The drama surrounding the Lord’s Test is yet to subside but all eyes are already fixated on the third Ashes Test between England and Australia which gets under way at Headingley on Thursday.
A Test which will be largely by remembered for the gripping duel between Steve Smith and Jofra Archer on day four saw the visitors just about hold on for a tense draw to preserve their 1-0 lead in the five-match series.
In the end, Smith scored a crucial 92 runs but not before he was floored by a nasty Archer bouncer that nearly took his head off. That vicious blow means there is now a big question mark surrounding his availability for the Headingley clash with concussion injuries always being a tricky one to navigate.
Whether or not Smith is passed fit remains to be seen but there is no denying that the former Australia skipper has been the key difference between the two old foes in the series so far.
Smith has been in a league of his own among batsmen from both teams in the two Tests, with the right-hander’s run-tally now extending to 378 at an average of 126. However, while Smith might be churning out runs at a rate second only to the great Don Bradman, the rest of the batting fraternity across the two sides haven’t covered themselves in glory.
That only six batsmen in total, including Smith, have managed to score at least 100 runs in the four innings so far is a damning statement for the rest of the supporting cast from both sides.
Joe Root's Test Average— CricBeat (@Cric_beat) August 17, 2019
2017 - 50.84
2018 - 41.22
2019 - 25.75*#ENGvAUS
Smith’s battle with Joe Root was always going to be a decisive one in the series but the England skipper has so far failed to even arrive at the race while the Aussie has been turning out the runs like a machine.
Root started the series with a promising half-century at Edgbaston but has faded quickly ever since and scored just four runs in two innings at Lord’s. The right-hander, however, is not the only worry for England in the top-order with Jason Roy looking like a fish out of water on his Ashes debut.
The England opener has mustered just 40 runs in four innings in the series with his technique being horribly exposed by Australia’s pacers. Roy’s average of 10 is only better than James Anderson and Jack Leach for England, and the Surrey slugger’s head will definitely be on the chopping block at Headingley should another failure ensue.
Meanwhile, Joe Denly has looked good for a start in every innings but the top-order batsman has simply struggled to go beyond the 30-run mark on each occasion.
Things are not that great in the England middle-order either despite the slight return to form for Jonny Bairstow, with Jos Buttler struggling to replicate his 2018 success. Buttler is averaging less than 13 in the series with his dismal form adding to England’s frailties with the bat.
Jason Roy has been dismissed four times in Test cricket by deliveries just back of a length, in the area between the channel and in line with the stumps. As an opener, you face a lot of those balls. He is a concern for England. #Ashes pic.twitter.com/6xhUaHxRkk— The CricViz Analyst (@cricvizanalyst) August 17, 2019
While England’s batting does not inspire much confidence at the moment, their Australian counterparts have not been much better themselves despite the individual brilliance of Smith.
The top-three of David Warner, Cameron Bancroft and Usman Khawaja have contributed just 64 runs between them in the two Tests and that has only increased the burden on Smith to do the bulk of the scoring.
In fact, Test cricket’s first-ever concussion substitute Marnus Labuschagne has looked the second most assured Aussie batsman after Smith with his 59-run knock in the second innings at Lord’s earning the Baggy Green a draw.
Travis Head has shown some promise with his battling knock at Lord’s but Matthew Wade has scored only eight runs in his three other outings at the crease after scoring a brilliant century in the second innings at Edgbaston.
Pat Cummins has now faced more deliveries (123) during this Ashes series than both Cameron Bancroft and David Warner.— Nic Savage (@nic_savage1) August 17, 2019
Slightly concerning that Australia’s No.8 looks more comfortable at the crease than both openers.#Ashes
Down the order, skipper Tim Paine has been dismal with the bat just like his England counterpart Root, with the Australia wicketkeeper registering just 18 runs so far.
It has very much been a case of two misfiring batting units versus two excellent bowling attacks in the Ashes this year with Smith’s stellar form proving the decisive difference.
Smith might have found a worthy adversary now in the form of Archer but how the rest of the supporting cast perform in the remaining three Tests will very well decide the fate of who the famous urn goes to.
Smith and Archer have laid down the gauntlet but where the Ashes ultimately ends up will ultimately come down to the Roots and the Warners of the two teams.
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It has taken just three innings for Steve Smith to reaffirm his Test credentials with the Australian batsman leapfrogging Kane Williamson to the second spot in the latest ICC rankings released on Monday.
