The weather-hit second Ashes test at Lord’s ended yesterday evening, with Australia undoubtedly the happier of two sides to come away with a draw. This post contains my thoughts on the match and today’s announcement of an unchanged England squad for the third test, which gets underway on Thursday.
A GREAT TEST MATCH
A third of this match was lost to the weather and yet it was not far away from providing a definite result even so. England scored 258 in the first innings, Burns and Bairstow making fifites, and Denly producing a classic “Vince” – a well compiled 30. England bowled well to claim a slender first innings lead. Jofra Archer struck Smith a blow to the head, from which he briefly resumed, before getting out for 92 (progress for England after he had scored twin tons in the first test match). Smith did not take the field for England’s second innings and his place in the batting order was taken under the concussion rule by Manus Labuschagne. England did not start well – Roy and Root (who does not look to be relishing the no3 slot) both fell cheaply, Denly had a second “Vince” of the match, 26 this time round, and Burns fell for a gritty 29. However, Stokes in the company of first Buttler and then Bairstow dug England out of a hole and then propelled them to a declaration, being on 116 not out when England declared to set Australia 267 off 48 overs (a little overcautious – surely the declaration should have coincided with Stokes reaching the hundred). Archer was electrifying with the ball on this final afternoon and evening and Leach confirmed the rightness of selecting him as first spinner by taking three cheap wickets and comfortably outbowling Lyon, an absolute reversal of what happened with Moeen Ali in the first test match. Australia finished on 154-6 when Aleem Dar called time with three balls left in the match and four Aussie wickets standing (evidently he felt there was no chance of someone being stumped off a wide, then followed by a hat trick to finish it – and I can’t argue with that). A combination of overcaution on England’s part and the fact that, good is he is, Leach is no Underwood saw to it that the impossible did not quite come to pass, but this was still the second best match to take place at Lord’s this season.
England’s huge improvement in this match should not mask the fact that several problems remain in their line up. I am going to run down the list player by player with my thoughts (click on the player name to view their cricinfo details:
- Rory Burns – his fighting efforts in both innings here, following his Edgbaston ton confirm that he has arrived at the highest level, meaning that there is now only one problem in the opening slots.
- Jason Roy – I believe that it is right for England to persevere with him, but I do not see him as a test match opener – no3 or 4 is more like it. Both his dismissals in this match were down to bad batting and not good bowling.
- Joe Root – it was right for England to move him up to no3, and such moves should be given a fair trial, but I for one will not surprised to see him back at no4 before too long.
- Joe Denly – batted decently for a time in both innings but then got out (again his wickets were given rather than being taken, in both innings). If he has a longish term future at test level (bear in mind that he is already 32, ) I think it more likely to be as opener than no 4, however he would not be part of my long term plans.
- Ben Stokes – his second innings century was a quite magnificent knock, starting cautiously, with England in trouble and then opening out as prospects of defeat faded. If England can accept that at test level he is not a front-line bowler, but rather someone who may bowl a few overs here or there I could see him batting higher up the order – he is technically excellent and has a full range of scoring shots at his disposal. Only Root in the current squad is definitely ahead of him on batting ability.
- Jos Buttler – he played well in the second innings, when England badly needed it.
- Jonny Bairstow – He had his best test match with the bat in some time, and there were no huge howlers behind the stumps. I still rate Foakes ahead of him in both departments, but his return to form is welcome.
- Chris Woakes – bowled well, and made a solid effort with the bat in the first innings.
- Jofra Archer – a magnificent test debut, he was electrifying with the ball in his hand. He has taken to test cricket the way ducks took to 1990s England scorecards!
- Stuart Broad – In the absence of Anderson (likely to be out for the series) he is leading the bowling attack, and his performance in this match was one of which he can be proud.
- Jack Leach – He bowled well in this match, with his three second innings wickets being less than his bowling merited. As mentioned earlier he outbowled Lyon in this game, confirming along the way his status as England’s no 1 spinner.
England still have to find a second opener alongside Burns (Dominic Sibley has to be considered, there is still time to try my ultra-radical solution and as another outside bet, young George Bartlett of Somerset has had a fine season, plays fast bowling well and is better suited to long form cricket than limited overs stuff), unless Root starts delivering from there soon no 3 also remains a problem. There is also the question (and in the not distant future England will be playing somewhere where such a bowling attack is mandatory) of who will be second spinner (depending on how radical you are prepared to be I suggest either Matthew Parkinson, or for an attempt at a ‘mystery bowler’ option Helen Fenby). I would like to see Sam Curran and Lewis Gregory accommodated somehow as well. However, unquestionably after this performance England are looking in better shape than they were a few days ago.
My usual sign off…