Australians had some thinking to do.
"They probably won the big moments," he said. "They had the momentum in the morning and they got the rewards from decent bowling yesterday afternoon. We have to compose ourselves and come tomorrow it's a new day. We get lucky enough we get to start fresh, our batters get to have a good warm-up and be mentally be switched on from ball one."
A successful chase of 412 would surpass the 404 run down by Sir Donald Bradman and Arthur Morris in the 1948 Headingley Test as the most successful chase in Ashes history. Lyon, at least, has not given up hope. "Records are made to be broken. We're remaining positive," he said. "We've got a world-class batting line-up and we bat right down to 11.
"There is no reason why we can't get these runs. If we apply ourselves properly within our top order and make some big partnerships, keep the bowlers coming back for long spells. We've got to learn from our first innings, especially our batters, aim to be more hungry at the crease and turn 30s into big 100s for us, definitely a big chance."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig