Day Four at Lord’s

Men against boys. Here was the day which demonstrated the true dynamic between these sides. Three sessions of play which held the Cardiff banknote up to the ultra-violet light, and revealed it to be counterfeit.

Tellingly, Australia did not blow England away. Rather, the visitors slowly crushed the hosts in their merciless vice of authority and confidence. England did not play particularly badly, either today or on the first two days. And yet Australia are light years ahead. That tells you all you need to know.

The new balance of power was best indicated not by a flurry of wickets, nor Steve Smith’s innings, but by the way David Warner and Chris Rogers set about Australia’s second innings, after tea. Barely breaking sweat, and exerting almost total control over proceedings, they eased their way to a three figure opening stand.

There was an inevitability to their progress, which bore a cocksure serenity an English opening pair could never match. The Rogers-Warner partnership was, to them at least, the restoration of a natural world order. It illustrated exactly why Australia have been superior to England since November 2013. Michael Clarke’s side have greater force of personality. They have deeper, stronger, confidence. And they have far more – to use the word again – authority.

Allied to skill, these are the qualities which generally win five-test series. By contrast, a manifesto pledge to play ‘an attacking brand of cricket’ is only words, an aspiration. In this match, Australia haven’t needed English-style corporate mission statements. They’ve just batted and bowled.

I know what you’re going to say. England haven’t even lost this match yet. They are still ahead in the series. Even if they are defeated here at Lord’s, the pitch and a crucial toss will be mainly to blame. Cardiff proved the side can not only live with, but beat, the Australians.

Look into your hearts, though. What do you really think will happen? This match is already leaving deep scars on the England player. They have lost eight of the nine sessions, and each one is corroding their self-belief and self-esteem, reinforcing their inferiority complex.

After Cardiff, a few hyperbolic comparisons were already being drawn between this series and 2005. To my mind, England should be more mindful of the example of 1997. That year, we won a commanding and emphatic victory in the first test, albeit with a little help from the pitch, only to quickly discover – from the second test onwards – that it had taken place in a parallel universe.

Alastair Cook’s innings will be interpreted according to perspective. Supporters will describe it as the kind of contribution Cook was invented for – adroit, patient, tenacious, resilient. Others will point out that his eagerness for a Lord’s Ashes century led Cook into a loose, ill-disciplined, stroke which cost him his wicket and hastened the side’s demise. Some other England players used to get criticised for that kind of thing.

England’s real bright spot was the performance of Ben Stokes, who grows in stature with every match. Barring major mishap, he will become a very fine player and potentially one of this nation’s great all-rounders. Stokes has a greater natural batting talent than Andrew Flintoff. Can his bowling get anywhere near as good?

Finally, my apologies for absence, the result of force majeure. As you may have seen James mention, I have been on paternity leave, and a little earlier than anticipated, after my daughter decided to get things moving, with precision timing, on the very first day of the 2015 Ashes.

As the aftermath has been rather more complex than expected, I’m not sure how often I’ll be around during the next week or two, but I’ll pop in whenever I can. Hope to see you all soon.

Maxie Allen


  • Hi Maxie

    Congratulations on the arrival of your beautiful daughter who has wonderful timing!


  • Congratulations on the birth of your daughter Maxie and thanks for taking the time to tell us about it. :-)

    Great post but I think you were hard on Cook. Both he and Stokes made invaluable contributions in different ways. Both got out making mistakes that could have been avoided. Same as the rest of them.

    I think you are absolutely right about Australia’s easy ingrained authority. Batting first did serve them well but it’s far from the whole story.

    The failure of our top order leaves no room for error down the line and that is a hard ask. I can’t understand why it happens over and over again. It’s difficult for the middle order to make the most of their talents amidst the carnage. Something needs to be done. It can’t just go on.

    Lyth needs to be given more time but there are question marks against both Ballance and Bell. If changes are made they need to be for the better and no one leaps off the page, except perhaps Bairstow on current form.

    His inclusion would make for an adjustment in the order but I would not like to see Root any higher than 4. He might be our best batsman but his prefered style of play is not best suited to the more restrictive slot at 3.

