From the euphoria that followed the opening Ashes test with Australia losing by 14 runs. The second test was the exact opposite. The margin only scratched the surface of the problems facing the tourists in the remaining games.
Australia started on the backfoot losing the toss once again and being told to field. There were two changes for the Aussies in Ryan Harris and Usman Khawaja. The former showed why fans had wanted the quick selected much more than his number of caps showed when he tore through the English top order to reduce them to 3/28 on his way to a first innings 5 for.
That was where the joy for Australia’s quicks ended though. England much like in the first test, were able to hold their ground through Ian Bell with help from Johnathan Trott and Ian Bairstow. This had been the difference in the series thus far, the English collapses were stabilised before becoming calamity.
Bell had his third consecutive Ashes hundred before an unlikely hero stepped up for Australia. Steven Smith thrown the ball to waste time before the new ball, produced a ripper to remove Bell and followed up with dismissing Bairstow and Prior.
Australia have been looking for the unlikely hero (Agar in the first test with the bat) while England were consistent with odd flashes of brilliance from someone to propel them on. The consistency was underlined with the lower order scoring 12, 28 and 33 respectively to drag England to 361.
It was the same old song and dance for the tourists once they got the chance to wield the willow. Shane Watson got off to a promising start then was caught lbw, Chris Rogers missed a full toss and Usman Khawaja tried to send Swann into the stands but only made mid-on. Those were the glaring moments in a collapse of 128 with the strains of “Swann, Swann will tear you apart again,” ringing true around Lords.
Heads were bowed again and the Australia that had surrendered meekly at home in the Ashes battle reared their ugly head. Michael Clarke called it an embarrassment but that was still to come. Alastair Cook showed some leniency in not enforcing the follow on thus England got a chance to bat again and put Australia out of the contest.
Once again though, the bowlers had worked magic for Australia. Peter Siddle in this instance probably greater than anything Harry Houdini produced as he reduced England to 3/30 allowing that wicked mistress hope to poke her head out. She was promptly firmly in her seat soon into the afternoon session though.
Joe Root before this test was known to Australian’s for getting into an altercation with David Warner but he turned conqueror on the Lord’s pitch. He was dispatching the bowling with ease as he motored to his century and more importantly, team wise making the lead unassailable for the tourists.
Cook’s men had studiously worked to move the lead past 500 only leaving the opportunity for Joe Root to make 200 at Lords. He was denied twenty runs short in a rare bright spot on Day four for the Australians. 583 was the target but reality had the Aussies surviving day four and doing the single largest rain dance to draw.
Any talk of the rain would be premature though, as Australia in the most predictable outcome since Phil Taylor was winning darts tournaments, collapsed. The collapse wasn’t immediate like the first innings though, Clarke and Khawaja allowed hope to poke her head back in before both falling to Joe Root who had a smile you couldn’t wipe off if you tried after this test.
Predictably Graeme Swann delivered the final blow catching Pattinson lbw on the final over of the day after Harris and Pattinson teasted to drag the public (and Lord’s crowd attendants) into the final day with a dogged stance.
Where to from here? 2-0 isn’t an unsurmountable lead but with the batting frailties Australia has, pride and preserving their test spot would be high on the agenda. For England, it is all about the sweep on a side that is ripe for that.