Star batsman Steve Smith’s unbeaten 85 was the centrepiece of Australia’s impressive 339-5 on the opening day of the second Test against England at Lord’s on Wednesday. But off-spinner Joe Root, better known as the number one-ranked batsman in Test cricket, took two wickets in four balls late in the day. His double strike ensured Ashes-holders Australia, 1-0 up in the five-match series after a thrilling two-wicket win at Edgbaston last week, did not have things all their own way at the ‘Home of Cricket’.
Australia were in a commanding position at 316-3, despite being sent into bat by England captain Ben Stokes in overcast conditions and on a green tinged-pitch that promised to aid his five-strong pace attack.
But dashing left-hander Travis Head, scoring at better than a run-a-ball, then charged down the pitch only to be beaten by a sharply turning Root delivery with Jonny Bairstow, whose wicketkeeping had proved fallible in Birmingham, completing an excellent stumping.
Head was out for 77 following a stand of 118 with Smith where England were given a taste of their own ‘Bazball’ medicine.
But three balls later, Australia’s 316-4 became 316-5 when Cameron Green fell for a duck, slicing Root to James Anderson at mid-off.
At stumps Root, the only spinner in the attack after England dropped Moeen Ali, had figures of 2-19 from eight overs.
Fast bowler Josh Tongue, recalled in place of Moeen, removed Australia left-handed openers Usman Khawaja and David Warner, who made a valuable 66, in a return of 2-88 in 18 overs.
The match was briefly halted before the second over when two Just Stop Oil protesters ran out of the Grandstand and onto the outfield, sprinkling the environmental pressure group’s trademark orange powder on the square but not on the pitch.
Bairstow grabbed one of the demonstrators and carried them off the playing surface, with the other apprehended by stewards.
A third demonstrator was tackled before making it onto the outfield, with the police making three arrests.
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England’s aggressive ‘Bazball’ approach had come under scrutiny in Birmingham, but missing several chances was a bigger factor in their defeat.
On Wednesday, Stuart Broad, who has long troubled Warner in Ashes contests, had him edging into the cordon on 20, only for fourth slip Ollie Pope, who later went off injured with a shoulder injury, to drop a two-handed catch.
Warner cashed in with a 66-ball fifty completed when he pulled Tongue, in just his second Test, for six.
But off what became the last ball before lunch Tongue bowled Khawaja fresh from his hundred at Edgbaston, playing no shot.
Warner also fell to Tongue, bowled between bat and pad by a ball that cut back sharply off the pitch.
England for all Australia’s playing and missing, did not help themselves by giving away 36 runs in extras, including 12 no-balls.
Smith stuck Stuart Broad through the covers for two fours off successive balls then successfully overturned a caught-behind decision off the next delivery on his way to a 102-ball fifty.
Broad also had Marnus Labuschagne lbw, playing no shot, before another successful Australian review indicated the ball would have cleared the top of the stumps.
Stokes brought himself on in the hope of a breakthrough but it was not long before Smith confidently flicked him through midwicket for four to go to 9,000 runs in Test cricket.
Smith and Labuschagne, until recently the world’s two top-ranked Test batsmen, had managed just 35 runs between them across four innings at Edgbaston.
But on Wednesday their century partnership was ended when Labuschagne was caught behind for 47 off an excellent full-length delivery from Ollie Robinson to leave Australia 198-3.
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