    Who knows how we might perform in tbe second innings but unless things are radically different I would expect to see changes in tbe squad for the third test.

    Hoping that we do well and and that we post a decent kind of score. Some encouragement would go a long way in helping Englabd’s confidence the next time out.

    Buttler in particular looked badly at sea. He needs to discover his batting role and more importantly play each ball on merit. I accept that he is learning in a hard place.

  • “Look into your hearts, though. What do you really think will happen?”

    I think any outcome is completely on the cards.

    Let’s assume Australia win at Lord’s and it’s 1-1. It means the series is up for grabs and whoever plays best hereafter will win it. That could be England.

  • Hi Maxie

    Congratulations on the new addition to your family. Will your daughter see England beat the Aussies again in her lifetime?

  • Congratulations about your daughter. I think that this article is harsh and overly negative. In the previous test England blew Australia away and we got well reasoned writing on here which did not go overboard either way. This test yes Australia dominant but could so easily have been different if England had won the toss and batted for two days following the first Test victory.

    It is clear that for several months you do not want Cook at the helm but whilst not a fan myself it is a shame that such well written pieces focus on one area constantly. I do not feel that either side is light years ahead of the other, just England held stunning catches and played superbly in the opener, here crucial toss went against England and Australia capitalised, end of.

    Look forward to remainder of the series and also more superb writing on it but balanced to reality.

    • Still think so ?

      Australia at least made a fight of it in Cardiff. Scoring 242 in the fourth on that pitch was a decent effort.
      After Australia’s first innings here, the draw ought still to have been possible on what has remained a thoroughly benign strip. And our second innings thus far smacks of capitulation.

      As for Cook, while he’s back somewhere near to his best batting form, those who described his captaincy after Cardiff as ‘inspirational’ are delusional.

  • Also Maxie, congratulations on your new arrival.

    Would you consider calling her Devereux as a celebration of Steve Smith’s great batting?

    I think that’s actually a pretty cool name for a little girl. Feel free to use it.

  • Congrats on the baby.

    Cook balance and Lyth out difficult to see the match ending well for England now. 1 wicket for each Mitch. Hazelwood to get his name changed by deed poll so he can join in.

  • So, Australia have made approximately four times as many runs per wicket as England.

    A pretty telling statistic.

    • And which is a far worse performance statistically than our heaviest ever defeat in 1948, where Australia scored only around two and a half times as many runs per wicket.
      And they had Bradman.

  • In over forty years of listening to the cricket onTMS and watching on TV (when it was on terrestial TV), this has to be England’s most woeful batting collapse ever. The pitch is a featherbed on which Rogers and Smith were able to make huge scores without any trouble. No team ever in the history of Test cricket collapses quite like England. We saw it in the West Indies, we saw it against New Zealand, but this one is the worst of them all.
    Australia made a fight of it in the 4th innings in Cardiff, eventually all out for 242 with some resistance from Warner and Johnson. They were well beaten, but not humiliated. Here, England have been made to look like a village team up against the Windies greats of the 1970s and 1980s. No one has appeared to have any belief that the game could be saved over the next two days on what is a near-perfect batting wicket. At least they could have showed some fight and batted well into tomorrow. Years of following England does leave one as a pessimist, but even I expected better than this. This has to be one of the worst ever batting collapses.
    Australia’s changes in personnel have worked well, Mitch Marsh looking a really good replacement for the jaded Watson. Neville has made a few errors, but overall he has had a good debut and probably never dreamed of being part of such a massive win.

    England’s cowed, inept approach leaves me totally depressed. How will the players lift themselves after such a humiliating defeat ? The mental scars left from the Ashes 2013-2014 series have been re-opened and you wonder if any of them can recover now in time for Edgbaston and the other matches. It’s a far worse defeat for England to cope with mentally than was Australia’s loss at Cardiff, where at least they made a fight of it. Not only am I deeply depressed, it’s also left me angry.

