The second day of the Lord’s Test will be remembered as the day a group of fighting cricketers waved the white flag. Australia’s surrender was so abject, it made a mockery of near-perfect batting conditions to lose ten wickets for 86 runs, slumping to 128 all out. England’s first-innings 361 may not have done its batting talent full justice, but it was plenty for an Australian team that trailed by 264 with three days left in the Test.
A history of injury problems left Ryan Harris out of contention at Trent Bridge, for there was little chance he could overcome the strain of playing back-to-back Tests. Harris entered the mix with Australia 0-1 down, and ploughed a lone furrow, picking up 5 for 72 to get himself on the Lord’s Honours Board.
Even when England’s tail wagged hard enough to push the score to 361, Australia would have felt it had not let the game run away. It’s another matter, of course, that the batsmen then played with a collective lack of will and handed England the game on a platter.
Occasionally, you will get a batsman in a team playing for his place in the side, perhaps being too anxious about his own score than the situation of the game. For a team that is not exactly swimming in batting riches, the incumbents, you would think, need not worry about their places, but this appeared to be exactly what happened.
Shane Watson and Chris Rogers began brightly enough, Watson in particular attacking sumptuously when there was width on offer. Then, with 42 on the board and the aroma of lunch wafting across the ground, Watson missed an inducker from Tim Bresnan, was trapped in front of the stumps, and compounded the situation by wasting a review.
The real cost of Watson’s self-indulgent plea to the third umpire became apparent soon after play resumed, when Rogers failed to pick up a loopy full toss from Graeme Swann. Bowling from around the stumps Swann lost control of the ball and, as it dipped, Rogers flailed and missed. When Marais Erasmus upheld the meekest of appeals from Swann, Rogers considered a review, but a quick chat with Usman Khawaja, the non-striker, changed his mind, with Watson’s referral no doubt fresh in the mind. Had he asked the question, Rogers would have survived, with Hawkeye showing that the ball would have slid comfortably down the leg side.
Phil Hughes, batting at No. 4 in the rejigged Australian line-up, played a dreadful shot to a wide ball, throwing his bat at one from Bresnan with no movement of the feet. Kumar Dharmasena was quick to uphold the tentative appeal and then came the second review. While Hot Spot failed to conclusively pick up the edge, Tony Hill, the third umpire, was convinced that the audio evidence was enough to back up the original decision. Hughes walked off in a huff but, irrespective of the merits of the decision, he will know that the shot he played was unforgivable.
Khawaja, perhaps trying to be the antithesis of Ed Cowan, the man whose place he took, ran down the pitch with a view to hitting Swann out of the ground, and only managed a toe-ended catch to Kevin Pietersen at mid-off. At 69 for 4, Australia was getting to the stage where a lower-order miracle was needed.
Steve Smith popped a catch to short-leg, and five runs later all hope faded as Michael Clarke was nailed in front of the stumps by a Stuart Broad yorker. At 91 for 6, Australia was comfortably shy of the follow-on mark.
The last wicket put on 24, the second-best partnership of the innings, but when Swann picked up the last Australian wicket to a cap a five-wicket haul, the celebrations in the stands were tinged with the regret of not being treated to a real contest.
Australia’s bowlers, who had been on the field for a shade in excess of 100 overs earlier, should have been sitting on the balcony with a rehydrating drink, cheering their batting counterparts on. Instead, they found themselves back on the job, and Watson was paired with Harris to take the new red cherry.
For the second time in the series, Peter Siddle steamed in, and blasted out batsmen through sheer bloodymindedness. Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott dragged on to the stumps, setting the stage up perfectly for Pietersen to entertain a packed house. Once more, Pietersen started with a streaky edge to the on side, but again he disappointed. Siddle had his third wicket when Pietersen slapped a short ball straight to point, and England were 30 for 3 in the second innings, reprising their first-innings start of 28 for 3.
Siddle, who owned the spectacular figures of 5-3-4-3, had shown that his team was here to fight, to challenge England constantly even if it was to be bested. But, with a lead of 264, and the in-form Ian Bell still to come, there was little doubt about the direction in which this Test match was headed.