Ashes hostilities will resume once again when England and Australia meet in the second Test of the five-match series at Lord’s on Wednesday.
It is the visitors who drew first blood in the series by breaching England’s fortress at Edgbaston by a mammoth 251 runs and the onus will be on the hosts to come up with a response at the ‘home of cricket’.
With the stakes as high as ever at Lord’s for both teams, the fate of the second Ashes Test could be decided by the minutest of margins. As the two old foes prepare to battle once again, we look at the three key battles that could be decisive at Lord’s.
Chris Woakes v David Warner
The worrying aspect for England from their Edgbaston defeat is the fact that Australia opener David Warner has not even got going yet. The left-hander aggregated just 10 runs in two innings on his return to Test cricket after more than a year, but his ability to deliver on the big occasion has never been in doubt.
Warner was in fabulous form for Australia in the World Cup where he finished as the tournament’s second highest run-scorer and scored a crucial half-century against England at Lord’s in the round-robin clash.
The explosive left-hander, however, will need to be wary of Chris Woakes with the new-ball with the England all-rounder turning into a completely different beast whenever he turns up at Lord’s.
Woakes averages 9.75 with the ball at Lord’s, including 24 wickets in just four Tests, and he was in sensational form against Ireland at the same venue last month. Warner loves a challenge or two and he will relish this pivotal battle with the England man on his favourite stomping ground.
Joe Root v Nathan Lyon
Another England man who loves playing at Lord’s is skipper Joe Root, who has previously registered three tons and five half-centuries at the venue including an unbeaten 200 against Sri Lanka five years ago.
Root managed to strike a fifty in the first Ashes Test but the right-hander will be disappointed not to have converted it into a big score – a worrisome habit – unlike Australia stalwart Steve Smith.
With the hosts looking vulnerable with the bat currently, Root’s wicket will be the most wanted one from an Aussie perspective and they will bank on their spin ace Nathan Lyon to get the better of the England skipper.
Lyon brought up 350 Test dismissals for himself in the win at Edgbaston with a match haul of nine wickets and was particularly sensational in the second innings where he picked up 6-49.
With Justin Langer predicting the Lord’s surface to be a dry and rough one, expect Lyon’s off-spin threat to only increase as the match progresses and give England plenty of headaches.
Jofra Archer v Steve Smith
It is the battle that is on everyone’s lips ever since Jofra Archer was named In England’s 12-man squad for the second Ashes Test.
England would have ideally liked to have given the Barbados-born pacer more time to regain his fitness post his World Cup exertions but an injury to James Anderson, as well as Smith’s menacing form with the bat, means that Archer will arguably be the first name in the XI on Wednesday.
The hosts will already be sick of the sight of Smith despite it being just one Test into his international return, with the Australia batsman extending his Ashes ton tally to 10 thanks to two centuries at Edgbaston.
The outcome of the first Test could have been so much different if Smith had not performed a rescue act, not once, but twice. His average against England in the last 10 Tests is now nearly 140 while his average in the format is only behind the great Don Bradman.
England’s bowlers looked utterly helpless as Smith went about his business at Birmingham and they have now turned to Archer for some desperate inspiration. The express quick will definitely be a different challenge compared to what Smith has faced so far on the tour with his ability to generate some sharp bounce and raw pace.
How this battle goes could arguably be the biggest factor in the match.
England paceman Jofra Archer insists he is ready to rise to the challenge of Test cricket and warned Australia coach Justin Langer “has another thing coming” if he thinks otherwise.
Archer is set to make his Test debut at Lord’s in the second match of the Ashes on Wednesday, the same venue where he played a starring role in the World Cup final a month ago.
While Archer’s skills in the limited-overs arena have been proven on the highest stage of all, his last first-class appearance came in September 2018 and a productive outing for Sussex’s second XI last week represents his only match in whites this season.
Langer has said Australia’s plan for Archer is to “keep wearing him down, get him back into his second or third or fourth spells” but the man himself believes the opposition are barking up the wrong tree.
“I’m probably more ready than I’ve ever been. I think Justin Langer has another thing coming,” he responded.
“I’ve played a lot more red ball than I have white ball. I do think it’s my preferred format anyway. I personally believe in Test cricket you get a lot more opportunities to redeem yourself.
“It was actually the first format I played in when I started at Sussex. If it’s 50 overs, when you don’t have a good 10-overs, that’s it. You’ve got to wait till the next game. You have ample chances to do it in a red-ball game.”
While the 24-year-old is clearly confident in his own ability to help England strike back from 1-0 down in the series, he also moved to dial down expectations.
After record wicket-taker James Anderson was ruled out with a calf problem, much will be asked of Archer at Lord’s but he does not expect things to come easy.
“What I would say firstly is don’t expect any miracles!” he said.
“I can’t work miracles – I’ll try to but I don’t think that’s how it might pan out. I’ll try my best and I can only give my best.”
Langer earlier reflected on the rigours of five-day cricket and will be an interested onlooker as Archer seeks to prove his credentials.
“We’ve seen what a good cricketer he is, we respect him. But like everyone I’m really curious to see how he goes in red-ball cricket,” the Australian said.
“Hopefully our guys have got the answers for whatever he’s got to dish up to us. The question is have you got the mental toughness and the physical endurance to play well in Test cricket.
“That’s not just for him it’s for the 22 guys out there, those same questions are asked.”
Provided by Press Association Sports
Australia coach Justin Langer has revealed that his side plan on wearing down Jofra Archer in the second Ashes Test against England which gets underway at Lord’s on Wednesday.
While England pace spearhead James Anderson is sidelined with a calf injury, Archer is set to make his long-awaited Test debut at Lord’s after being named in the 12-man squad.
The Barbados-born pacer’s impact in international cricket has been instant ever since he became eligible to represent England earlier this year and he was one of the stars of the side’s maiden World Cup win with a total of 20 wickets over the course of the campaign.
Langer, however, feels that Test cricket will be a whole different ball-game for Archer who has already established himself as one of the most fearsome limited-overs’ bowler in the world.
“I’m really curious about how Archer is going to go,” Langer was quoted as saying by cricket.com.au.
“He’s a very skilled bowler and a great athlete, but Test cricket is very different to white-ball cricket.
"Test cricket is very different for him..."— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) August 12, 2019
Justin Langer is looking forward to his Australia side taking on Jofra Archer in #TheAshes this week
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“Like we’ve talked about a long time, we’ve got to keep wearing them (England’s bowlers) down and get him back into his second or third and fourth spells.”
Australia lead the Ashes series 1-0 after their 251-run win over the hosts in England and will be hoping to take another step towards retaining the urn when they take the field at Lord’s on Wednesday.
Having examined the Lord’s pitch from close quarters, Langer is wary that the surface for the second Test could be a dry one.
“The wicket is really interesting, it looks like it’s going to be a really flat wicket to me,” Langer said.
“It’s quite dry though. It’s not a surprise … the wicket is the last thing you look at when you come to Lord’s. Most grounds it’s the first thing to look at but here, there’s so much else to admire and love about being here.
“But whether it’s a green-top or a dry wicket, we have really good options and that’s nice as a coach and selector. One thing we have got is the luxury of six fast bowlers, they’re all high-class bowlers and we’ll work out what’s going to be best for this Test match, and best for the whole series.”