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Tuesday, May 21, 2024
HomeCricketAt Lord's, anchor Steve Smith and enforcer Travis Head make England work...

At Lord’s, anchor Steve Smith and enforcer Travis Head make England work hard

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After half-centuries by Warner and Head, Australia reached 339/5 on Day 1 of the second Ashes Test.

Back-to-back century stands anchored by an unruffled and unbeaten Steve Smith, bookended by contrasting knocks from Marnus Labuschagne and Travis Head, propelled Australia to a commanding position on the first day of the second Ashes Test at Lord’s on Wednesday, before Joe Root took two wickets in an over to offer England a semblance of a fightback.

Australia were 339/5 at stumps, scoring at a little more than four runs per over on a day when England’s seamers were meant to rule the roost after Ben Stokes elected to bowl under a cloudy sky.

Usman Khawaja and David Warner almost made it through the morning session before Smith and Labuschagne put up 102 runs for the third wicket and put Australia in a good position. Head’s 73-ball 77, though, put Australia above the 300-run barrier well before the second new ball was to be taken, as Head and Smith added the following hundred runs in 104 balls. Australia were scoring at 4.2 runs per over by the time Head was stumped by a wide Root off-break.

It will be argued that Australia scored 73, 117, and 149 runs in three sessions solely on their own initiative, but England, too, struggled to get going. They didn’t have anyone with true pace on this surface, edges were put down in the slip cordon, dismissals were reversed, and even Root would have been better served with a specialist spinner bowling alongside him. More damning, England gave up 12 no-balls in an attempt to get some pace off the deck.

In retrospect, Stokes’ proclamation at Edgbaston was probably not his best moment as a tactician. However, bowling at Lord’s in tailor-made seaming conditions was a no-brainer. The Dukes ball felt, swung, and held up better than in the previous Ashes, but England lacked the control needed to make scoring tough. Josh Tongue replaced Khawaja and Warner on either side of lunch, but he was costly throughout. James Anderson was a shell of his former self, and neither Stuart Broad nor Ollie Robinson probed deeply enough. On the day Australia was scheduled to be subjected to an inquisition, England came up short.

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