    Well done to Rogers, Warner and Smith for batting so well and cashing in on the slow wicket. Well done too to all the Aussies bowlers, each of whom has contributed key wickets throughout. Hazelwood seems to complement Johnson and Starc perfectly, and Lyon is a better bowler than Moeen, even if he is not yet a great spinner. Some of our batsmen seem scared of Johnson and Starc, even on the two slow wickets we have had so far in the series.

    I hope that is the last slow, lifeless wicket we see in this series. We almost deserved to lose after having prepared a pudding like that. Australia will feel so confident after this thumping victory and they will now be raring to go for the third test.

    Does anyone have any ideas for any personnel changes in the England team ? Lyth is not convincing as an opener and Ballance looks like a walking wicket with his non-existent footwork. Bell is going through a horrid run of low scores which started in the 2nd test in the Windies. He just doesn’t seem to be there mentally at the moment, it is such a shame because he is a talented player. Root had a poor match, but he did well at Cardiff, is averaging in the mid fifties in test matches, and others need to step in when he has a bad match, which will happen from time to time. He failed v NZ at Headingley and we lost that match too. Stokes, Buttler and Ali all have great potential, but they are bound to struggle if the top four keep failing and we end up with scoreboards such as 52 for 4 as was the case today. Broad bowled well in the first innings, Anderson wasn’t able to get any swing and was “nullified” by the pitch, to use Glenn McGrath’s description.
    The mental weakness concerns me as much as anything. If that had been Australia batting fourth to save the game, they would have shown more fight and at least taken the game well into Monday, they might even have saved it. Why do England batsmen turn into rabbits in front of headlights ?
    Bairstow is in great form for Yorkshire this season, could he come in at number five, with Root moved up a place and Bell dropped ? What to do about Ballance, given that you need a really top player in at number three ? Should Moeen be moved up the order, given that he sometimes looks a bit fragile against very quick bowling ? Would a player like Nick Compton be a better bet than Lyth to open, or should Lyth be given more of run in the side ?
    Thank God there’s a little break now until the third test, to give time for some calm reflection. You don’t want to see a team being chopped and changed constantly, but the fact is that several players are just not performing:Lyth, Ballance and Bell being the biggest cause for concern.
    What a woeful capitulation. Sometimes I wonder why we put ourselves through this annual torture with England. Three series running now where a good win has been followed by a bad defeat. No consistency, technical shortcomings, mental frailty. I’m lost for words really, it’s just too depressing.

      • I was thinking last week, where England were talking about playing their “aggressive brand of cricket”, Australia were talking about playing “cricket”.
        The difference is quite telling!

    • Thanks for taking the time to write such an in depth piece. We’ll have our thoughts on potential team changes in the coming days. I’m not quite sure what the solution is atm! Very depressing not to show any fight at all today.

    • We do tend to get more traffic when England lose! I’m not quite sure what that says :-)

      • The Australian fans who like to visit dare show their heads above the parapet again?

        Or it could be the old saw that it is only bad news that is interesting.

  • There will have to be some psychological damage after that trouncing. Second innings was a disaster for England. Time will tell if they can recover for the remainder of the ashes

  • Congratulations Maxie and welcome back.

    After the first test there was much praise for Andrew Strauss, with at least one paper giving him the credit for the victory. It will be interesting to see who (if anyone) gets the blame after today?

  • Many thanks for your kind words. Much appreciated.

    In hindsight, my post now seems, if anything, rather optimistic!

    • Can I belatedly add my voice to the congratulations ?

      My only excuse for failing to do so earlier was my horror at England’s dismal performance.

  • Nice to see you back Maxie and congratulations on your daughter, may she have a long and happy life.

    She’ll probably find the happy bit easier as an Australian supporter.

  • I didn’t comment after the first test, and in fact I avoided reading much about it such was my disappointment with Australia’s performance. I did poke my head in here and thought James, as an England fan, was on the money with his measured celebrations. Also, some overly negative comments – enjoy those sunny days when you can, guys! The heralding of a new era of English cricket (for the third or fourth time this summer) I read in more mainstream sources amused me, and I wait with baited breath to see what the papers will read like tomorrow.

