The second Ashes Test between England and Australia that ended in a draw on Sunday may have been badly affected by rain but it still produced plenty of exciting cricket.
We look at three things we learned from a fascinating clash that preserved Australia’s 1-0 lead in the five-match series.
Archer lays down Test marker
All teams want a genuinely fast bowler because speed can beat the reactions of even the best batsmen, especially if accompanied by late movement.
Jofra Archer, on the ground where he bowled the decisive Super Over that sealed England’s World Cup final win over New Zealand, marked his Test debut with five wickets and, in repeatedly topping speeds of 90 mph while bowling 44 overs, went some way to answering questions about his stamina raised by Australia coach Justin Langer.
And in striking Steve Smith on his unprotected neck during an innings of 92 – the first time this series the star Australia batsman was out for under a hundred – Archer may have delivered a telling blow.
Smith was unable to bat in the second innings because of a concussion that could rule him out of the third Test.
There are only four days between the last day at Lord’s and the first at Headingley, raising concerns that the Barbados-born Archer, like so many young quicks before him, could be over-bowled.
Former West Indies fast bowler Ian Bishop, urged caution by tweeting: “For the sake of the world game, England & (captain) Joe Root need to be more mindful of better managing Jofra Archer’s workload.
“Don’t ‘kill the goose that laid the golden egg’. We’ve seen this movie before.”
Once more. In all our excitement and awe. For the sake of the World game. England & Joe Root need to be more mindful of better managing Joffra Archer’s workload. Don’t “kill the goose that laid the golden egg”. We’ve seen this movie before.— ian bishop (@irbishi) August 19, 2019
Opening up is hard to do
Australia opener David Warner scored over 600 runs at an average of nearly 72 during the recent World Cup.
Yet in four innings this Ashes, Warner has yet to reach double figures and has scored just 18 runs in total.
It is a graphic illustration of the difference between Test and one-day cricket.
The red Dukes ball in use for Tests in England tends to swing more than the white one deployed for one-day internationals, while the lack of fielding restrictions in the longer format mean captains can attack more with the new ball.
And a short gap between the World Cup and the Ashes meant batsmen involved in both events had little time to adjust to their different demands.
Warner has also been up against fine new-ball bowlers in the Ashes, with Stuart Broad alone dismissing him three times.
Nor is Warner the only Ashes opener struggling for runs.
Jason Roy scored over 400 runs at more than 64 as hosts England won the World Cup.
But he has found his debut Ashes series hard work, with just 40 runs in four innings so far.
Normally a middle-order batsman in first-class cricket, Roy has been getting out to shots that would be applauded in the one-day game – or at least excused as an occupational hazard – but are viewed as reckless in the context of a Test match.
Roy too has also been up against quality fast bowlers in the likes of Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood.
Both Jason Roy and David Warner were in red-hot form in the World Cup....and now struggling to get anything significant in the same sport on same pitches. The colour of the ball makes such a huge difference.... #TestCricket #TheAshes— Aakash Chopra (@cricketaakash) August 18, 2019
More jeers than cheers
Steve Smith, Warner and Cameron Bancroft have all been booed repeatedly by English crowds in their first Test series since they each completed lengthy bans following a ball-tampering scandal in South Africa.
But when Smith had to retire hurt after being felled by Archer at Lord’s and again when he was eventually out, there were far more cheers than jeers, although one MCC member was ejected from the Lord’s Pavilion for allegedly booing him.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison criticised the booing, which may have sounded worse on television. But regrettably wherever a Test match is held, not everyone in a large crowd can be guaranteed to behave in sporting fashion.
A draw for the second test but it was a total Ashes foul for the crowd at Lords to boo Steve Smith. His performance on the pitch during his return to Test Match cricket in the UK demands nothing other than respect.— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) August 18, 2019
Provided by Press Association Sports
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.
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)