THE ASHES 2019
Australia can take heart from their last outing at Lord’s. They beat England by more than 400 runs here in 2015 with Smith scoring a double century on a placid pitch which suited his game perfectly. © Getty
The tone from both camps in the lead-up to the second Test at Lord’s has been instructive. Rather than go all Glenn McGrath “five-nil”, Australia have been keen to play things down after their Edgbaston victory. Justin Langer has emphasised that winning the Ashes is their ultimate goal and not a one-off victory. There have been no bold statements of intent. England, by contrast, have been bullish rather than diffidently hiding away with their tail between their legs. Jofra Archer told Langer he had “another thing coming” when Australia’s coach questioned his red-ball stamina. Others have been building up England’s qualities. For both teams, the approach has been understandable given the lessons they have learnt from similar situations over the past few years.
Australia’s victory in the opening Test was one of their best of recent times. It rivals two of their finest away performances over the last five years: the remarkable win in Pune in 2017 when Steve O’Keefe took 12 wickets and the draw in UAE against Pakistan last year when Usman Khawaja helped his side bat out a day and a half to salvage something out of a seemingly hopeless situation. However, those opening matches proved false dawns. On both occasions, Australia were beaten the next game. The promise of an early victory was ultimately wasted to the tune of series defeats. It is little wonder then that Langer and his team are keen to emphasise that their job is not done yet.
England’s recent record bodes rather better. After all, Joe Root’s team are well used to losing Test matches even if they win their fair share too. They know how to respond to defeat and have often bounced back quickly after defeats which might have crushed previous England teams. In 2018, for instance, they lost the opening Test to Pakistan at Lord’s comprehensively but then returned the following week to win by an innings at Headingley. Last summer, they were thrashed by India at Trent Bridge in game three and then followed it up with a victory in Southampton in the fourth Test, winning the series. Whenever England take one step backwards, they inevitably take one forward again pretty soon after.
Doing so at Lord’s this week, however, will be no easy assignment given they will be without James Anderson, a key part of both the follow-up victories mentioned above. Jofra Archer’s likely inclusion is exciting for the added pace he will bring to England’s attack but Anderson’s loss is a huge dent to England’s hopes of regaining the Ashes. As Langer admitted, Anderson is the man the Australians spent most time thinking about in the lead-up to this series. Chris Woakes and Stuart Broad rose to the occasion for a time at Edgbaston but could not sustain it as part of a four-man attack once Anderson limped off injured. They will have to shoulder the burden again this week but will at least have Archer for company.
Australia can take heart from their last outing at Lord’s. They beat England by more than 400 runs here in 2015 with Smith scoring a double century on a placid pitch which suited his game perfectly. As he did during the last series in Australia, Smith looms as the major difference between the teams after two fine innings in Birmingham. He wasn’t in the UAE last year of course to help his team back-up their opening match salvage mission and he was out cheaply twice in the game after the famous Pune victory in 2017, allowing India to win in Bangalore. If Smith can back up his exploits of the opening Test, Australia will be on course to avoid any kind of hangover.
The tourists look well placed to do just that. Australia have been far more measured in how they are approaching this tour than they have been on previous overseas trips. They are playing to the conditions, not getting carried away with pace and aggression, and realise they need to play the long game. In Pune and the UAE, their opening salvos felt like a fortunate strike in alien conditions. Edgbaston, on the other hand, felt like a planned operation even if there was also plenty of good fortune involved. Proving they are no one-Test wonders is the challenge that awaits them. It is one they look ready for.
What to expect:Three weeks ago, Joe Root called the Lord’s pitch for the Test against Ireland “substandard”. It may have been an attempt to divert criticism of his side’s two batting collapses, including being bowled out for 85 in the first session, but regardless, Root said he hoped not to see another surface like it – with extravagant seam movement – for the rest of the summer. However, after Smith’s twin hundreds on a slow, flat Edgbaston pitch, perhaps England’s captain might regret saying what he did. In 2015, England produced green pitches which seamed considerably and managed to get Smith out cheaply enough times to win the series. It is a ploy they could consider this time round but the indications are that Karl McDermott, the new Lord’s groundsman, might have prepared a pitch which is dry and will be decent enough for batting. After all, that’s the type of surface which Root said he wanted. If so, Smith and Australia will be delighted, particularly since their bowling attack is also better suited to flat surfaces than England’s. We might not find out what the pitch is like for sure until the second day, though. The forecast for day one is horrendously wet.
When: Wednesday, August 14, 2019. 11:00am Local Time
Where: Lord’s, Marylebone.
Joe Root will wait until the toss before confirming England’s final eleven although there will be at least two changes from the team that played at Edgbaston with James Anderson injured and Moeen Ali dropped. Jofra Archer is almost certain to play and England will then have to decide whether to pick the left-arm spin of Jack Leach or the left-arm swing of Sam Curran. Given the wet weather forecast for day one, it could be that England opt for an all-out pace attack but if the pitch is dry as suspected, Leach will come into the equation.
Possible XI: Rory Burns, Jason Roy, Joe Root, Joe Denly, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow, Chris Woakes, Sam Curran, Jofra Archer, Stuart Broad
Australia have named a 12-man squad for the game and have opted to leave out James Pattinson from the team who won the first Test at Edgbaston. It is a decision made out of Australia’s desire to rotate their quicks rather than any question of Pattinson’s form and it means either Mitchell Starc or Josh Hazlewood will return to the side. The batting order remains unchanged which means Cameron Bancroft keeps his place at the top of the order. For now at least.
Possible XI: David Warner, Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Matthew Wade, Tim Paine, Pat Cummins, Peter Siddle, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon.