• Second Ashes Test: 5 lessons

    It is one thing to lose, but another to be humiliated. The English, barely a week after defeating Australia in the Ashes opener at Cardiff, lost the second Test match at Lord’s by 405 runs. Tom Sizeland discusses five things we learnt from the demolition.

    A pair of 33’s in the first Test got people asking whether Steve Smith’s bogey run in England was going to continue despite his new-found reputation as one of the best batsmen in the world. AB de Villiers went straight back up to No 1 in the rankings after the first Test, but after Lord’s, there is no denying that Smith is currently playing Test cricket like no other on the planet.

    To put it into perspective, his double century in the first innings was his 10th Test ton in just his 30th match. Bear in mind that he got his first century in his 12th Test. Only Don Bradman and Everton Weekes had more runs after 30 Tests. Ricky Ponting needed 55 Tests to get 10 centuries, the great Sachin Tendulkar needed 41.

    When the coin hit the ground and England skipper Alastair Cook was forced to hear the words ‘we’ll have a bat first’ come out of Michael Clarke’s mouth, the English momentum came to a grinding halt. It was a bat-first pitch, yes, but England treated it like they had already lost. They were too busy sulking when Chris Rogers edged one in-between second and third slip in the very first over.

    Smith was dropped by Ian Bell when he was on 50, and more dropped catches followed throughout the course of the four days. The manner in which the majority of the Englishmen lost their wickets didn’t correlate with their confidence building up to the match. Speaking after the first Test, Ben Stokes said that their victory felt like they had exacted revenge. I doubt he still feels that way.

    Shane Watson’s exclusion from the second match was a much-expected one, following a lengthy spell of indifferent form in the longest format. It still meant however, that Mitchell Marsh had to come in and do a job. And so he did. Just as Stokes and Cook appeared to be heading towards centuries in the first innings, Marsh bowled both of them. He then smashed two sixes in a row before Australia declared in their second innings. Contributions all-round from the 23-year-old, and with that quite possibly the end of Watson’s Test career.

    It’s relatively normal to do a bit of tinkering and replace a top-order batsman in the middle of an Ashes series, but how do you replace three? Adam Lyth, Gary Ballance and Ian Bell probably didn’t get much sleep last night, consumed with the fact that they might not last the series.

    The signs were there against New Zealand, and on all four occasions against Australia, England lost their first three wickets in under 20 overs. There are willing replacements in Jonny Bairstow, James Taylor and even Eoin Morgan, Alex Hales, James Vince and Nick Compton. But the question is, can you replace all three in one go? The replacements won’t necessarily do any better.

    Mitchell Johnson’s pace and bounce terrified the English on zippy Australian pitches in the previous Ashes series, but when his figures in the first innings at Cardiff read 0-111, it suggested that the opposition had him figured out, and his best was behind him.  He came back to haunt England however on a ‘bat-friendly’ pitch, with match figures of 6-80. His throat ball to remove Moeen Ali had English stomachs churning.

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    Tom Sizeland