Roderick Easdale: Six takeaways from England’s Lords draw


England 258 & 258-5dec (Stokes 115*) drew with Australia 250 & 154-6

Story of the game: With the first day rained out, Australia boldly inserted England as the best chance of completing a victory with further bad weather forecast; this left England with the better bowling conditions over the four days. Only Roy was dismissed for single figures but England’s first-innings total still did not add up to much. Smith again dominated Australia’s first innings, scoring 42% of the batsmen’s runs before Archer made him look mortal, almost horrifyingly literally. England got a tad bogged down on the final morning and the declaration left them too little time to take ten wickets.


One: Cricket does not help itself in its attitude to resuming play after rain. The final day, potentially set up for an epic conclusion but maybe already lacking the requisite time to do so, was blighted by early rain. Then we had the usual situation of the covers cleared, everyone practising and warming up on a ground considered still unfit for play for another half hour. Mind you, we would also have had more time left for a finish if the players actually bowled the number of overs they were supposed to have done on earlier days.

Two: The final day was sold out in advance and the ground looked full when play finally started at 12.10pm. But by the final half hour, now almost 7pm, the crowd had ebbed away and the ground was almost half empty.

Three: Sandpaper-gate has not eradicated the Australian holier-than-thou reproaching of others. We now have Australians lecturing the English that they should not boo Smith, with the Australian Cricketers’ Association even issuing a pompous statement to that effect. Anyone remember Darren Lehmann, coach of Australia, urging Australian crowds to boo Stuart Broad and make him cry? Broad’s ‘crime’? Not walking. If you booed cricketers for not walking then 99 per cent of Australian batsmen throughout history would probably qualify.

The lengthy bans for the Sandpaper Three as much reflected belated Board anguish at the sanctimonious, arrogant, bullying culture of the team which had been fermenting under the leadership of Smith. Sadly the sanctimonious culture has not been eradicated; it was merely in hibernation.

Four: Of Smith resuming his innings after going off having been felled by Archer, the Australian Cricketers’ Association decreed: “What we witnessed was bravery from an outstanding young man. It should be commended not vilified.” Another view is that another specialist batsman could have batted in his stead but here was a man in his thirties consumed by personal glory in wanting a place on the honours board who had the spirit, if not the letter, of the regulations interpreted by Australia’s management to fit his will. A scatter-brained piece of batting was followed by Smith not fielding and then being substituted for the final day under the concussion regulations.

Five: When I think of Smith’s transgressions on the spirit of the game, it is not sandpaper that first springs to mind, but a press conference he gave with Peter Handscomb, the sole object of which was to ridicule Jonny Bairstow’s perfectly innocent behaviour in a bar. This was nasty, spiteful and bullying and eagerly lapped up by the media, to the Fourth Estate’s shame. If some paying spectators wish to boo Smith when he comes out to bat, that is their decision and right. They are booing the man. But if they boo when he reaches a milestone in his innings then they are booing the innings – a distinction I suspect those booing failed to appreciate.

Six: Even if you, exceedingly charitably, presume that the England selectors have picked the best batsmen for the job, there are a lot of round pegs in square holes.

Jos Buttler was picked originally by Ed Smith to be a counter-attacking number 7. He has somehow ended up as number 5. In the second innings he dropped to six, and found himself in a situation perfect for what he had been recalled for. With England needing quick runs for a declaration, a lusty 60, even a 40, would do nicely. Instead he batted 2 hours 21 minutes for 31. When he was out, Bairstow came in and made 30 off 37 balls.

Bairstow is England’s second-best bat but, as too often, in the first innings was left in the last wicket stand and got out slogging, having almost run out of partners. England are depriving themselves of more runs from Bairstow by batting him too low.

Joe Denly was selected to be a top-3 batsman and is now coming in four, while Jason Roy, a number 4, is opening. Number 3 does not seem to be Root’s comfort zone and he made 14 and 0 from there in this match. Australia are batting their best player at four, should England?


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