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.
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