Despite losing the first full day to the rain, England almost snatched victory in the 2nd Ashes Test at Lords, but ran out of time in getting four remaining Australian wickets, culminating in a draw, meaning Australia remain 1-0 up with two of the five matches played.
But despite the abridged amount of time played, the 2nd Test was packed full of incident and was a fine example of Test match cricket – with all results possible going into the fifth day.
The match though will really be remembered for the impact that Jofra Archer made on his Test match debut – bowling with virtually unrivalled, in this day and age, pace – with aggression to boot – that rattled the Australians – and, in particular, the immovable Steve Smith – who’s battle with Archer looks set to become one for the ages.
After England had stumbled to a 1st innings total of 258, it was Smith, again, proving the thorn in the England side – batting with every ounce of his stubbornness and unique tendencies – in frustrating the England bowlers and nudging the Australian total ever closer, despite the loss of early wickets. Smith arrived at the crease with the score on 60-2, which became 60-3, and then 162-6…but Smith still, crucially, there. With memories of Edgbaston still fresh in the England players – and supporters – minds, everyone knew that whilst Smith occupied the crease, England could not feel comfortable or in control of the game.
Then, skipper Joe Root, again, tossed Archer the ball.
Archer had already claimed his first Test wicket – trapping opener Cam Bancroft plumb LBW – and then had Aussie skipper Tim Paine caught for his second. But it was Smith that was the prized wicket…and Archer set about Smith with as hostile a spell seen in England for a long, long time….reaching 96mph and forcing the stoic, unflappable Smith into some evasive action. Then, in the 76th over, Archer delivered a brute of a ball, the bouncer too direct for Smith to avoid, who turned his head and received the ball crashing into the base of his unguarded neck, which felled him immediately, lying prone on the Lords wicket. To his absolute credit, after receiving lengthy treatment, he wanted to continue, but was frogmarched from the pitch to warm, sincere applause. No blame attached to Archer – and it was not how he wanted to remove Smith – but Smith was forced to retire hurt – though he would later return to complete his first innings – but would then be done for the game under a concussion protocol – and he is now a huge doubt for the Third test, which starts in just a few days time.
Australia would end just 8 runs behind England but already into the 4th days play. Ben Stokes hit 115 in the second innings to give England a position they could only win or draw from – and despite more Archer magic and some genuine attacking spin bowling from Jack Leach, they could only take 6 Australian wickets before time expired – Steve Smith being replaced by Marnus Labuschagne (above) – who proved an able replacement by hitting a resilient – and crucial – 59 that really secured the draw.
The game was thrilling and, despite the weather intervention, saw a vastly improved performance from England. There are still some major concerns with the bat; opener Jason Roy’s miserable Ashes continued with scores of just 0 & 2, whilst Joe Denly and Jos Buttler continue to look limited in what they can contribute at the crease. But there is no doubting the Archer effect. He is something that England haven’t had really since Devon Malcolm – but with a much better radar and level of consistency already in his locker. Archer is a relaxed, confident young man who so far has taken everything in his stride. On this showing, he could well become the premier and most feared bowler in world cricket – as long as he isn’t over used and can, of course, stay injury free.
For Australia, its all about whether – and how quickly – Smith can recover from that sickening blow – and how his mind will be when he sees Archer steaming in at him once more. Smith has looked unbeatable up until that ball knocked him down – he got back up again – but was shaky and looked human (for once). His recovery will be of more concern than the continued failure of their opening pair and long batting tail – take Smith’s runs away and you wonder just where anything of significance will come from – although, as with their Ashes counterparts, their bowling attack looks strong and deep. Josh Hazelwood returned after being omitted from the 1st Test and slotted in beautifully alongside the consistent Cummins and Siddle – and whilst Nathan Lyon was not as dangerous as at Edgbaston, he remains a threat with his varied spin.
So, three tests left and England will need to win at least two of them if they are to take the Ashes urn from Australia – and will have renewed optimism that, with Archer, they can do just that. The schedule means they can level things up quickly at Headingly, Leeds. Australia may well need more weather interventions again to maintain their lead.
- England 1st Innings : 258 (Burns 53, Bairstow 52, Woakes 32)
- Australia Bowling : Hazlewood 3/58, Cummins 3/61, Lyon 3/68
- Australia 1st Innings : 250 (Smith 92, Khawaja 36)
- England Bowling : Broad 4/65, Woakes 3/61, Archer 2/59
- England 2nd Innings : 258/5 dec (Stokes 115)
- Australia Bowling : Cummins 3/35, Siddle 2/54
- Australia 2nd Innings : 154/6 (Labuschagne 59, Head 42)
- England Bowling : Archer 3/32, Leach 3/37
- Result : MATCH DRAWN
- Man of the Match : Ben Stokes (England)
- Venue : Lords, London, England
- Date : Wednesday August 14 – Sunday August 18
UPDATED SERIES SCORE : England 0 – 1 Australia