|Second LV= Insurance Ashes Test, Lord’s (day one of five)|
|Australia 339-5 (Smith 85*, Head 77, Warner 66)|
|England: Yet to bat|
A lacklustre display from England and an ominous unbeaten 85 from Steve Smith gave Australia much the better of the first day of the second Ashes Test at Lord’s.
After England won what appeared to be a crucial toss in dank conditions, their bowling lacked penetration and fielding again included costly errors.
And Smith, looking determined after missing out in both innings of Australia’s victory in the first Test, capitalised to move the tourists to 339-5.
David Warner made 66 before Smith added 102 with Marnus Labuschagne and 118 with Travis Head, who swatted 77 from 73 balls.
Josh Tongue, on his Ashes debut, was the pick of the England attack, bowling each of Warner and Usman Khawaja with lethal movement down the Lord’s slope.
Joe Root at least removed Head and Cameron Green in the same over late in the day, but Smith’s continued presence is a huge danger to the home side.
On a day when an attempt at disruption by Just Stop Oil protestors was largely thwarted, England’s Ollie Pope suffered a shoulder injury and spent most of the last two sessions off the field.
And by the end, England were left needing a swift turnaround on day two to get back into this Test and the series.
Lethargic England fail to back up big talk
England’s nerve-shredding two-wicket defeat in the first Test was decided by fine margins and, in the aftermath, the likes of Ollie Robinson, Zak Crawley and Pope have all been happy to talk up their chances of fighting back.
Instead, they endured one of their limpest days under the captaincy of Ben Stokes and, six days into the series, are in real danger of falling too far behind – only once has a team come from 2-0 down to win the Ashes.
Apart from the two jaffas produced by Tongue, the most impressive part of England’s day was wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow single-handedly carrying a protestor from the middle to the boundary edge.
Not only did England’s bowlers struggle with their line, a total of 12 no-balls illustrated a collective lack of rhythm. Root missed a tough chance at first slip off Khawaja, Pope a more straightforward chance off Warner at fourth slip.
For Australia, who included Mitchell Starc in favour of Scott Boland, it was an ideal day. Captain Pat Cummins also wanted to bowl first, but instead he saw his batters come through a difficult morning and cash in late in the day.
Root at least provided some optimism and England will be bowling with a ball that is only two overs old on Thursday.
If and when they get through the lower order, England face an examination with the bat possibly without Pope, though this injury is to his right shoulder and not the left he has dislocated twice before.
Smith makes happy return to Lord’s
Smith has history at Lord’s. He made his Test debut here and averaged 74 in Ashes cricket on this ground before this match. It was also the ground where, four years ago, he was concussed by a venomous Jofra Archer bouncer.
Warner was busy in the morning, even playing slog-sweeps against the pacers as he looked to combat the conditions. The openers added 73, but after Tongue’s double strike, Smith arrived to play an innings full of characteristic idiosyncrasies and maddening whips off the pads.
He got into his stride by driving Broad through the covers, and overturned being caught behind off the same bowler on 24. Labuschagne, uncertain at first, grew in stature and himself successfully reviewed when given leg-before playing no shot to Broad.
When Robinson took Labuschagne’s edge after tea, England had an opening, only for Head to feast on some dismal bowling to devastating effect.
The left-hander cut and pulled his way to a half-century which came from only 48 balls. The century stand with Smith came from 104 deliveries – Head scored 67 of them.
Then came Root’s intervention, but Smith was joined by the calm Alex Carey and is on the brink of joining Jack Hobbs on 12 Ashes hundreds – only Don Bradman has more.
Flat England punished by Australia
This was not a failure of England’s Bazball style, it was simply bad cricket. However, such a lethargic display leaves them open to criticism for their relaxed approach off the field.
England had everything in their favour: green pitch, dark clouds and floodlights. However, bar Tongue, the attack lacked the bite to make full use.
Tongue’s two deliveries to bowl Khawaja and Warner were sensational. If Khawaja misjudged in offering no shot, Warner was softened up by one that went through everything then, next ball, was cleaned up by one that broke leg stump.
But bar the occasional threat carried by Broad, the seamers could offer Tongue no support. James Anderson barely bowled a ball that would have hit the stumps and Stokes went for 21 runs in his three overs.
Root, though, was an unlikely source of hope on a pitch where England omitted Moeen Ali. The eager Head ran past one that turned to be well stumped by Bairstow, and Green’s ugly hack at his third ball was inexplicable.
Still, the fact that England needed a part-time off-spinner to keep them clinging on in ideal bowling conditions speaks volumes about their performance.
‘I worry about England’ – what they said
Ex-England captain Michael Vaughan: “England can get back into it but they are going to have to be sharper in the field, I will be intrigued to see how they cope.
“I do think this pitch will get harder over the next few days. I worry about England. It’s very tough at this stage. They switched off at Edgbaston and today, they haven’t been switched on at the key moments.”
Former Australia bowler Glenn McGrath: “I love Bazball, I love the aggression, I love the attitude, but you’ve got to back it up. When it’s tough, you’ve got to play tough. If they don’t play well in this Test match and lose, it’s 2-0 and the series is virtually gone.”