The Ashes 2019 – Second Test, Lord’s: Life (and Death)


Life (and Death)



Jofra Archer breathed life back into this Ashes series after his fiery spell on the fourth day in which his delivery which struck Steve Smith on the neck brought uncomfortable reminders of the death of Phil Hughes. As England collapsed at the start of their second innings, and particularly with Joe Root falling for a first ball duck, the odds of victory were in Australia’s favour at the start of the final day.


England’s resilience with the bat through Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler, followed by the mayhem of Stokes and Jonny Bairstow – losing just one wicket for 161 runs– gave the home side a psychological advantage. And when Root declared this was re-emphasised with Archer’s cheap dismissals of David Warner (his fourth consecutive failure) and Usman Khawaja in Australia’s second innings. Our dependence on Smith’s substitute Marcus Labuschagne and the consistent Travis Head in framing an 85-run fourth-wicket partnership certainly gave us the necessary breathing space to save the game although the home side will certainly be upbeat following the drawn result.


The spectre of Hughes’ death was raised following the blow to Smith but it occurred to me following Pat Cummins’ assault on Stuart Broad in the first innings of the Edgbaston Test, and against Chris Woakes in the first innings of this match at Lord’s.


I’d gone to bed and so missed Archer’s most dramatic spell against Smith but Cummins’ overs against Broad and Woakes certainly struck me as intimidatory under Law 42 and had me checking the law book. I cannot remember the field Cummins set for Broad in the first Test but three men on the leg boundary for Woakes was an indication that he was not going to bowl anything other than short-pitched balls. In each case Cummins bowled short the entire over before dismissing the batsmen.


As Aleem Dar was the bowling-end umpire on at least one of those occasions (and with 120+ Test matches to his credit) I wondered when it was time to intervene.

The last thing we want to see is Death on the Pitch so surely two bouncers per over ought to be the limit.

And for God’s sake (with these helmets) get protection for your neck!


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About Bernard Whimpress

Freelance historian (mainly sport) who has just written his 40th book. Will accept writing commissions with reasonable pay. Among his most recent books are George Giffen: A Biography, The Towns: 100 Years of Glory 1919-2018, Joe Darling: Cricketer, Farmer, Politician and Family Man (with Graeme Ryan) and The MCC Official Ashes Treasures (5th edition).


  1. Ashley Hornsey says

    It beggars belief that many batsmen have not opted for the added protection around the neck area. There’s a fine line between comfort, bravery and stupidity. As they say in the classics, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.

  2. UK Brain Injury Foundation says dangerous for Smith to resume shortly after serious head trauma. It’s time for independent doctors in top professional sport. Team doctors too much in thrall to macho culture and coach’s priorities. Think “Any Given Sunday”.
    Helmets have protected skulls mostly while destroying technique. Batters think they are indestructible.

  3. Pete, I agree 100%. Let’s hope we never ever see another death in a cricket match.

  4. Dave Brown says

    Agree entirely, Bernard. The umpires/ICC are asleep at the wheel on this one. As you point out the Australians have bounced out a number of English batsmen in this series. That is usually greeted with the “they know what they’re getting into and even tail enders are capable of protecting themselves these days”. But then how does one explain that the current best Test batsman in the world was unable to protect himself against Archer? It is intimidatory and dangerous from both teams and the ICC must act before another cricketer gets killed.

  5. Bernard Whimpress says

    Ashley, Peter, Fisho, Dave
    Thanks for the comments, gents. Two short balls per over should be the limit. Watching six in a row destroys cricket as a spectacle. The game has been lucky there have been so few serious head injuries let alone fatalities – especially in the pre-helmet days. As a TV watcher perhaps the worst hit by the bowler I remember viewing was when John Snow knocked out Terry Jenner at Sydney in 1971. Broad was targeted with a barrage of bouncers at Melbourne in 2017 but it backfired on that occasion and he ended up putting on around 100 runs with Cook

  6. Thanks Bernard for this timely and important piece. I was sickened when Smith came back on. Sickened. When Justin Langer in a press conference said he couldn’t stop him I almost threw up. What do you mean you couldn’t stop him? That’s your job. Then when journos went on about how courageous Smith was I almost wept. Smith should be the poster boy for what we all agree never happens again. We are all complicit. Time to change the narrative.


  7. Bernard, I wrote elsewhere test cricket has become a real sideshow with “Knock – ’em – Down” being the main attraction. “Roll up, roll up, 6 shots an over, every batsman wins a prize – a nice big egg”, says the umpire. Archer has a quite appropriate surname for the game.

    Years ago in baseball, we have had similar incidents with batters being hit on the un – helmeted head by a pitched ball. Brian “Winger” Moore (back in ’55) was hit by pitcher Brian “Slam” Brooks on the scone causing him to have a metal plate inserted in his head. “Winger” went on for many years later playing great baseball. Others hit were Don “Peanuts” Martin, in ’58 in Night Baseball at Norwood Oval and Kevin “Lurch” Greatrex in the “73 / ’74 Summer Baseball Grand Final. Both fortunately went on to great careers.

    The only fatality I know of was a young lad, surname Fisher, when struch above the heart.