The 29-year-old is now just nine rating points behind the top-ranked Virat Kohli of India despite spending 12 months out of the international game due to his suspension for ball-tampering.
Smith registered twin tons in the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston to mark his return to the format after a one-year absence before scoring a crucial 92 in the first innings of the recently concluded Lord’s Test.
The Aussie was struck on the neck by a viscous Jofra Archer-bouncer during that knock before being withdrawn from the Test due to a concussion but the 378 runs registered by him in the three innings since his return were enough for him to overtake Williamson in the latest ICC rankings.
Williamson was dismissed for a duck and four runs in his two innings at Galle and that performance has seen the New Zealand skipper take a big hit in his rating points.
While Smith has risen from the third to second spot, England skipper Joe Root has dropped down to ninth place (from sixth) after registering scores of 14 and a duck in the Lord’s Test against Australia.
Smith, Kohli and Williamson could all be in action in the coming week in three separate Test clashes around the globe and that is set to add some spice to the race for the No1 spot.
In the bowling department, Australia pacer Pat Cummins has consolidated his grip on the top of the rankings after his match-haul of six wickets at Lord’s. The 914 rating points for Cummins are the highest-ever accumulated by any Australian bowler in history and puts him level with the legendary Glenn McGrath.
England pacer Jofra Archer’s fearsome debut at Lord’s has seem him enter the ICC rankings for the first time at 83rd spot.
ICC Test Rankings for Batsman (Top three)
ICC Test Rankings for Bowlers (Top three)
Jofra Archer dominated the headlines as England drew the rain-affected second Ashes Test against Australia at Lord’s.
The Test debutant’s pace and hostility unsettled Australia and left their talisman Steve Smith with a concussion which threatens to rule him out of this week’s third Test at Headingley.
Here, the PA news agency takes a statistical look at the Lord’s Test.
Archer brings the fire
Archer bowled the fastest recorded over by an England bowler in Test cricket when the 73rd over of Australia’s first innings – his 25th – averaged out at 92.79mph, according to figures posted on Twitter by analytics company CricViz.
That was quicker by 0.24mph than Andrew Flintoff’s previous record, set in the 2009 Ashes Test at Cardiff, and featured two deliveries clocked at 94mph, and the last thudding off Smith’s gloves at 96mph.
Archer followed it up with England’s eighth and ninth-quickest overs in the same chart, at 91.99 and 91.93mph respectively, with the latter featuring the ball which knocked Smith to the deck.
It was all the more remarkable given the late stage of the innings, with a worn ball. Of the other overs on the CricViz chart, bowled by Andrew Flintoff, Steven Finn, Steve Harmison and James Anderson, all were between the 12th and 15th overs bar Harmison’s at Adelaide in 2006 – the 22nd over of Australia’s innings, and only the paceman’s fourth.
Archer averaged 89.8mph in that spell – only Flintoff, Harmison and Finn have topped 90mph in a spell of six overs or more for England – and bowled 16 successive balls over 90mph. The one concern would be his workload – he bowled 44 overs in the match, almost 31 per cent of the 142 faced by Australia.
Smith stands alone as batsmen struggle
That Steve Smith will be a big loss for Australia if not passed fit goes without saying, but it is worth looking at just how dominant he has been in the series.
Smith’s 378 runs in the series are 152 more than his nearest challenger, England opener Rory Burns – indeed, Burns and Ben Stokes are the only pair of batsmen who have combined to outscore him.
Only six batsmen have even passed 100 runs in the series – with Joe Root, Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Joe Denly, Cameron Bancroft, David Warner, Usman Khawaja and Tim Paine not among them.
Marnus Labuschagne is more than halfway there after his 59 as Smith’s deputy, but would still have big boots to fill at Headingley.
Stokes lights up Lord’s again
Ben Stokes’ 115 not out in the second innings continued his strong record at Lord’s, where his Test batting average is now almost 13 runs above his career mark.
In seven Tests and 13 innings at HQ, the Durham all-rounder now has two centuries – also making 101 in 2015 against New Zealand, the team he tormented in the recent World Cup final at the same venue.
He has half-centuries against four out of six opponents, with the only exceptions being Pakistan and India – with a curious blot on his Lord’s record courtesy of a pair against the latter in 2014.
His bowling average at Lord’s is almost exactly in line with that across his Test career and includes his best innings figures in the format, six for 22 against the West Indies in 2017.
Fellow Lord’s specialist Chris Woakes took only three wickets in the match but still averages 11.33 at the famous old ground.
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