England 278 for 4 (Duckett 98, Crawley 48, Brook 45*, Lyon 1-35) trail Australia 416 (Smith 110, Head 77, Warner 66, Tongue 3-98, Robinson 3-100) by 138 runs
You cannot win a Test match in an hour’s play on day two. Nor can you lose it. But as observers at Lord’s on Thursday can now attest to, you can certainly loosen your grip on proceedings much to the relief of your opponents, as England did.
A collapse of 34 for 3 in 7.3 overs saw the hosts cede control of the first innings of this second Test. Having dismissed Australia outright for 416, taking the final five wickets for the addition of just 65 runs, England conspired amongst themselves to turn 188 for one into 222 for 4.
Tongue, though, has been far from an inconvenience. He justified selection as the best on show on Wednesday with the wickets of openers Usman Khawaja and David Warner, and then prised out Smith on Thursday morning. An attempt to drive the seamer on the up was caught superbly by Duckett at gully. It was the second time this summer the Worcestershire quick has seen off the 34-year-old following an lbw decision in his favour when Smith was moonlighting as Sussex’s overseas player in May.
Stuart Broad was the first to strike, trapping Alex Carey leg before, only confirmed with a DRS review at his insistence. James Anderson then picked up his first wicket of the match as Mitchell Starc swiped to first slip, with Jonny Bairstow diving across to claim the catch.
Tongue’s dismissal of Smith made it 393 for 8 – the same score on which England declared at the end of the first day at Edgbaston. And while Australia were never going to reciprocate a decision that felt like generosity as time wore on, Ollie Robinson’s double strike of No. 10 and 11 – Lyon caught in the deep; Josh Hazlewood scuffing to first slip – meant only 19 came from the final two stands.
There was enough time for a four-over spell before lunch, but not one that proved particularly taxing for Zak Crawley and Duckett. And while Crawley did not join his partner in traipsing into the tea interval unbeaten, he could claim plenty of credit for the 132 added in the 26 overs of the middle session.
A typically classy 48 in an opening stand of 91 took England into the 18th over before the Kent opener ran inside the line of a Lyon delivery that turned up the slope. Carey, unsighted, did superbly to take cleanly and affect the off-spinner’s fourth stumping already this series.
With all the build-up centred around the robustness of the 35-year-old playing his 100th consecutive Test match, here was a cruel irony when he pulled up during the 37th over. He was haring in from the leg side fence attempting to intercept an uppish pull from Duckett played off a short ball from Cameron Green. Lyon grimaced at the end of his chase, and eventually limped off the field before being helped back to the away dressing room by Australia’s team physiotherapist.
Given such a high-profile injury, both of a man just four away from 500 career dismissals and the only bowler travelling under three runs an over, the nature of the delivery was in danger of getting lost. The short ball was starting to provide a whiff of opportunity. Duckett looked a tad scratchy after shedding early nerves to reach an eighth fifty-plus score from 84 deliveries.
At the time of Lyon’s injury, Duckett had moved to 87, and Pope was on 39. And as their stand eventually swelled to 97 a couple of overs later, the “smart” move was to milk the pace attack, particularly the expensive Starc who was going at close to eights. Evidently, this England team regarded it as too “old-fashioned”.
Pope tried to hit Green over Old Father Time but found Smith a fair few feet under him. Duckett, having made it to 98, played his fourth and final uncontrolled hook off Hazlewood to David Warner around the corner. Root, having survived on 1 when a swipe off the same bowler caught behind was ruled out for a front-foot no ball, then completed a dismal three-peat by scuffing Starc to Smith around the corner at square leg. That catch was put under the microscope but was fine. The only thing unclean about it was the connection.
England’s vice-captain, their banker of an opener on the cusp of his first Ashes century and their standout batting great, throwing away their wickets through commitment to the bit. And as Lord’s scoffed, they were thankful it was not so much worse. Brook, on 25, swiped Pat Cummins straight to square leg, only for Marnus Labuschagne to tip the ball over the bar.
As much as England shot themselves in the foot, Australia deserve credit. They provided the shotgun, reloaded the bullets and played to the vanity of a punchy middle order by constantly telling them how cool they looked pulling the trigger. Short bowling is hard enough at the best of times, but it was a credit to an attack who stepped up and rallied through to the 6:30pm close. Tomorrow will ask a great deal more of them.
How Brook and Stokes approach matters on Friday morning remains a mystery. They could take a page out of Smith’s book, who may have needed 169 deliveries to reach three figures, but still offered enough attacking threat, notably with a glorious drive to reach the milestone, followed by a flick through midwicket to celebrate.
England, though, will no doubt approach day three with the same vim. Perhaps even more, knowing their main suppressor Lyon will not be there to stop them.
Vithushan Ehantharajah is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo