Sunday, 18 August 2019

Review of the 2nd AshesTest v Australia

Lord's. Genteel, lovely Lord's. This was anything but. The 2nd Test was an absorbing contest, with the players on and off the pitch as the St John's Wood drainage system was put to use regularly. Ashes series never fail to disappoint and despite the match ending with honours even, this was an all time classic. It had skill, courage, more medical staff than an episode of Casualty, drama, excitement and a host of other adjectives mixed into a pot pourri of red ball cricket. Some draws have been tedious. Some draws at Lord's have been tedious. This was no dull stalemate in NW8. This will be remembered for a Sussex based Archer causing more havoc than any other since King Harold fancied a rumble with William the Conqueror down at Hastings. This is a review of the Lord's Test...

The Home of Cricket...
The first day was a complete wash out. London was as wet as a tablecloth at a Cricket Australia press conference eighteen months ago, meaning that it would become a four day scenario. Hazlewood came in for Pattinson but still no place for Mitchell Starc. Archer made his debut coming in for Anderson, whilst England hoped that Leach could suck the life out of the Aussie batting.

Paine won the toss and elected to field. Roy's footwork was as leaden as the skies hovering over London and soon nicked off, to be followed by Root and Denly. All three were the victims of Hazlewood, bowling with metronomic line and length. England applied themselves though and despite the fortune of Mr Burns, they battled hard. Bairstow came in and joined Burns in the fifty club. Burns, a solid left hander would have made the watching Andrew Strauss proud as Lord's was adorned in red for the Ruth Strauss Foundation. The man known as Cider (Cummins Cider, geddit?) prodded the wasps nest and bounced Archer.  No doubt his batsmen were ever so grateful to young Patrick. 258 was the score.

When the Aussies batted, Warner yet again couldn't have been more of Broad's rabbit had he been chewing a carrot and asking him "What's up Doc?" Does Warner need his nasty streak back? He has been all smiles since coming over, as opposed to the snivelling little arsehole who has got up the noses of countless cricket fans the world over and the jury is out whether it has affected his game. The question for England would be how many Steve Smith would get?

Jofra...caused havoc

So it was on the Saturday afternoon that we saw tension and drama in abundance. Jofra reached 96mph at one point. One crashed into Smith's forearm and then a sickening blow struck him on the back of the head. This was Ashes cricket with an air of casual violence lying just below the surface. Think of Larwood and Bodyline, think of John Snow hitting Terry Jenner, think of Rick McCosker's jaw, Brett Lee hitting Alex Tudor, Bumble copping one in the balls off Thommo, Mitchell Johnson finishing off the careers of various Englishmen. There are moments in sport that take the breath away, this being one as 28,000 people were silent, as the Australian lay prone on the hallowed turf.

A lot of crap has been written on social media about what happened next. Most of Lord's gave him an ovation but there were a few that booed. Yes Smith cheated and was part of a group that did. Yet anyone who goes out and there and faces thunderbolts coming down doesn't deserve the boos. A Lord's crowd is better than that. Smith had the courage to go back out there, in the name of his country and face the music again. Smith was part of the team with Phillip Hughes who sadly died having been hit in a similar place and deserves better. Australians were outraged by saying Buttler and Archer were laughing. Trust me, they wouldn't laugh at anyone getting hit on the head and being down for so long. Tensions ran so high that an MCC member was removed from the pavilion. Good grief.

The rest of the Aussie line up fancied Archer about as much as Melania Trump fancies her husband.

Smith padded up to one, on his return which could well be a symptom of concussion and he was forced to retire from the match and will probably miss Headingley. Marnus Labuschagne became the fist concussion substitute in Test match cricket. The Aussies finished just shy of the English total and it became a one innings match.


Roy struggled again and Root got a golden. When Burns and Denly joined them, England were 90 odd ahead and staring down the barrel of going 2-0 down in the series. It was set up beautifully for a Sunday at Lord's.

Step forward Ben Stokes. Like a vicar preaching his sermon to 28,000 parishioners at the blessed church of St John's Wood, the ginger magician goes to work on Sundays here. Dropped early on, he made the Aussies pay as he swung the game back in England's favour. Helped by the altar boys Jonny and Jos, he was particularly savage on Lyon. As Stokes brought up his hundred, so too did the Australian spinner, albeit in the debit column. England matched their first innings total with 258, setting the Aussies 270 odd of 48 overs.

Archer came in and tore the Australians apart. On the home ground of Middlesex, it might be prudent not to shout off about an Archer considering the impact of a gentleman firing arrows into the Oval a few years ago, leading to a points deduction and relegation but the whole country is talking about Jofra. Warner nicked off, Khawaja too. Leach trapped Bancroft and bowled intelligently into the rough. It was interesting to see Joe Root turn to both bowlers who hadn't even played a part at Edgbaston. Labuschagne was caught in controversial circumstances and Paine was dismissed by a 'worldie' from Denly. However, the sands of time were in Australia's favour and they finally shook hands in the gloom.

Momentum is everything in an Ashes series though and like Old Trafford in 2005, the Aussies were grateful for a draw. Without Smith their batting is fragile and I can see them struggling on a green top at Headingley. They also dropped an un-Australian amount of chances here too.

Housed permanently in North London

Smith is unlikely to be fit for the match in Yorkshire and with a crowd who are likely to make them feel about as welcome as Brian Clough in 1974 at Leeds, this series is alive and kicking.

The Ashes urn might be the smallest trophy in world sport. It might be permanently housed in the museum at the back of the pavilion but to these guys involved this match meant much more than a little trophy or where it is housed.

The Lord's Test was a draw but the series is alive and kicking.

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