18 July 2013

The Ashes 2nd Test, day 1, Lord’s

The Ashes 2nd Test, day 1, Lord’s:

England 1st innings
: 7/289 from 89.0 overs
Steven Smith 3-18 , Ryan Harris 3-43 , Shane Watson 1- 41
Ian Bell 109, Jonny Bairstow 67, Jonathan Trott 58

The first Test brought us a roller-coaster ride of ultimate Test cricket, with many twists and turns, blood pressure levels rising and heart rates pulsating along with it. It gave us all an idea that the Australian fighting spirit was back, and while England still stand as the firm favourites for obvious reason, we knew this game could prove to be another thrilling contest. Day one of the second Test was by no means as intense as Trent Bridge, but it was still a hard fought day for both sides.

Ryan Harris back in Test cricket gear © Getty Images
The return of Ryan Harris was most welcome – a bowler I have tipped as our best since he made a return to our side a few years back to avoid being an ODI one-hit wonder. Harris claimed two quick wickets with the new ball in hand to have England skittled to 3-28. He even made the Queen make an early exit from Lord's after his early morning show.

I have had nothing but positive things to write about Harris over the last few years and injury has mostly been his only downfall. As pointed out by Michael Vaughn, he would put Harris right up there with James Anderson and Dale Steyn (South Africa) but his 13 Tests could have been so much more had his body been better equipped for Test cricket. I am proud his performance was noticeable at Lord’s.

His dismissal of Joe Root was a classic Harris delivery; pitched at a fuller length with the slightest movement and then sharp skid off the track, backed by healthy pace. The LBW decision was a tight one though as Root appeared to get bat on the ball at the same time as the ball rocketed into his front pad, but an examination revealed the umpire’s decision was set to stand as there was enough to suggest pad first.

Harris also removed Kevin Pietersen with a classic new ball delivery to the right hand batsman. Pietersen poked at a fuller ball just outside of off stump, found the faintest of edges and Brad Haddin claimed the catch. It was a huge scalp for Harris.

Harris’ third wicket for the day was a well executed tactical move, as Michael Clarke himself showed greater analysis of the game in comparison to a poor tactical game at Trent Bridge. Jonathan Trott looked solid as ever coming in at number three. He was imposing, as a number three should be. With ease and grace he found the boundary and the scoreboard didn’t seem to hassle him. When Ian Bell (who scored a second century of the series) joined him high on confidence, they looked set to pull the game right back into England’s favour as they appeared to show the type of application on a good batting track the other batsmen failed to showcase.

However, Harris has troubled Trott before lunch with shorter deliveries and with the partnership on 99, Harris dug another one in short. Trott did pick it up but seemed to play it half-heatedly, top edging a pull shot lacking control. Usman Khawaja (in for Ed Cowan) took the catch at deep mid-wicket.

As refreshing as it is to see Harris, I get the strong feeling each and every one of our bowlers will be in and out of the side. Darren Lehmann will strive to select the best XI for each game, but conditions and player fitness will play a role. Harris has to be managed so carefully that Jackson Bird is more than likely to have a crack at the English batsmen. It’s just good to have Harris out there right now.

Shane Watson had been another tactical move from Clarke. Amusingly it could have been seen as a way to dismiss Mickey Arthur’s “confidential” claims leaked from his lawsuit against Cricket Australia that Watson is a “cancer” in the side. However, Clarke's gamble to use his "internal nemesis" (as the media would love to make it out as) paid off as Shane Watson pitched a delivery on off stump, had it swing back into Alastair Cook and the LBW was given after a long scream for the wicket. The typical dismissal every right arm bowler wants to secure against the left handed top order batsman.

Along with Watson’s early promotion, Harris’ tactical execution, and a wiser usage of the DRS (we still have our two reviews in tact), Clarke had another moment later in the day but I’ll address that shortly.

Ian Bell looked as if he was resuming on the same day he scored his century at Trent Bridge. Still strong square of the wicket, he was a bit more versatile with his shot selection and he brought up a back-to-back century, his third now against Australia. He had taken advantage of the Lord’s batting surface on a very hot day in London.

There was fortune for Bell though that his partner hung around as long as he did. Peter Siddle bowled alright but his blunder came when he bowled Jonny Bairstow, a player who hasn’t looked to be too dominant this series. Despite bowling Bairstow early in his innings (21 runs), the no-ball review was called for by the umpires and it showed that Peter Siddle had overstepped the crease and the decision was reversed. It was a huge blow and not the first time Siddle has had this fate brought upon him. Most modern day fast bowlers push that front line way too much and Siddle has paid the price far too often now and hopefully it won't be too heavy a penalty against us. It was a pity as he had earned that wicket. Bairstow has looked an easy victim for getting bowled in either lacking balance or not playing the ball in the right position, as clearly seen in previous innings against New Zealand.

Steven Smith celebrates © Getty Images
The partnership settled and the game was swaying into England’s favour. Then Steven Smith came onto bowl after Ashton Agar hadn’t proven to shake up the English batsmen too much - further suggestion Nathan Lyon may return for The Oval Test as the front line spinner. On 4/271 it was Smith’s time as Clarke felt the change was needed and it was a role of the dice.

It may have come a bit late and Clarke may be criticised for it, but the move brought us three wickets and there was no certainty Smith would have had the impact he did.

Smith ended up with 3-18, claiming the huge wicket of Bell, then Bairstow and lastly Matt Prior. The result is that England’s tail is at the crease, although Tim Bresnan is no walkover with the willow. It was a dramatic passage of play and the type of events England played out like clockwork at Trent Bridge.

Leg breaks and flippers saw Smith cause chaos and it will be a huge confidence booster for him. Michael Clarke was active in the slips off his bowling to grab a catch, while Haddin gave Smith his third.  

Smith’s performance has given us momentum and even though England have runs on the board, the morning session is going to be massive for us. Three wickets remain before our batsmen have another challenge to face. England will eye 350 as the safety zone for them given our batting history over the last couple of years. They will always fancy their chances until our top order steps up. Our plan will be simple. Get those three wickets for as few runs as possible.

On a side note, James Pattinson could have easily been substituted by Jackson Bird for this Test but was given a fair go after putting in some good work at Trent Bridge – his batting aside in the second dig.

However, it was a tough initiation for Pattinson as he struggled to build pressure and was far too often wayward down leg-side to the right hand batsmen in particular. This definitely makes the omission of Mitchell Starc valid, who has less control than that of Pattinson and finds much more natural swing. It would have been a rough day at the office for Brad Haddin had both played. Hopefully Pattinson absorbed everything he experienced so he can fire alongside his bowling mates soon enough.

Which bowlers will Clarke gamble on tomorrow for those wickets? It will be another big day of cricket ahead and England will be livid with their performance. 

Verdict: Day one goes to Australia after clinching it away from England courtesy of Steven Smith’s 3-18.

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Terry O'Leary said...

Clarke only took one catch off Smith,Root was caught and bowled.

Ian said...

Hi terry,

Made the change, thanks for pointing that out. Not sure where the confusion came.

The caught and bowled for Smith was the wicket of Bairstow. Root was LBW to Ryano.