How to go about dismissing Australia’s star batsman Steve Smith is front and centre in England’s minds as they head into the second Ashes Test at Lord’s.
The former captain was the Player of the Match at Edgbaston, scoring twin hundreds in the game that also served as his return to the longest format after his ban for ball-tampering.
He has now scored 1116 runs in his last 10 Test innings against England, with six hundreds and an average of 139.50 in that time, but as frustrating for Joe Root’s side has been the manner in which those runs have come, with Smith’s unique, fidgety batting style forcing them out of their comfort zone.
“A lot of what he does is try to put you off in a way, trying to make it look extremely different so you have to think way outside the box,” said Root. “You look at his dismissals over a period of time, they’re not far away from everyone else's.
“You're always looking at different ways how you can try and get someone out, but I think maybe one thing that we could have done slightly better stick to a plan for a little bit longer, give it a chance to work a little bit more. I think it was 18 times early on in that first innings he played and missed. That's a sign that plans are working. We've just got to be a little bit more patient with it.”
Those occasions on which England beat the bat without finding the edge also demonstrate their lack of fortune, which affected them throughout the first Test. Most significantly, their all-time leading Test wicket-taker James Anderson played no further part in the field after bowling just four overs on the first morning.
As well as removing an option from Root’s armoury, it also meant the other bowlers were forced to do more, and on the fourth day, they noticeably flagged.
"I think it did harm us having only three bowlers," Root said. "I think it caught up with us in the second innings. You set a team up in a certain way and then obviously the workloads got a lot more than we probably expected to. These freak things happen sometimes and when you do get those extra workloads on a good wicket against someone playing as well as Steve did, makes it very difficult for you.”
Anderson has since been ruled out for the second Test, meaning England’s World Cup star Jofra Archer could be in line for a Test debut. Some have suggested his extra pace could be the key to dismissing Smith, and Root indicated England were planning to use the quick in short bursts to keep him sharp.
"It'd be nice if he was staying up at 88-92mph, round that bracket, for the chances he gets to bowl," Root said. "He's very skilful as well. Everyone talks about his pace and his easy action but he's got some very good skills. He gets the ball moving around both ways. Factor that in with the pace he bowls, he will cause a lot of problems, I'm sure.
“He's a very skilful young man. He's got a very good record in red-ball cricket. There will be question marks about his workloads coming into the game, but I think, importantly, if we manage that well, he's proven over the last couple of years when he has played county cricket that he can manage that well. He's a very exciting prospect."
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