England headed to Lord’s for the second Ashes Test match of the summer following an impressive 169-run victory in Cardiff, only to endure four days of turmoil at the hands of a vengeful Australian side.
Having won the coin toss Australia batted first on a docile track, racking up a score of 566 for 8 declared over the course of five destructive sessions, Steven Smith compiling a career best 215, and veteran Chris Rogers a Test high 173, the latter having been dropped early on by the hapless Adam Lyth.
Tough at the top
England’s response was almost immediately in tatters, four top order wickets tumbling in the face of some brutal fast bowling. Despite a decent recovery courtesy of captain Alastair Cook (96) and all-rounder Ben Stokes (87), England ended their innings more than 250 runs adrift.
Australia batted again, and once more the pitch seemed lifeless, England’s bowlers toiling under scoreboard pressure and against confident, skilled opponents.
Set a notional 512 to win, the home side were completely blown away this time, all out for a spineless 103, with Ben Stokes’ risible run-out (see video above) the nadir.
England’s selectors have retorted by ditching the out-of-sorts Gary Ballance and calling up the very in-form Johnny Bairstow to take his place.
In the past Bairstow has struggled to step up to the top table, but his County form, he averages more than 100 with the bat for Yorkshire this season, indicates that this is a young player very much in the ascendency.
For old hands like Ian Bell it’s probably now or never, with those in the know claiming that he must perform at his home ground of Edgbaston next week, or else face being discarded like a used tissue – the heat is on.
England second Test ratings
Alastair Cook (Captain)
96 & 11
One of the few home players to come out of the match with any credit. Cook showed plenty of fortitude to compile a painstaking 96 when all about him shouldered arms, the only pity is that he didn’t go on to make a deserved ton.
His captaincy wasn’t helped by a deliberately lifeless pitch which backfired spectacularly on England, failing to negate Australia’s quicker through the air attack, whilst blunting the likes of Mark Wood and Jimmy Anderson who rely predominantly on the pitch.
6.5/10 (7/10 batting, 6/10 captaincy)
0 & 7
In his most crippling nightmares Lyth wouldn’t have forecast anything this gloomy.
Not only did he drop two critical catches, he (briefly) batted without sense, appearing entirely out of his depth, like a toddler trying to negotiate Niagra Falls with the aid of a cheap float. Is fortunate to keep his place, probably saved by his century against New Zealand a couple of matches earlier.
23 & 14
After a golden inaugural year on the Test scene, Ballance has inevitably found life harder during his second summer of five-day cricket.
A weakness against the short ball has been remorselessly exposed by both New Zealand and Australia this summer, and whilst it may seem harsh for the Zimbabwe-born southpaw to be dropped ahead of Lyth or Bell, it could be a good idea to remove him from the firing line until he explores his technical flaws further.
1 & 11
After 112 Test caps, Bell finds himself under arguably the most intense scrutiny of his career, and with good reason. Since amassing a belligerent 143 in the Caribbean, the 33 year-old has managed just one score of more than 29 in a dozen innings.
Previous excellence has saved his bacon thus far, with a promotion to number three mooted for Edgbaston. Another failure could see the man famously dubbed “Sherminator” by Australia’s touring side a decade ago unceremoniously dumped back onto the county circuit.
1 & 17/2-55 & 0-32
Calls to promote Root to number three have so far fallen on deaf ears, but he was once again left to marshal the tail at the end of this match, trying to farm the strike in a vain attempt to delay the coffin being nailed shut.
Two failures with the bat for the in-form Vice-Captain, who had set Cardiff alight to strains of “Rooooot” a week earlier. His bowling continues to progress, but England will need him back to his best next week, with a promotion to number four on the cards.
4/10 (Batting: 2/10, Bowling 6/10)
87 & 0/0-77 & 0-20
After suffering a pasting with ball in hand, England’s all-rounder showcased his brutal batting ability, pummelling the three lions away from the ignominy of 30-4 on day two, as he and Cook combined for a fifth wicket stand of 145.
From there it was something of a match to forget, with Stokes’ comical second innings run-out (where he failed to ground his bat/anatomy despite being comfortably inside the crease) the enduring snap-shot of a lamentable collapse.
5/10 (Batting: 7/10, Bowling: 4/10, Daft run-out: -10/10)
Jos Buttler (Wicket-keeper)
13 & 11
Increasingly edgy at the crease, the effervescent Buttler of previous series has been replaced by a forlorn figure bereft of confidence, suffering a seemingly scrambled mindset every time he steps up to bat.
Seemed unsure whether to attack or graft during England’s 2nd innings collapse, dismissed after a couple of unconvincing boundaries. The first real test of his international credentials. Did a decent job with the gloves.
39 & 0/ 1-138 & 2-78
The experiment of using Moeen, a batting all-rounder, as a front-line spinner who bats at number eight has thus far proven hit and miss. On one hand he continues to contribute useful runs from a lower order perspective, on the other he’s wasted amongst the tail and was comfortably out-bowled by opposing spinner Nathan Lyon.
An aesthetically pleasing 39 and the snaring of both Aussie wickets to fall in their second innings were positives, but Moeen went at almost 4.5 runs per over, lacking the control necessary in the context of the match.
5/10 (Batting: 5/10, Bowling: 5/10)
21 & 25/ 4-83 & 0-42
Broad, so often an Ashes pantomime villain in the past, actually has a decent record against Australia, and was one of only two touring players to leave the previous tour “down under” in credit.
This match was arguably a microcosm of that 2013-14 edition, with neat contributions throughout from the lofty Nottinghamshire paceman, including a defiant 25 which eked England beyond the 100 barrier as they toiled in the closing stages.
7/10 (Batting: 6/10, Bowling: 8/10)
4 & 2*/ 1-92 & 0-39
The sparkle synonymous with the Durham seamer since his inclusion in the England side dimmed at Lord’s. Wood looked weary and uncertain, perhaps inevitable when considering the abundance of overs he’s slung down this summer.
The current recess arrived not a moment too soon for a bowler who leaves it all on the pitch every time he bowls. There’s no prospect of dropping a player destined to lead England’s attack in the future years, but nothing really went his way in a forgettable performance.
6* & 0/ 0-99 & 0-38
Not one of Jimmy’s finest matches, as England’s all-time leading wicket taker failed to add to his 406 Test scalps. In truth he never really looked a threat.
Will be desperate to find his lost rhythm before the teams line up at Edgbaston. Anderson is another whose position in the team is unlikely to come under immediate threat, but impotent displays in three of four summer Tests thus far have hinted that there might not be too much gas left in tank for a bowler who turns 33 on the opening day of next week’s encounter.
Can England bounce back next week after this humiliation? Share your thoughts in the comment section below. As usual we’ll give our ratings after the match.