The Ashes – Second Test wrap: England Cooked: Bell’s Lyth hangs in the Ballance

 

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If Australia were beaten convincingly in Cardiff, England has been mutilated at Lords. They were dead lucky to crack 100 on a pudding of a cricket pitch where Australia had scored 820.

If Stuart Broad didn’t counter-attack and top score with 25, England were destined for a sub-100 annihilation. So heavy was the 405 run defeat, at least four English players face the chopping block for the next Test.

It’s an intergalactic reversal of fortunes that will leave betting agency strategists ripping shreds of hair from balding scalps. Adam Lyth appears to have already done that. He was worked over, again, by Mitchell Starc in the second innings and is under to pressure to stay in the team. England’s used about 12 openers since their tour of Australia in 2013-14 and it seems Cook might have to open the batting by himself if the current trend continues.

The top order is failing. England have been 3 for 70 or worse in 11 of their last 13 Tests. Garry Ballance is all at sea against genuine pace and Ian Bell’s Lyth also hangs in the Ballance.

 

The Pitch

Before the series it was speculated that England might order the preparation of flat and soft pitches to negate Australia’s ferocious pace attack. But in June Cricket Froth warned that this would be counter-productive; “England does not have a frontline spinner. Whatever is done to tame pitches for Australia’s fast bowlers will have equal effect on the hosts.”

And so it did. Jimmy Anderson went without a wicket at Lords. A lifeless feather bed suited to scoring thousands when the sun was shining was equally unhelpful to England’s own formidable pace attack. But Australia has something England do not; genuine express pace through the air and with that, sometimes you don’t need a favourable pitch. Although Anderson and Broad are sharp, Johnson and Starc are Orient (express).

Johnson bowled well and without luck in Cardiff but you could clearly see England’s batsmen were wary, if not fearful.

In the fourth innings at Lords England’s fear was exemplified in their swatting evasion and eventually, for Cook, Ali and Buttler, their dismissals. Australia were hostile. Johnson extracted bounce and carry and struck Joe Root in the face and prized out Moeen Ali, who had no choice but to protect his life when one reared up into his bearded boat. He was caught at bat pad.

All of Australia’s bowlers were in on the act suggesting that they hunted as a pack and sustained an unrelenting pressure that asphyxiated England to the point of hapless defeat.

 

What happens now?

The teams take a 10 day break before the third Test at Edgbaston. Birmingham is a completely different prospect to the private school-boy filled Lords. It’s a rowdy, fancy dress, beer swilling type atmosphere and the Barmy Army – banned at Lords – will be back on-board.

It is Warwickshire-man Ian Bell’s home ground and this might be the fact that saves his Test career. He’s a brilliant player deeply out of sorts and if Ballance goes he may even find that selectors toss him a career defining challenge, bat at three.

At six wickets down last night the ECB were already tweeting about possible replacements: they announced a county century by Johnny Bairstow with a thinly veiled implication. Ballance and Lyth are also under the pump and some might be surpirsed to know that Marcus Trescothic is still getting around for Somerset. Could he replace Lyth? Steve Finn and Mark Foottit linger for Mark Wood’s place.

Trevor Bayliss, England’s new coach, is known to be conservative though and he may support the use of the same squad next week.

In a county match at Edgbaston on the weekend former New Zealand off-spinner Jeetan Patel took 5 wickets for Wawrickshire suggesting that Birmingham might be a spinner. Does England have one? Adil Rasheed perhaps.

Shane Watson won’t get near the Australian all-rounder position after Mitch Marsh’s solid performance at Lords. Unless of course, Chris Rogers fails to recover from vertigo/illness and Australia elect to open with Watson instead of Shaun Marsh, the other replacement option.

Watson got into Australia’s Test side at Edgbaston as an opener in 2009, it would be a strange quirk if he made it back into the side there next week.

The series is alive and England can be expected to retaliate.

 

To read more of Pat’s Test Cricket writing, visit Cricket Froth.

 

And check out our Cricket Almanac with some fantastic contributions from ‘Citrus Bob’ Utber, Pomborneit’s finest, Luke Reynolds and young Sean Mortell – among others.

 

 

 

About Pat White

I love Test cricket and struggle to embrace T20. One is like reading a great novel with a twisting plot and intriguing characters and the other is a cheap and trashy magazine. But the popular trashy mag is here to stay. So let's help cricket's new audience discover the romance and frantic drama of cricket's greatest format; Test Match. Join me for some non-establishment cricket analysis and get involved by posting a comment.

Comments

  1. Dave Brown says:

    Thanks Pat. Can’t help but feel with these toss-heavy results both countries have over-reacted to their loss. That Marsh will likely keep his spot ahead of Watson highlights the absurdity of selections for the first test rather than second. Meanwhile Ballance has gone from useful rear-guard innings in the first to out after the second. Think everyone could do with a dose of Don’t Panic!

  2. Yeah you’re probably right Dave. It’s easy to get caught up in the frantic drama that now seems a permanent part of Ashes Series in England. I think both camps have this tremendous desperation to win and have elevated the stakes so the losses become colossal failures and extreme reactions follow.

  3. Peter Warrington says:

    isn’t that funny. I have been pumping up Tresco all week. come back for 3 tests and go out an even bigger hero. also good counterweight to Pietersen in the dressing room. romantic recall, most romantic since Close.

  4. The pitches need to be better.
    Give the bowlers an even chance.
    The toss has become too important in cricket.

  5. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    Totally agree,ironmike it is rediculous where has the wicket gone with a bit of life in it in the first couple of sessions.the bats have improved and now the edges go like rockets or often over the top.The most disappointing thing is both countries pathetic lack of resistance both wickets were ridiculously flat and yet neither got close to drawing the test matches.Ballance tries hard but is too limited both shot wise and defincies in technique for test cricket.Re Shane Watson it is totally baffling that he has never improved his ability to work a single or hit round his pad in over a decade a huge failure re himself and coaching wise

  6. Test cricket is going through a challenging phase. It’s death has been predicted too often over the years, sot i won’t make a hasty silly statement like that. But it seems now the toss of the coin holds more weight than ever. There is no stand out test team, with what is almost like two divisions of teams. It is hard to countenance the Windies, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe being in the ‘same league’as the two Ashes combatants, India and South Africa. Where to for test cricket ?

    Glen!

  7. Great points Glen, much has been made of the toss’s impact on Test matches. Win it and you’ll win the match is the main implication, but I’m not convinced the toss was the dominant factor in the first two results. Perhaps modern players are less able to return fire once the opposition has established momentum by posting a solid 1st inns total or 3rd inns lead? Are modern players less equipped mentally to return fire once their side is under that pressure? So many good contemporary batsmen are aggressive, but can they play the sort of inns a side needs when it is defending a Test or attempting to alter the momentum? In this series both matches had 400+ first innings totals but were over inside four days. That suggests that the pitches became minefields but both Australia and England were not undone by deteriorating conditions, they perished under pressure. Australia did it twice in Cardiff. The wickets were fine in the sense that had both sides applied themselves draws were attainable. Instead both sides have capitulated and the source of that was as much mental as environmental. Test cricket is a contest of technical abilities and environmental adaptability but it’s also psychological warfare and in the first two Tests, neither batting card had the goods to resist an aggressive opposition.

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