Sunday, 18 August 2019

Lords

The first day was a washout, one of those sunless, soakers that we usually associate with the colder months and not a ball was bowled.

Day two Australia won the toss and put England in.  I was at work and so busy I became oblivious to cricket.  When I did remember and got the Cricinfo site up it was approaching lunch, 76/2 with Roy and Root back in the pavilion.

I was unable to follow much of the days play but in the early afternoon every time I clicked in another wicket had fallen.  Denly, Burns (53), Buttler, Stokes, 138/6.  This is no surprise, it is normal for England.  Woakes and Bairstow wagged and put on 72 for the seventh wicket and England limped to 258 all out.  Bairstow managed 52.  I would have dropped him for this match but fair play.  He now needs to get more scores like this to prove me wrong.  I hope he does but Ben Foakes must find a way into this team.

Australia had to bat for an hour and Root proved he isn't a captain by opening with Archer instead of Woakes.  I like Archer and he will do great things but Woakes is a proven threat on this ground in these conditions.  As it was Broad took the only wicket, the loathsome Warner bowled for 3 and Australia finished the day 30/1.

Day three.  We popped out in the morning which took longer than planned so I missed start of play but sat down at 60/1 to watch Archer bowl in test cricket.  I'd missed his previous spell so this was a first for me and very soon a first test wicket for him, Bancroft LBW confirmed by review.  Next over from Woakes and Khawaja edges behind, it's become 60/3!  It's gloomy at Lords, can England take advantage?  England bowl brilliantly for a few overs but Smith (who else?) and Head see off Archer.  Broad returns without the menace of Jofra but is bowling well.  He hits Head's pad and on TV it looks plumb but it takes a review to confirm this 71/4.  Stokes comes on and there's no let up in pressure.  Wade overturns an LBW by review.  It's been compulsive viewing this morning, England on top and look like taking a wicket at any time, (except when Smith is facing), this is test cricket at its best.  Rain brings an early lunch, 80/4 England still lead by 178.

I cut the grass at lunch and by the time I'm finishing it's raining in Suffolk, I doubt we'll see much more play today, if any.

Day Four.  Another morning spent perched in front of Sky sports.  I don't want to advertise these people but their cricket coverage is excellent.  England bowl very well; Stokes, Broad, Archer and Woakes all look threatening.  Eventually Broad strikes to remove Wade, caught in the cordon.  Archer looks very impressive, every inch a test cricketer.  Paine looks really troubled and even Smith looks uncomfortable but he resists, together they eke out a few runs, mostly streaky but the odd decent shot.  Leach comes on for a few overs and looks OK, certainly not overawed.  Lunch arrived with Australia on 155/5, England are still 103 runs ahead.

I had to drop Maddie off at the station and by the time I got home Archer was in full flow and had already removed Paine with a short ball.  I sit wide eyed at Archer steaming in, consistently between 92 and 95mph, rapid, hostile and accurate.  Fast bowling does not get any better than this, the crowd is roaring!  He hits Smith and hurts him.  Meanwhile up the other end a total contrast, Leach is tight and tidy, the captain has full control.

Archer wow!  He hits Smith below the helmet at 93mph.  The world's best batsman is starfished, face down, the crowd goes quiet.  Smith retires hurt.  I've seen spells of pace and hostility from the great West Indians as well as English bowlers like Willis, Malcolm, and Harmison.  This afternoon Archer was as exhilarating as any of them and this is his test debut!

I left with England taking the new ball and drove to the lake, all the time my mind was fixated with the cricket, what's going on at Lords?  On arrival the radio is straight out of the bag, TMS lets me hear Leach and Broad take the last two wickets to bowl Australia out for 250, our lead is just 8.  The afternoon was windy enough to put up a shelter, I don't want the rustling reeds drowning out the radio.  Sitting by a lake, comfortable in shorts and a tea shirt with TMS on the radio, this is what summer is all about.

England bat.  Burns seems confident and Roy is off the pair but doesn't contribute much else, then Root gets a golden and we are 9/2!  Cummins has two.  I'm numb again.  Surely we can't let Australia into this match?  Burns and Denly post a calming fifty partnership, their second of the match but then Denly is out and the door is open again.  Stokes comes in ahead of Buttler which seems right to me but with two lefties at the crease Lyon returns and is all over Stokes but somehow he survives the over.  But it's Burns that gets out next over, caught behind from a Siddle snorter and we are in trouble again at 71/4, the lead just 79.  If we can get another 100 we'll have a chance?

A shower brings an early end to the day, somehow Stokes and Buttler have survived and nudged the lead up to over 100.  This test match is alive and kicking, all results are still possible.

Archer was awesome today.  His figures are impressive but still don't reflect the intense hostility of his bowling.  He may not have got Smith out but he was all over the world's best batsman.  If he can bowl like this consistently over a lengthy test career he will be a superstar and we will be lucky to watch it.  Writing this on the fourth evening of the match I think Archer's spell is a game changer.  If England can avoid defeat in this match then we will win the series.

Day Five.  I'm at work but once again I've been able to arrange my day to be at a desk for start of play, which is delayed!  I learn that Smith can't play though... So my day is rearranged again and I'm back at the desk in time to hear Stokes and Buttler bat in a very low key manner and nudge the score along.  Most importantly they are sticking in and batting Australia out of the game.  They take their partnership passed fifty and reach the delayed lunch unscathed, the lead is 165.

Afterwards Buttler is out without adding to his score but Bairstow comes in and plays his second good innings of the match.  I'd have left him out but fair play he's batted well, hopefully he'll take this form on.  But Stokes steals the show, unfortunately I don't get to hear too much of it but he batters the Aussies to all parts of Lords to make another Ashes century.  Not long after England declare on 258/5, the same score they made first time around, Stokes not out on 115.

As my work day comes to a close so Archer starts again.  I don't hear his carnage but Cricinfo tells me he's taken the wickets of Gobshite Warner (for another single digit score) and Khawaja!  Another journey home spent wondering what is going on in the match and why my car stereo doesn't have long wave?

I'm home just before tea and watch a few overs of nervous Australians hopping around  46/2.  After tea and just one run added Leach gets Bancroft plumb LBW and it's game on again.  Archer has the same hostility as yesterday but not quite the same intensity.  Still the Aussies are uncomfortable.  Some bloke called Labushagne is Test cricket's first ever concussion replacement and to be fair he does well, despite being sconned by Archer second ball.  At the other end Head digs in and survives a dropped catch!!  Ultimately it's this partnership that digs Australia out of a big hole.

We are eating dinner when Leach gets Labuschagne but not when he gets Wade shortly after.  England still have a chance but we're running out of time...  Then Archer bounces out Paine, brilliant catch from Denly!!!  The game is on again!  Then it got cloudy and the umpires advised that Archer couldn't bowl.  Disappointing but fair enough, it was only then that I felt we could no longer win this game.  And so it proved.  A drawn test match but some fantastic cricket played and England had the better of it. 

Ben Stokes was rightly named man of the match but Jofra Archer has changed the course of this series.  I can't remember a more exciting debut performance from an England bowler.  He was impressive in the world cup but even so I didn't realise just how good he is until Saturday afternoon when I watched wide eyed and slack jawed.

 England's middle order fired in this match and will have gained confidence.  Our pace bowlers looked good and Leach with the ball done everything Moeen Ali couldn't.  I expect the selectors will keep the same side at Headingly later in the week.  Denly and Roy will be looking over their shoulders, maybe they should swap places?  One of the bowlers will have to make way some time soon, we have Jimmy to come back too...  Confidence restored, England can win this series!

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