An extraordinary fourth day of cricket in the second Ashes Test between England and Australia at Lord’s was followed up by an equally gripping Day Five as the visitors held on for hard-fought draw.
The hosts gave themselves every chance of levelling the series with a brilliant batting display led by Ben Stokes on the final day but they were unable to pick up 10 Australian wickets in 48 overs despite the excellence of Jofra Archer and Jack Leach.
In the end, Australia’s 1-0 lead in the five-match series was preserved as the visitors battled their way to 154-6 after being set a daunting fourth innings target of 267 at Lord’s.
While Tim Paine and his men will be glad to walk away with a draw in the end, England’s strong showing on the back of Archer’s Test introduction means that the series is alive and kicking.
Here, we look at the key takeaways from an engrossing day of Test cricket at Lord’s.
Australia dealt with Smith blow
While the visitors will feel relieved to come away from the Lord’s Test with their 1-0 lead still intact, it has come at a huge cost. History was made on Sunday with Marnus Labuschange becoming the first official substitute player in Test cricket due to a concussion to Steve Smith.
Smith copped a sickening blow to his neck from Jofra Archer after what was a gripping passage of play on Saturday and the right-handed batsman had to be withdrawn from proceedings for the final day after displaying delayed signs of concussion.
With just a three-day turnaround time between the Lord’s and Headingley clashes, Smith is now a major doubt for the third Test and his potential absence will come as a big blow for the Aussies.
Smith has so far scored over 37 per cent of Australia’s total runs in the series and has proved to be the difference between the otherwise evenly matched sides. While the former Australia skipper has expressed his eagerness to participate in the Headingley Test, concussion injuries are always tricky to navigate and the Aussie team management will want to take no chances with their star batsman.
Stokes’ ton puts England in the driving seat
England were still not out of the woods when they resumed their innings on the final day at Lord’s with the potential of a dramatic batting collapse ever present.
However, there would be no such failure this time from the hosts with a determined Ben Stokes slamming only his second Ashes ton and the first against Australia since his 120 in the second innings of the 2013 Perth Test.
Having been the hero for England at Lord’s just over a month ago in the World Cup final, Stokes was once again in the mood at the home of cricket with his best showing in the series so far.
The star all-rounder had to survive a testing period in the morning session but he accelerated as his innings wore on. Once England’s lead breached the 200-run mark, the southpaw came into his own with some big hits across the park.
Stokes’ rapid knock gave the hosts a glimmer of hope.
Gutsy Labuschagne roughs it out
With 48 overs to play, England were smelling blood when Jofra Archer gave them an electric start. The pacer removed both David Warner and Usman Khawaja in a fiery first spell to put Australia on the back-foot before Leach caught Cameron Bancroft plumb in front to help the hosts make further inroads.
With Smith having been ruled out earlier, the visitors were staring down the barrel at Lord’s but his replacement turned out to be an equally frustrating opponent for England.
Labuschagne was greeted by a viscous Archer bouncer that looked like a carbon copy of the blow taken by Smith on the fourth day but the first official substitute in Test cricket was quick to get back on his feet. The right-hander was given no breathing room at the crease with Archer keeping up the hostilities but he remained resolute in the face of pressure with a solid technique.
Labuschagne’s composed display at the crease calmed the nerves for the Aussies and eventually earned them a hard-fought draw to keep their series lead intact. The balls weathered by him on the final day was reminiscent of Smith’s gritty display in the first innings and should help him retain a place for the Headingley clash even if Smith recovers in time.
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