The Ashes 2023: Australia takes the lead over England at Lord’s
England struggled on the first day of the second Ashes Test at Lord’s, but Australia dominated with an ominous unbroken 85 from Steve Smith.
After winning what appeared to be a vital toss in damp conditions, England’s bowling lacked penetration and fielding included costly errors once more.
And Smith, who had missed out on both innings of Australia’s first Test victory, capitalised to take the tourists to 339-5.
Smith added 102 with Marnus Labuschagne and 118 with Travis Head, who smacked 77 from 73 balls, after David Warner made 66.
On his Ashes debut, Josh Tongue was the highlight of the England attack, bowling Warner and Usman Khawaja with lethal movement down the Lord’s slope.
Joe Root did remove Head and Cameron Green in the same over late in the day, but Smith’s prolonged presence poses a significant risk to the home side.
England’s Ollie Pope suffered a shoulder injury and spent the majority of the last two sessions off the field on a day when an attempt at disruption by Just Stop Oil activists was largely failed.
By the end of the day, England needed a quick turnaround on day two to get back into this Test and the series.
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England’s nerve-wracking two-wicket defeat in the first Test was determined by razor-thin margins, and in the wake, the likes of Ollie Robinson, Zak Crawley, and Pope have all been eager to talk up their prospects of reversing the trend.
Instead, under the captaincy of Ben Stokes, they had one of their sluggish days and, six days into the series, are in serious danger of slipping too far behind – only once has a team rallied from 2-0 behind to win the Ashes.
Aside from Tongue’s two jaffas, the most spectacular portion of England’s day was wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow hauling a protestor from the middle to the boundary edge by himself.
England’s bowlers not only struggled with their line, but a total of 12 no-balls demonstrated a collective lack of rhythm. Root dropped a difficult chance off Khawaja at first slip, while Pope dropped a more straightforward chance off Warner at fourth slip.
It was a perfect day for Australia, who started Mitchell Starc instead of Scott Boland. Captain Pat Cummins intended to bowl first as well, but instead watched his batsmen battle through a tough morning and cash in late in the day.
Root, at the very least, given some hope, and England will bowl with a ball that is only two overs old on Thursday.
If and when they get past the lower order, England will be tested with the bat, possibly without Pope, despite the fact that this injury is to his right shoulder, not the left, which he has dislocated twice before.
Smith returns to Lord’s with joy.
Smith has a connection to Lord’s. Before this match, he made his Test debut here and averaged 74 in Ashes cricket on this field. It was also the site of his concussion four years ago by a vicious Jofra Archer bouncer.
Warner worked hard in the morning, even playing slog sweeps against the pacers to prepare for the circumstances. The openers scored 73 runs, but following Tongue’s double strike, Smith came in and pitched an inning filled of eccentricities and infuriating whips off the pads.
He got into his stride by smashing Broad through the covers and overturned on 24 when he was caught behind off the same bowler. Labuschagne, who was initially unsure, rose in stature and was successfully reviewed when given leg-before-playing no shot to Broad.
After tea, England had their opportunity when Robinson took Labuschagne’s edge, only for Head to exploit some poor bowling to devastating effect.
The left-hander sliced and pulled his way to a half-century off 48 balls. The century stand with Smith was made up of 104 deliveries, 67 of which were scored by Head.
Then came Root’s intervention, but Smith was joined by the composed Alex Carey and is closing in on Jack Hobbs’ record of 12 Ashes hundreds – only Don Bradman has more.
Australia punishes flat England
This was simply awful cricket, not a failure of England’s Bazball style. However, such a sluggish performance exposes them to criticism for their laid-back attitude off the field.
England had everything going for them, including a green pitch, gloomy skies, and floodlights. However, except from Tongue, the attack lacked the bite to be fully utilized.
Tongue’s two deliveries to dismiss Khawaja and Warner were spectacular. If Khawaja made a mistake by not offering a shot, Warner was softened up by one that went through everything and then cleaned up by one that fractured his leg stump on the following ball.
Except for the occasional threat delivered by Broad, the seamers were powerless to help Tongue. James Anderson didn’t bowl a single ball that would have struck the stumps, and Stokes scored 21 runs in three overs.
On a pitch where England omitted Moeen Ali, Root was an unusual source of hope. Green’s terrible hack at his third ball was unexplainable, and the impatient Head sprinted past one that turned out to be well stumped by Bairstow.
Nonetheless, England’s need for a part-time off-spinner to keep them afloat in excellent bowling conditions speaks volumes about their performance.
‘I’m worried about England,’ said ex-England captain Michael Vaughan. “England can get back into it, but they’ll have to be sharper on the field; I’ll be interested to see how they handle it.”
“I believe this pitch will become more difficult over the next few days.” I’m concerned about England. It’s quite difficult at this point. They were turned off at Edgbaston, and they are still not turned on at critical times today.”
Glenn McGrath, former Australia bowler: “I love Bazball, I love the aggression, I love the attitude, but you have to back it up.” When the going gets rough, you have to play tough. If they don’t play well in this Test match and lose, the series is effectively over.”