With two days remaining in the Second Ashes Test at Lords, Australia lead by 362 runs with 10 wickets still intact after skipper Michael Clarke decided against asking England to bat again when the hosts had scored only 312 in reply to the Aussies first innings total of 566-8 declared. Mindful of the fact that his bowlers had produced a great effort to dismiss the English batsmen in warm conditions, Clarke opted to allow openers Chris Rodgers and David Warner to further extend an already considerable lead and they duly obliged by accumulating another 108 runs by close of play. For England, majority of the next two days will require a long stint of disciplined batting to avoid losing this test match.
Such discipline was certainly not in evidence when England responded to the Australian opening innings. With Adam Lyth facing Mitchell Starc, it was expected that both he and Alastair Cook would ensure that they stayed at the crease for a lengthy period and just exploit any poor bowling. When Starc bowled just the second ball of the innings, Lyth was inexplicably tempted by a ball well outside the off-stump and edged a catch to wicket-keeper Peter Nevill. Such a serious misjudgement boosted the confidence of the Aussie bowlers and England lost three further wickets with just 30 runs on the scoreboard. The loss of Joe Root for just a solitary run was a damaging blow for England skipper Cook.
Yet Cook displayed the attitude and technique required for the occasion by refusing to concede his wicket needlessly and he was helped when Ben Stokes came to the crease and adopted a more restrained approach to his batting. Stokes was still the more aggressive of the two batsmen but they shared a partnership of 145 which at one time offered hope that England could surpass the 367 runs required to avoid following-on.
Stokes was eventually dismissed for 87 when bowled by Mitchell Marsh by way of an inside edge from his bat and Cook followed in exactly the same manner when just four runs short of a deserved century. Moheen Ali and Stuart Broad did offer some brief resistance but England never really recovered from losing those four cheap early wickets from the top order.
On the fourth day during Sunday, it is envisaged that Australia will attempt to secure a lead of least 500+ and possibly declare in mid-afternoon. The task of the English batsmen will then be to ensure that they perform with more application and responsibility in their second innings. For Adam Lyth, it will be a further test of his character and ability after his misfortunes continued during the Australian second innings when he dropped a catch from the batting of David Warner when the Aussie opener was still entrenched on zero.
A poor England second innings could affect their morale for the forthcoming tests and that must be a scenario worth avoiding if they wish to regain the Ashes this summer.