England Cooked: Bell’s Lyth hangs in the Ballance

If Australia were beaten convincingly in Cardiff, England has been mutilated at Lords. They were dead lucky to crack 100 on a pudding of a cricket pitch where Australia had scored 820.

If Stuart Broad didn’t counter-attack and top score with 25, England were destined for a sub-100 annihilation. So heavy was the 405 run defeat, at least four English players face the chopping block for the next Test.

It’s an intergalactic reversal of fortunes that will leave betting agency strategists ripping shreds of hair from balding scalps. Adam Lyth appears to have already done that. He was worked over, again, by Mitchell Starc in the second innings and is under to pressure to stay in the team. England’s used about 12 openers since their tour of Australia in 2013-14 and it seems Cook might have to open the batting by himself if the current trend continues.

The top order is failing. England have been 3 for 70 or worse in 11 of their last 13 Tests. Garry Ballance is all at sea against genuine pace and Ian Bell’s Lyth also hangs in the Ballance.

The Pitch

Before the series it was speculated that England might order the preparation of flat and soft pitches to negate Australia’s ferocious pace attack. But in June Cricket Froth warned that this would be counter-productive; “England does not have a frontline spinner. Whatever is done to tame pitches for Australia’s fast bowlers will have equal effect on the hosts.”

And so it did. Jimmy Anderson went without a wicket at Lords. A lifeless feather bed suited to scoring thousands when the sun was shining was equally unhelpful to England’s own formidable pace attack. But Australia has something England do not; genuine express pace through the air and with that, sometimes you don’t need a favourable pitch. Although Anderson and Broad are sharp, Johnson and Starc are Orient (express).

Johnson bowled well and without luck in Cardiff but you could clearly see England’s batsmen were wary, if not fearful.

In the fourth innings at Lords England’s fear was exemplified in their swatting evasion and eventually, for Cook, Ali and Buttler, their dismissals. Australia were hostile. Johnson extracted bounce and carry and struck Joe Root in the face and prized out Moeen Ali, who had no choice but to protect his life when one reared up into his bearded boat. He was caught at bat pad.

England's best batsman could not evade Johnson

England’s best batsman could not evade Johnson

All of Australia’s bowlers were in on the act suggesting that they hunted as a pack and sustained an unrelenting pressure that asphyxiated England to the point of hapless defeat.

What happens now?

The teams take a 10 day break before the third Test at Edgbaston. Birmingham is a completely different prospect to the private school-boy filled Lords. It’s a rowdy, fancy dress, beer swilling type atmosphere and the Barmy Army – banned at Lords – will be back on-board.

It is Warwickshire-man Ian Bell’s home ground and this might be the fact that saves his Test career. He’s a brilliant player who is deeply out of sorts and if Ballance goes, he may even find that selectors toss him a career defining challenge; bat at three.

At six wickets down last night the ECB were already tweeting about possible replacements: they announced a county century by Johnny Bairstow with a thinly veiled implication. Ballance and Lyth are also under the pump and some might be surpirsed to know that Marcus Trescothic is still getting around for Somerset. Could he replace Lyth? Steve Finn and Mark Foottit linger for Mark Wood’s place.

Trevor Bayliss, England’s new coach, is known to be conservative though and he may support the use of the same squad next week.

In a county match at Edgbaston on the weekend former New Zealand off-spinner Jeetan Patel took 5 wickets for Wawrickshire suggesting that Birmingham might be a spinner. Does England have one? Adil Rashid perhaps.

Shane Watson won’t get near the Australian all-rounder position after Mitch Marsh’s solid performance at Lords. He could get back in if Chris Rogers fails to recover from vertigo/illness and Australia elect to open with Watson instead of Shaun Marsh, the other option.

Watson got into Australia’s Test side at Edgbaston as an opener in 2009 when Phil Hughes was dropped after two Tests. It would be a strange quirk if Watson made it back into the side there next week.

The series is alive and England can be expected to retaliate.


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