More rain halts England’s Archer inspired revival at Lord’s
Hosts start brightly but Steve Smith still at the crease as Test heads towards wet draw
Jofra Archer traps Cameron Bancroft LBW at Lord’s - his maiedn Test match wicket. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty
Day three, Lord’s: Australia 80-4 (S Smith 13*, S Broad 2-26) trail England 258 (R Burns 53, J Bairstow 52, J Hazelwood 3-58) by 178 runs.
Another 74 overs were lost as the rain descended as promised in the early afternoon. This enhances the chances of a rare drawn Test in this country – there has been only one in the last 34 here.
That outcome is still by no means guaranteed, however, and the captains will ensure none of the players is seduced into concluding the draw is inevitable – and with good reason. In the 21st century batsmen are less adept at batting out for a draw and there are still 196 overs available in the second Ashes Test.
There is plenty of evidence that batting for survival does not suit the mentality of England’s lineup; there was a stark reminder of that on the final day of the previous Test at Edgbaston. Nor are Australia impregnable in these circumstances, especially if their mighty totem is no longer tiptoeing across the crease. At the moment Steve Smith is still there going about his business as expertly as ever, playing a different game from those at the other end. He is still 127 runs short of his vulnerable period, so easily identified after Edgbaston, in the 140s.
Even so, it may well be that Australia are the readier of the sides to settle for the draw. In the 24 overs possible in the morning session England took three wickets for 50 runs under darkening skies. It was a good time to bowl on a pitch devoid of much pace, though not entirely trustworthy, and England exploited the conditions efficiently enough.
Not much happened for 40 minutes. Joe Root began with Stuart Broad at the Nursery End with Jofra Archer gliding in from the old pavilion. Cameron Bancroft, quick to move on to the front foot, was nonetheless hellbent on survival. Usman Khawaja, who is barely capable of playing an inelegant stroke, scored a few runs down to fine-leg off Broad and then, after the introduction of Chris Woakes at his favoured Nursery End, through the covers.
Thirty runs had been added without much bother when Archer, with his surprisingly short, casual run-up, cruised in to Bancroft. This time the ball jagged down the hill and struck the pads. Up went umpire Aleem Dar’s finger and Bancroft soon asked for a review. So there was an agonising wait for Archer before his first Test wicket became a reality. No doubt he would have preferred the sight of Smith’s stumps cartwheeling towards the wicketkeeper but the departure of Bancroft after an umpire’s review would do.
Following this breakthrough England were impressively disciplined. There was barely a free run on offer. Three balls later Khawaja nibbled at a Woakes delivery and the nick carried into Jonny Bairstow’s gloves. So far in this match no edge has reached the fielders in the slips. In England’s cordon Jason Roy has been stationed at second slip since the start of the Edgbaston Test without receiving a single chance. Who knows whether he can catch there but he has certainly looked the part.
After Archer had completed a seven-over spell, which yielded only eight runs as well as Bancroft’s wicket, he was replaced by Broad, who nearly always bowls round the wicket to left-handers now. He has become adept at this as he seeks to move the ball towards the slip cordon though this method is a tacit acknowledgment that his ability to swing the ball into the pads of left-handers is a distant memory. No matter; he can still torment them from this angle.
Soon one of his deliveries thudded into the pads of Travis Head. Dar was just about to pull the trigger but then paused and changed his mind, an unnecessary precaution. The review demonstrated the ball was hitting the middle of middle. By now the bowlers were in the groove. Matthew Wade, normally a skittish batsman, faced 23 deliveries without scoring before lunch, which was taken five minutes early as the clouds thickened and the drizzle began.
All the while Smith stood firm at the other end. He was as calm as ever until the threat had passed when there might be his exaggerated, puppet-on-a-string movement as the ball entered the gloves of Bairstow.
At least England made him work hard, which is an important part of the battle. He had scored 13 runs from 40 balls during the morning session with two boundaries, a pull from a rare poor delivery from Woakes and a typically exasperating leg glance off a straight ball from Broad.
Smith must start again on Saturday morning and his side will be confident of matching England’s total only if he remains at the crease. - Guardian