  8. Peter Daryl Gugger says

    Well said Rick. I couldn’t believe they (coach and doctor) let him go back out. Paine is the captain. He seems a thoughtful type so should have intervened. Or is Smith captain in all but name? Just sayin’.

  9. Bernard Whimpress says

    Thanks Rick, Fisho again – I’ll alert Rob Laidlaw to the baseball comments, and Peter
    After Langer was struck first ball of the game by Ntini at Johannesburg in 2006 he retired hurt and that was it for the match. Evidently he wanted to bat again but Ponting (as captain) showed more wisdom than Langer (and medical staff) in this match. Sure there have been great heroics in the past – Cowdrey batting with a broken arm at Lord’s in 1963, Cowdrey against Lillee and Thommo at Perth in 1974, Brian Close anytime, Ken Mackay deliberately allowing a Wes Hall bumper to strike him on the chest at Adelaide in 1961, McCosker with his broken jaw in the Centenary Test,but allowing Smith to return was crazy. Forget the psychology and spell him for this coming game. As it stands Archer’s great line bowling short deliveries exposes Smith to danger in walking across his stumps. Playing bowlers at 135ks he does what he likes but at 145 and 155ks that’s another matter entirely.

  10. Rick your comment about Langer saying he couldn’t stop Smith is interesting.

    He, Langer, got hit in the head in a test match in South Africa over a decade ago. This was in the first innings; he didn’t return to the crease again . However when we were 8 down in the second innings, he was willing to bat despite being advised a blow to the head may kill him. Thankfully he didn’t get to the crease but he was willing to.

    Archer is an interesting proposition. Not since the days of John Snow, or Frank Tyson have we faced a British bowler like him. We’ve had quite a few bowlers dish it out to the,but now it’s the other way around. In the pre- match talk Langer cast doubts on Archer’s effectivness in the longer form of the game. Almost famous last words.

    Momentum has swung to the home side. Are the visitors a one man side? Bring on Headingley.


  11. Thanks for highlighting this, B Whimpress.
    Individuals will always push against the boundaries of rules if personal gain is at stake.
    I was naively hopeful that a greater “spirit” would control this sort of action, rather than rules.
    The same spirit that sees hand-shakes before play.
    I see now that my hope was indeed naive.

    I have no interest in watching people be threatened with brain injury. But I would watch Terry Alderman or SK Warne bowl for hours. Skill and craft without the threat of physical harm.

    Whether the bowler is Australian or English, West Indian or South African, makes no difference. Brain injury is not something to wish upon anyone. (As as aside – I heard via a medical forum recently that Australian football and rugby face uncertain futures over brain injury concerns).
    After a year or so away from cricket, I was getting back into it.
    I’ll see what happens with the mooted bouncer attack; but I’m not interested in that sort of “sport.”


    R Kane – spot on.
    It’s hard to believe that a national coach would show such an abject failure of leadership; a total abdication of responsibility. That fact that SPD Smith returned to the crease in the 1st innings shows one thing clearly: it shows that SPD Smith’s welfare was NOT the first priority of management. That is undeniable.

  12. Peter Daryl Gugger says

    Forget drugs, concussion is the biggest issue in world sport at the moment. As someone who’s suffered from an undiagnosed concussion following a bike accident, I know all about the problems that can crop up in the days and weeks after the event. Sports officials and administrators need look no further than the tragic case of American Olympian Kelly Catlin.

  13. After reading all the interesting comments my thoughts went to all the old western movies i saw as a lad. How many times was our hero hit on the head and minutes later was completely recovered, saying something like, “just as well I have a hard head”?. What a bad example they actually were

    At that time we didn’t realise that a hit on the head could kill as well as a bullet.

    Bernard, Rob Laidlaw knows all about those baseball incidents

  14. Bernard Whimpress says

    Thanks for the continuing debate fellas
    Nice to see a mention of Terry Alderman too. In the modern lingo I doubt whether he would have got a Test for Australia because he didn’t hit the pitch hard enough. But remember when their was such a thing as swing. Alderman tied Gooch up in knots one series and his 40 odd wickets in each of the 1981 and 1989 series showed how effective he was in English conditions.

  15. Andrew Starkie says

    Archer’s spell to Smith, Cummins, Sidds was terrifying. I felt frightened for them.

    To my knowledge, the decision to allow Smith back out there was not Langer’s. Docs made that call after concussion tests. He shouldn’t play in Headingley.

    I like Manus – he has guts. Loved the way he jumped straight back up after being felled. And he wasn’t out .

    Recall how he was thrown to the wolves in his first Test and had to bat at 3 while the more experienced players would not.

    Archer has shifted the momentum of this series.

    Both teams are pretty similar in their qualities and shortcomings, but I think England may have more depth now ie Archer, Stokes. We can’t expect Root to struggle all series.

    Warner looks shot, batting and fielding. Harris needs to come in for Bancroft.

    Lord’s crowd booing was poor form and beneath them.

    Smith has written himself into Lord’s folklore. A century would have made him an immortal.

  16. Ashley Hornsey says

    I’m sick of reading where “the Lord’s crowd booed Smith”. An idiotic handful did so let’s get that right!

  17. Bernard Whimpress says

    Agree, Ashley
    There’s often an over-generalisation in these matters. Those disgraceful few certainly need to take a good hard look at themselves.

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