    I thought the batting effort second innings 5th test in Sydney 2014 would be the worst batting I would ever watch in my life. I was wrong! The lack of fight, especially compared to Australia’s doomed 3rd and 4th innings bowling and batting efforts in Cardiff really stand out to me, and you have to wonder if this is going to snowball as the 13/14 Ashes did. Both teams have variable form, and Australia has steamrolled England in single tests a few times but lost the series (Perth 10/11, Headingley 2009, Lords 2005)… but with Cook’s weak leadership, only Joe Root really standing out for England as a potential matchwinner at the moment, and Australia’s potential to take 20 wickets in any conditions, Cardiff feels like the outlier in the recent results.

    Congratulations Maxie. Last September I bought tickets to Cardiff day 1 and day 2 that I was going to fly over for, but unfortunately had to sell due to the impending arrival of my first child. Still waiting… but it is an exciting time, and I hope you get as much paternity leave as I am entitled to here in Norway to watch cric- Oops… I mean help out with the kid!

  • Congratulations Maxie On The Birth of your wonderful new addition to your family – It makes C L R James’ s famous maxim very true to life – “What do they know of Cricket, who only Cricket know?”

    Some random jottings:

    Of course, it’s all KP’s fault for refusing to just go away and leaving the sainted Alistair being the anointed one in peace!

    It’s also the fault of those of us “Outside Cricket!” for not accepting the judgment of our lords and betters unquestioned.

    Pathetic, just pathetic – and that’s just putting it mildly!

    Lyth should be kept on – after all, if KP and AC were given so many chances to prove themselves, then so should he!

    Ballance should watch his back – the man seems a walking wicket whenever he strides onto the field – but who to replace him – Bairstow perhaps?

    Cook goes out at 96 playing such an amateur shot by his standards – That seems to be fine – when KP once was out at 94 trying to hook his way to a Century – it was like we discovered that he had called Andrew Strauss a “Doos” – double standards of course on behalf of the Cricketing Establishment as usual!

    Bell should be given a chance at Edgbaston – It is his home ground after all.

    I’m still in shellshock and as bad language is not encouraged her, I will stop…for now!

    • I’m so angry about it that I know I won’t be able to sleep tonight.

      Other adjectives that spring to mind when considering England’s collapse today…woeful, pitiful, clueless, inept, stultifying, humiliating, brainless, cowardly, cowed, feeble, pathetic, shocking, horrendous, soul-destroying…I could be up all night at this rate !

  • Maybe you should recall the 1984 Ashes…An Evgland win follwed by an Aussie win and then an unstoppable Ebglish ginish. however, where are the equivalents of Gower, Gooch and Ellison…let alone Edmonds, Botham and co.?

    Who wants to see Cooky and co on a greentop against Hazlewood? Zero wickets for Anderson at Lords is really disappointing. Not since the Oval 2009, against Australia, has jhe failed to pick up a wicket. He looked shot.

    Wood looked totally knackered on Saturday evening. too. Micj Hunt obviously prepared a pitch for a full 5 days but his employers will be disappointed. If they leave some grass on at Edgbaston, as Nasser Hussain advocated on Sky, just wait for the carnage. I remember Illingworth asking for similar conditions against Ambrose and Walsh in the mid 90s….. Superior pace outs itself…and i do not think this English barring side have such great techniques that they are obviously better than the Aussies.

    Still sticking with 3-1….

  • See who wins the toss next match.

    Stokes batting looks a lot better than his bowling. Looks like a proper fighter with bat in hand.

