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his neck from Jofra Archer after what was a gripping passage of play on Saturday and the right-handed batsman had to be withdrawn from proceedings for the final day after displaying delayed signs of concussion.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.
Newly appointed Bangladesh coach Russell Domingo believes that the team has the potential to become a ‘powerhouse’ in the world of cricket.
The former South Africa coach beat off competition from the likes of Mike Hesson and Andy Flower to land the Bangladesh job and he is excited by the project on hand with the Tigers.
“If you look around the world, Bangladesh seem to be one of the teams that has developed the most over the last five or six years,” Domingo told ESPNcricinfo in an interview.
“They have an unbelievable fan base. Having met the board, they definitely seem to have a plan. There is definitely a big interest in the future of the game, in some of the younger players coming through.
“Everything looks in place to be a real powerhouse in world cricket, and that has really excited me about Bangladesh.”
Under their previous coach Steve Rhodes, Bangladesh recently finished a disappointing eighth in the 2019 World Cup in England despite starting the campaign with much promise. Domingo, however, has seen plenty of encouraging signs from Bangladesh in the tournament and believes that the eighth-place finish will form a steep learning curve for the ODI team.
“I am excited with what I saw [of Bangladesh] in the World Cup. There were so many games when they got really close,” Domingo stated.
“You think of the game against New Zealand, it was a missed run out opportunity that made the difference in not reaching the semifinal. The margins are so small that it is about overcoming the mental obstacles.
“Now that the World Cup is done, it is time to move forward and take the learnings into the next World Cup.”
The Tigers were most recently whitewashed 0-3 in an ODI series in Sri Lanka after parting ways with Steve Rhodes but Domingo is refusing to read too much into a performance that came immediately in the aftermath of the World Cup.
“I have been there as a national coach. I was there when South Africa lost the World Cup semifinal (in 2015 against New Zealand). It took us a long time to overcome that particular defeat,” he said.
“Look, I am not reading too much into the side’s performance in Sri Lanka simply because straight after a World Cup, it is so hard to get yourselves going once again,” Domingo added.
Domingo’s first assignment with Bangladesh will be one-off four-day Test against Afghanistan at Chattogram which gets underway on September 5. The Tigers will then host a T20 tri-series also involving Zimbabwe and Afghanistan before they embark on a tour of India in November.
India head coach Ravi Shastri believes that the team needs to look at the T20 format from a ‘fresh perspective’ ahead of the World Cups in 2020 and 2021.
Shastri was on Friday retained as the India coach on a new two-year contract which runs until the 2021 T20 World Cup and the former all-rounder has outlined his targets for the team.
“There are two ICC T20 tournaments over the next two years, in 2020 and 2021,” Shastri told the Times of India in an interview.
“The Test championship cycle has begun, so that becomes top priority. We have a splendid Test side that’s stayed at the top of the rankings and needs to keep up that good work.
“In T20Is, we need to take a fresh perspective and consolidate on the fabulous talent we have.”
The India coach has called for a new approach in the T20 format for the Men in Blue and feels that the make-up of that squad could be vastly different from the current ODI setup.
“One-day cricket and T20s have vastly different identities and one cannot look at it through the mere lens of ‘white-ball cricket’,” said Shastri.
“T20 is a wholly different ballgame and that is how we are going to pursue it. At best four or maximum five cricketers from the present 50-over setup fit in a T20 perspective right now.
“We need to begin with that perspective and build on it.”
The 57-year-old is encouraged by the bench strength India has built over the past one year or so and believes plenty of more youngsters will be given a shot in the run up to the two T20 World Cups.
“Bench strength is everything if we’re looking at things from a long-term perspective. That constant flow of fresh, young talent has to be there. Be it Rishabh (Pant) or Jasprit Bumrah, Kuldeep (Yadav), Hardik (Pandya), Mayank Agarwal, Vijay Shankar – they’re there, constantly raising their hands up,” Shastri stated.
“That kind of a pool does wonders when the only objective is to ensure you don’t end up with, let’s say, any kind of deadwood.
“The same will happen as we go about building our T20 perspective. There’s quite a bit of a talent pool out there that needs constant tapping.”
Shastri is currently with the Indian team on their ongoing tour of the West Indies. Having prevailed in both the T20 and ODI clashes, India will now lock horns with the hosts in a two-match Test series beginning at Antigua on Thursday.