It may be fortunate for the English cricketers that the Third Ashes Test against Australia at Edgbaston does not begin until July 29th by which time the scars of their 405 run defeat by the tourists in the Lords Test may have somewhat eased. England were beaten inside four days on a wicket which had been described as slow and helpful to the batsman, but their second innings total of 103 was typified by some poor strokes and an attitude which appeared to suggest that defeat had already been accepted.
Australia started the fourth day with all second innings wickets still intact and intent on building a 500+ run before declaring. That aim was achieved before lunch with the loss of just of just two wickets and the retirement of opening batsman Chris Rodgers with dizziness. Steve Smith added another 58 to his 215 from the first innings prompting legendary English batsman Geoff Boycott to suggest when bowled by Moeen Ali that he may have been bored with scoring so many runs.
The declaration by Michael Clarke at 254-2 allowed England three overs before lunch and they survived without loss. What followed after the interval was a mixture of good accurate bowling by the Australians and some rather timid batting by the English top order. By tea, the hosts had accumulated just 64-5 with no batsman scoring at least 20 runs. Perhaps the attitude of the players was summarised by the run-out of Ben Stokes from Mitchell Johnson’s throw when the Durham cricketer had ample opportunity to ground his bat at the crease when running between the wickets. It was classed as a serious error of judgement.
Worse was to follow immediately after tea when Jos Buttler edged a catch to wicketkeeper Peter Nevill off the bowling of Johnson from the first ball of the over and then Ali was dismissed a few balls later without scoring to clinch a double wicket maiden for the Aussie fast bowler. Stuart Broad did offer some resistance at the end with a determined 25 to become top scorer for the innings but he was only delaying the inevitable.
After the euphoria of the victory at Cardiff, this damaging defeat at Lords should act as a wake-up call for the English team in much the same way as the Australians significantly improved their batting after a poor first test performance. The selectors may opt to change the England batting line-up in which case in-form Yorkshireman Jonny Bairstow may be recalled at the expense of a rather hesitant Gary Ballance, but it is the position of opener of Adam Lyth which will be debated.
Lyth has amassed just 50 runs in 4 innings’ against Australia but did prove his credentials by scoring 107 in the Second Test against New Zealand earlier this summer. The selectors may show further faith by retaining his services but as per the other English batsmen, more authority and application will be needed in the Third Test when faced with the inevitable hostile bowling from the tourists. Otherwise another Ashes defeat is likely.