The Ashes 2019 – Second Test, Days 3 and 4: Rain? Doesn’t matter; this series is as good as it gets

In any other series, a Lord’s test that is predominantly washed out by the shocking English weather would be ruined. Even Ashes contests can be fizzled out under the heavy British clouds. Despite the frustration building while us avid supporters twiddle our thumbs and wait impatiently for some more test match cricket, this test has had a different edge to it. Yes, the rain breaks are as infuriating as ever. But it’s mainly because when the clouds part and the players trot back on to Lord’s, a serious contest of ball v ball is building into a crescendo of a match.


The second day finished on an even keel, and the initial rain the following morning didn’t allow for this tension to rise. Broad had to wait in the change rooms instead of cantering in with a head full of steam after his vicious spell the previous night.


When play finally resumed, Australia initially looked solid. Bancroft and Khawaja precariously placed runs on the scoreboard like a high-stakes game of Jenga. The sun never came out, but the Aussies made a firm fist of it without relying on the usual heavyweights. Disappointingly, both fell almost instantaneously and left the batting side with a deep hole to dig out of. Head and Smith took to the shovels and batted as solidly as they did in Edgbaston, but Head’s rearguard knock couldn’t reach previous heights. Just as Wade survived a DRS reversal on what appeared to be a plumb LBW shout off the dangerous Broad, the weather intervened and the Aussies were saved from a disastrous batting collapse.


The next day didn’t promise much. It delivered in ways none of us could have expected.


Smith returned once more as the thorn in England’s side, building his innings with the authority of a person who is coming off two awesome centuries. Wade couldn’t support him on this occasion, falling to a loose shot. Any rewards for guessing who the bowler was? The villain, Broad himself, making the Duke talk.


Paine had to stand up and contribute from number seven. His keeping hadn’t been dismal or super, his batting not standing up for a middle order batsman. But he showed he had the capability to dig deep, joining Smith and plundering on. The small partnership steadied the ship, before Paine was found out at bat pad off the searing pace and nip of Archer. The big opening bowler was gaining confidence in his first test and had the potential to turn in a Pietersen-like virtuoso bowling performance if given the opportunity. With this in mind, he then sent down a vicious barrage of bouncers to Smith, in a show of group frustration over the Aussies’ dominance. Smith swerved and fended, and occasionally pulled and hooked to the boundary with stunning placement. But one such ball followed Smith’s arching neck and shook the champion up so much he had to trudge off in a state of upset frustration.


Cummins had finally found his form with the bat, and knocked it around, almost biding time for Smith to get checked out and then return for more runs. They held on for long enough – before long, Smith gained a rousing reception and marked his return with one of the best shots seen in Ashes cricket, swinging freely to dump Woakes to the mid-wicket boundary in a crisp arc of superb batsmanship. He then flowed, slamming his way into the 90s until a rare misjudgement of line had him trudging off once more, his neck painfully hung low in disappointment. Either way, he had guided Australia to within eight runs of the English total, making a fist of the game.


If the Aussies were any chance, they had to strike early with aggression and hostility. Cummins, fired up from his extended stint with the bat, did the damage with two wickets in two balls, including a wonderful out-swinger to nick off a tentative Root. Advantage Australia.


Siddle prospered in testing conditions once more but couldn’t find the wickets he deserved. Warner grassed a hard chance, opportunities to stamp dominance were missed. That is until Siddle finally went bang, bang – Denly was sent packing after a smart build-up of pressure. The following wicket of Burns was a cracker – a lifting nipping delivery that sucked the in-form batsman in and then tempted him into successfully touching the ball to Paine. A big-name scalp, such as Buttler or Stokes, would have stamped total authority in the closing stages of day four.


But the Aussies just couldn’t hold their nerve, closing the day out with only four wickets. Either way, they’ve shut England out of ever winning this contest, and now come to Lord’s one more time hoping for cloudy skies and a chance to rip through the English line-up and bat with assured confidence for an amazing victory. Will it happen? If Lord’s tells us anything, this series will be unpredictable until the last ball is bowled at The Oval. Just sit back, buckle up and enjoy the ride of this magnificent series.



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