After Duckett’s 98, England lets go of the Lord’s Test in the face of an attack of short balls

Ben Duckett score 98 runs off 134 balls

A Test match cannot be won in the final hour of play on day two. You cannot lose it either. However, as Thursday’s viewers at Lord’s can confirm, you may undoubtedly lose your hold on the situation, much to the relief of your opponents, as England did.

The hosts lost control of the first innings of this second Test after their innings collapsed for 34 for 3 in 7.3 overs. After dismissing Australia for 416 runs, England managed to make 188 for one into 222 for four runs by collecting the next five wickets for just 65 runs.

This wasn’t the end of the world. Ben Stokes, who was acting as the room’s adult by being unbeaten off 57 and Harry Brook, who had no further losses, arrived with Stumps. The Australian lead is currently only 138 scores.

Layers made up the pointless cascade. After a huge double on this identical ground four years earlier, Steven Smith had “only” made it to 110 for his 32nd Test hundred. Nathan Lyon pulled up with a calf injury midway through England’s 37th over of their reply. Although the injury will be evaluated overnight, it almost probably prevents Lyon from bowling the rest of this game. 

And England’s loss of the explosive trio Ollie Pope, Ben Duckett, and Joe Root to the hook shot appeared utterly unnecessary, especially with the tail lengthened by the addition of Josh Tongue as the additional seamer.

But having a tongue has not been a problem at all. With the dismissals of openers Usman Khawaja and David Warner on Wednesday, he demonstrated his merit as the finest player on display. 

On Thursday morning, he forced Smith out. Duckett at gully blocked an effort to drive the seamer on the up. The 34-year-old was defeated by the Worcestershire fast for the second time this summer as a result of a lbw decision that Smith won in May while serving as Sussex’s foreign player on the side.

The initial blow was delivered by Stuart Broad, who caught Alex Carey’s leg before having the play confirmed by a DRS review at his request. As Mitchell Starc swiped to first slip, Jonny Bairstow dove over to take the ball, and James Anderson picked up his first wicket of the game.

Smith was out for 393 after Tongue’s dismissal, which is the same score at which England declared at the end of the first day at Edgbaston. Despite the fact that Australia were never going to pay back a decision that seemed generous as time went on, Ollie Robinson’s twin strike of Nos. 10 and 11 – Lyon caught in the deep; Josh Hazlewood scuffing to first slip – meant only 19 came from the final two stands.

Before lunch, there was time for a four-over spell, although it wasn’t one that challenged Zak Crawley and Duckett all that much. Even though Crawley did not accompany his partner in making it through the tea break unharmed, he deserves much of credit for the 132 that was added in the middle session’s 26 overs.

Before the Kent opener ran inside the line of a Lyon delivery that turned up the slope, England had advanced to the 18th over thanks to a usually elegant 48 in the opening stand of 91 runs. Carey, who is blind, did a fantastic job of taking cleanly and causing the off-spinner to be stumped for the fourth time this season.

It was a harsh irony when the 35-year-old pulled up in the 37th over after all the hype focused on his durability as he played his 100th consecutive Test match. He was haring in from the leg side barrier in an effort to stop Cameron Green’s short ball being played off of an uppish pull from Duckett. At the conclusion of his effort, Lyon grumbled and ultimately hobbled off the field before being assisted by Australia’s team physiotherapist back to the away dressing room.

The nature of the delivery was in risk of being overlooked given the high-profile injury, the fact that the injured player was just four dismissals away from reaching 500 for his career, and the fact that he was the only bowler averaging less than three runs per over. 

A door of opportunity was beginning to open up because of the short ball. After overcoming early nerves to reach his eighth fifty-plus score from 84 deliveries, Duckett appeared a little scratchy.

Duckett had risen to position 87 at the time Lyon was hurt, while Pope was on position 39. The “smart” option, as their stand eventually increased to 97 a few overs later, was to take advantage of the pace attack, especially the pricey Starc who was moving at nearly eights. It appears that this England team thought it was too “traditional.”

Pope attempted to hit Green over Father Time, but he discovered Smith a good five feet underneath. Duckett, who had reached 98, hit David Warner with his fourth and final wild hook off Hazlewood, who was positioned around the corner. 

After surviving on one when a swipe off the same bowler caught behind was disallowed for a front-foot no ball, Root went on to make a miserable three-for-three by scuffing Starc to Smith around the corner at square leg. The catch was scrutinized, but it passed muster. The connection was the only thing that was unclean about it.

The vice-captain of England, their banker opener who is close to scoring his first Ashes century, and their star batting great are all losing wickets because of their determination. They were grateful that the situation wasn’t worse as the Lord laughed. Marnus Labuschagne successfully tipped the ball over the bar after Brook, on 25, swiped Pat Cummins straight to square leg.

Australia deserves praise despite the fact that England made a mistake. In addition to providing the shotgun and reloading the rounds, they also played on the conceits of a punchy middle order by reminding them again how badass they looked pulling the trigger. 

Short bowling is challenging enough even in the best of circumstances, so it was impressive of the attack to step up and continue to fight until the 6:30 p.m. close. There will be a lot more questions for them tomorrow.

It is yet unknown how Brook and Ben Stokes will tackle the situation on Friday morning. They may learn from Smith, who although needing 169 deliveries to reach three figures, still provided enough of an attacking danger, most notably with a magnificent drive to cross the mark and a celebratory flick through midwicket.

But there is little question that England will approach day three with the same enthusiasm. Perhaps even more so, knowing that Lyon, their primary suppressor, won’t be there to thwart them.