  • Well, I’ve tried to calm down after this afternoon’s Calypso Collapso at Lord’s. I went for a walk around the local common, watched the Tour de France highlights and ate a healthy dinner. But I still have steam coming out of my ears !
    That collapse today showed such a lack of pride in wearing the England cap and jersey, such a lack of fight, such a lack of clear thinking. They almost deserve to forfeit their match fees, with the exception of Stokes and Broad.
    And to think KP was regularly blamed for getting himself out to poor shots, but Cook can get away with it twice in one match. So far he has scored one good, battling 96, but has failed in his three other knocks. He has to set the tone to the others, talk to them in the dressing room about fighting hard and not giving your wicket away, leading by example. In his post match interview with Aggers on TMS, he denied England management had had any say in the pitches being prepared for this series. I guess he has to say that, but I don’t believe him. He has to ask himself, and the management has to ask itself: why is it that we can play well in one match, only to play really poorly in the very next game ? It points to an innate lack of self-belief and confidence within the team. It just takes some good fast bowling from the Mitchells and they start looking like rabbits in headlights. Cook played fast bowling well in Australia in 2010-2011, what’s gone wrong ?
    KP has had the door slammed in his face, what a shame an olive branch wasn’t offered to him genuinely at the start of the season, not the “we might consider you IF you can score runs in county cricket” phone calls with Colin Graves. They could have said to him: if you can score lots of runs for a county, we will consider you for the Ashes series in the event of a middle order player’s loss of form or injury. KP may not be the player he once was, but I reckon Australia are far happier to see him out of the side. KP may have made mistakes in the past, but he is far more sinned against than sinning and it is so sad to see a man who averages 47.28 in test cricket twiddling his thumbs at the age of 35. Age doesn’t seem to be a problem for Chris Rogers, even though he will be retiring at the end of the series.
    So given that KP’s England career is irrevocably over, then who can be brought in to shore up the faltering top order ? It is a real shame that Jonathan Trott was rushed back into the team in the West Indies to open the batting with Cook, a position he had never played in before. Lyth should have started that series, perhaps he would have prospered against the West Indies OK but not great bowling attack. He did OK against NZ but now looks out of his depth. It would be harsh to drop him so soon, but given that Cook is not scoring enough runs either at present, how many more chances will he get ? Compton, Carberry and Robson were all unceremoniously dumped in recent times. Ballance does not inspire me with confidence at the moment, he looks out of his depth at number three. Bell is all over the place mentally, averaging about 11 since the second test in the West Indies. I don’t know enough about the county game to know if there any viable alternatives for numbers one, three and four. Any suggestions for county players in those positions who can get their heads down and play long innings and who are happy against pace ?
    The England team should feel ashamed of itself tonight. I could have forgiven them if they had got about three hundred odd and been bowled out on Monday, but 103 all out in 37 overs is both pitiful and pathetic. It’s hard to love a team who capitulate as meekly as that.

    • Barstow certainly has the temperament, form and correct technique to be worth a look. Of course how he would fare against Australia’s world class attack is a matter of conjecture.

      Whether to drop Bell or Ballance is an interesting question. Bell is actually averaging less in his last eight innings. Despite Lyth’s miserable run, he’s still averaging 10 runs more than either in the same time.

      I’d stick my neck out and say that Lyth must be persisted with. He simply hasn’t had enough time in the middle to adjust his game to Australian pace. It’s still quite conceivable that he will succeed – and there are no candidates for his replacement who obviously would, so there seems little to be lost in giving him more time.

      Three is the real crunch position. Ballance doesn’t seem to have the technique to survive there against the best – and I regard it as a condemnation of Bell and/or England’s management that he hasn’t grabbed the opportunity to move up the order. He is the most classically correct of Englan’s batsmen.

        • Yes.

          You can’t drop him, Bell and Ballance all at once, and of the three, he is the likeliest to improve.

          I’m not saying he will be able to step up his game to deal with the Australians, but I think he should still be given the chance. Especially as he should have been blooded in the West Indies.

  • I must say that while I realise that batting for a doomed cause is hard I fully expected England like they did in the first innings to make Australia use two new balls with someone digging in for the long haul. It was an insipid performance worthy of the worst moments of English cricket in the 90s. There was more bounce later in the game, but clearly the terrors for England were more in the Mitches than the pitches.

    A lot has been talked about England’s top order issues, but I would be also a little concerned for Anderson. While taking 0 wickets in his last 3 innings is poor but happens, the fact that it coincides with his new habit of running down the wicket suggests that something has changed about his bowling rhythm and may not be just to do with lack of swing as he started doing it in Cardiff when the ball was swinging. Time will tell on that one.

