Australia has opened old scars with a crushing 405 run win over England in the second Ashes Test from Lord’s.
England was handed its fourth heaviest defeat in terms of runs in its fabled Test history after the tourists destroyed the hosts within four days on a benign track at the home of cricket.
Out-batted, out-bowled, out-fielded and out-classed was the swift response from Cook and his men, with the England skipper describing the result as a “kick in the teeth” at his post match press conference.
Equally expeditious were the recriminations of Fleet Street’s press, who fastidiously eviscerated Cook’s men with headlines ranging from embarrassing to worse than Bangladesh.
For the most part the reaction was warranted, England was never in the match from the moment Clarke correctly called heads to the final procession of English wickets on day four, yet the teams head to Birmingham locked at 1-1 and with absolutely everything to play for.
Most pressing for England will be its top order which has now averaged just 26.86 runs for its first three wickets in 2015, placing immense pressure on the talents of Joe Root. The understandable result has been a call for the out of sorts Ballance to be sidelined with his fellow Yorkshireman Root to move up the order to three.
England’s selectors will need to assess the merits of Adam Lyth at the top and also Ian Bell at four, however it would be improbable that the latter wouldn’t be given at least one more go at his county home of Edgbaston.
Jonny Bairstow’s domestic form has him in line for a call-up, yet even he carries the scars of England’s 2013/14 Ashes whitewash in Australia where he contributed 49 runs from two Tests at an average of 12.25.
Australia in comparison could hardly be more smug. Entering Lord’s with its tail between its legs and forced to call upon debutant wicketkeeper Peter Nevill for Brad Haddin (for personal reasons), whilst also effectively ending the career of Shane Watson in favour of the precocious Mitchell Marsh, they conspired to hand England a record defeat that included; only once – in 1888 – being bowled out faster at Lord’s in both innings of an Ashes Test and their third fastest all-out innings (222 balls) at the home of cricket.
If there’s an upside for England, then they’d do worse to reflect on the famed series of 2005, when Australia thrashed them at Lord’s, only for England to regroup and win at Edgbaston – venue of the third test of this series – before going on to claim an historic drought breaking series win.
Tempering that however, is the fact that Jimmy Anderson produced his first wicket-less Test match since Johannesburg in January of 2010. It is this worrying glean that warrants further thought.
Regardless of the ECB’s official statements or rhetoric, they entered into this series with a view to blunting the effectiveness of Australia’s pace attack, by producing slow, lifeless wickets. If Wales justified – then Lord’s brought that crashing down.
With the series at 1-1, and Australia ahead by a nose by virtue of incumbency – it is dicing with the devil to anticipate winning the toss and making a feast of runs and outlasting the tourists, particularly with Australia back in form and any prospect of a draw suiting them, rather than England.
England’s seam attack represents its most reliable avenue to re-asserting itself in this series. With Chris Rogers being monitored – after retiring his second innings due to a concussion related illness, there is the prospect of further changes to the Australian batting line-up. With Michael Clarke not in vintage form and Adam Voges yet to go beyond glimpses of his stoic technique and neat strokeplay, it cannot be ignored that Australia’s middle-order includes an all-rounder preparing for just his sixth test, and should Haddin not return, a wicket-keeper entering just his second.
These factors would suggest that a more traditional English green-top would at the very least reinvigorate Anderson and require Australia to prove beyond reasonable doubt that they are the better of their hosts, in English conditions.
The other crucial variable rests with each country’s captain. If Alastair Cook struck first blood in Wales, Clarke responded emphatically at Lord’s. The psychological wounds are England’s to mend.
As it was with most things related to cricket, the late Richie Benaud said it best when he remarked that “captaincy is 90 per cent luck and 10 per cent skill, but don’t try it without that 10 per cent.
Edgbaston may well tell us who holds that 10 per cent.