The Ashes 2019 – Second Test, Day 5: Momentum yo-yos, youth thrills



I wrote after day four that the likely outcomes were either a draw or an improbable Aussie blitz. Once again, this series indicated it wouldn’t follow probabilities and likelihoods.


Australia had their chance late on day four to rip through the English middle order and cut off their powerful bats from day five play. Some dropped catches and poor fielding meant they sat four down, needing the likes of Stokes, Buttler and Bairstow to fire. In an hour where they needed it most, their middle order resolved themselves and batted Australia out of the game.


Lyon operated from one end after the rain delayed start, looking to replicate his first test heroics on a remarkably different pitch. He never truly found his way on the infamous Lord’s slope, and would struggle to take wickets while getting hit for plenty of runs. Cummins bent his back and warmed up to bowl a fiery spell. Hazelwood was as solid as ever, but Siddle became the vulnerable prong of the Australian attack.


Stokes, after a rocky start, found his form in a big way. Despite looking a shadow of the man who took England to their maiden World Cup victory, he began to play freely, ignoring the enormous pressure that sat on his shoulders. With various grins and plenty of bravado, his flourishing bat crushed balls to the boundary. Before Australia knew it, he was off and carrying the Poms towards an unbeatable lead. Buttler was scratchy up the other end, toiling away for form until he fell to a Cummins bouncer after the lunch break. By then he had done his job and Bairstow had it rather easy joining Stokes in full flight.


Stokes kept pummelling balls around, finding confidence to drive on the up and aggressively taking to Lyon and Siddle. His aggression was on full display – epitomised by the shimmy up the wicket he began to implement increasingly often. The century was masterful, turning the tide of momentum and being Botham-like in its authority. The Aussies were on his turf, and he wasn’t going to let them dictate terms. When Root declared with the lead over 250, it was like Stokes handed the baton over to Archer.


The young paceman duly accepted the responsibility and continued Warner’s torrid series. His footwork was uncertain, his mindset plagued by insecurity as he couldn’t work out whether he was an aggressive or circumspect batsman. Khawaja, seemingly shaken by the hostility in which Warner and co were being treated, was glued to the crease and justly undone by the first game paceman.


Bancroft tried to fight but his technique just isn’t up to test standard. He falls over his pad easily and looks unable to cope with what is relatively basic off spin bowling (no offence to Leach – he proved he is one of the smarter and more accurate left arm orthodox bowlers you’ll see). With no Smith, the match had reached its climax when concussion sub Labuschagne waddled to the wicket, his slight frame boyishly jumping about with nerves. He was to face Archer, who had been hyped up by the English media to a hellish extent. Archer was the next Mitchell Johnson, but with an air of cool and ease in his steady rhythm of producing thunderbolts. His first legitimate ball to the young replacement rattled the ground, crashing into his helmet. But the youngster was in it for the fight, and bounced right back up with a dismissive wave of English help. Who wants faux English care anyway?


His innings was a highlight. Full of grit and self-assuredness when he could’ve easily forgiven for having none, he battled past Archer and began to play some thrilling strokes. Head absorbed the attack with him, the two most inexperienced members of the Aussie line up showing the world that a great mindset and dogged determination trumps anything. Both refused to give their wicket up, Labuschagne unlucky to be adjudged out on 59 after a controversial catch. Did that hit the ground? It’s not Root’s fault if it did – the cameras are there for a reason and they didn’t do their job properly.


Head stayed in, despite a soft dismissal of Wade and a shockingly irresponsible shot from Paine. The catch from Denly was outstanding, but it still doesn’t exclude Paine’s shocking shot choice. For a captain, his willingness to be sucked into aerial hook shots when there are numerous fielders placed for it is frustrating. Luckily, the younger Cummins has a wiser head on his shoulders and negated the attack with Head until the day’s close. England had a sniff, but the heroics of Labuschagne and Head prove the Aussie side isn’t all made up of Smith. Both deserve to build careers – if they can do it in that scenario (especially Labuschagne’s), then they can do it anywhere.


England may come out of the Lord’s test with the momentum, but the Aussies can be satisfied with certain efforts. In previous tours they would’ve crumbled, without their star batsman and main run scorer. But the younger members held out the Poms, and the biggest arrival to test match fast bowling seen in a while. They can go to the third test with a quiet confidence that they only need some experienced members of the top order to find form and then they can go 2-0 up. Maybe it’s time for Harris to show his adeptness for the big stage. Whatever happens, it sure won’t be predictable.


Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.


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