    Joe root is a good player but some questions must still be asked against him vs genuine pace. He’s got a great average but his two big scores against Aus were after early drops, and one wonders how he will fair against SA when England play them next when you watched him playing Johnson off the handle today on this pitch.

    Broad has bowled fantastically. Certainly the pick of the English bowlers, and really right up there with how the Aus bowlers have bowled except he lacked support in this game. He’s certainly England’s most consistent bowler in this series and in Australia 13/14.

    For Australia potentially losing Rogers is a worry given how well he has played in recent times. In ten innings 7 fifties, a 173 and 49*. Sean Marsh is there to step in but has only ever shown promise not results. A century is possible but a pair seems more likely. As I read somewhere Smith’s technique is still to be tested in English conditions – will we get English conditions this series?

    In the bowling it looks pretty good for Aus (clearly it was pretty good, but I’m looking forward). I feel Starc has a lingering niggles that are not seeing him at his best. Still he’s been effective enough taking early wickets so far. I expect he will do better with a better wicket. Hazlewood could end up an all time great test bowler, 7 tests in he retains his bowling average below 20, and is a fantastic complement to the tearaway pace of Johnson and Starc.

  • England got what they deserved today. Let’s hope Australia annihilate them this series. I want Cook to be humiliated and his career ruined in the same way that he allowed to happen to Pietersen. The only way this will happen under Strauss is if they are hammered 4-1. And then on to South Africa – let’s hope another hammering there. And then on their knees begging Pietersen to come back into the side.

    It really does serve them right.

    Am I bitter and full of hate? Yep – you bet I am. I don’t forget or forgive.

    It’s a shame that the whole side has to suffer for this to happen but I’m afraid there’s no alternative. Strauss had his chance to allow Pietersen a route back but his petty vindictiveness slammed it shut. Now English cricket needs to learn the lessons of that mistake.

  • Mixed feelings. Sad for the loss but more so for the overwhelming humiliation kind of loss. However, although I think Root deserved his accolades, the hagiography of Strauss and Cook was so over the top that maybe it takes something like this to make them rethink. Of course whatever changes they do make could turn out to be the wrong ones…

    And I am not through with the issue of the total banishment of KP. You can drop a player, if you have a better reason than some nonsense about “trust”, but making anyone totally unavailable for selection is ridiculous. This is not a medieval kingdom where the monarch orders someone out and then raises the drawbridge, however much some seem to think so. And to do this to a player capable of match-changing is yet another slap in the face to fans. I’m very irritated when I’m told this happened so long ago there is no point in refusing to let the ECB quietly get away with it, because we are talking about the time from May to July. My memory goes back that far. The argument for not bringing up KP because I wouldn’t want to seem at all negative of unbeatable England has just died a terrible death.

    I see no reason not to continue to let ECB know what is unacceptable behavior. The treatment of KP is one issue. Then there is the anti-terrestrial TV garbage, the cricket-is-just-fine-left-to-only-public-schools idiocy, contempt for the fans, absurd seat prices (how do you take your kids to see the cricket?): I could go on and on and to the ECB I will. Add your own observations to the fix-it list and I promise I will whine about them :)

    And they had better not ruin any of the young players, particularly Root.

    • the hagiography of Strauss and Cook was so over the top that maybe it takes something like this to make them rethink.

      I doubt it.
      In the reporting of the match, it was noticeable that various England batsmen got justly slated for the dumb/tame ways in which they gave away their wickets, while Cook more or less got a pass – and the mentions of Strauss were scarce indeed.

    • I can’t afford to go to the test matches myself, but would love to go to one of them and unfurl a huge BRING BACK KP banner, just to show the ECB clowns that he has not been forgotten about.

  • England can’t loose hope now itself. There’s more time to catch up to the Australians and defeat them. According to the past series, Australia has won 32 series and England 31 series. So 2015 can be the 32nd win for England (yey!).


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