We don’t yet know the exact nature of the position England find themselves in after the first day’s play at Lord’s against Australia – being Test cricket it could be anywhere from disastrous to advantageous on the sliding scale – but what we can be certain of is that the same frailties were evident.
England lost the toss and were put into bat by Australia captain Tim Paine – a move which the history books suggested was a bold one.
Every other time that has happened since 2007 the hosts have made hay, posting scores of 553-5 dec, 593-8 dec, 377, 505, 446, 486, 474-8 dec, 575-9 dec and 389.
Such is their current state, a repeat performance was never on the cards. Even if he’d known Paine wouldn’t have hesitated.
In the end England mustered 258 and were grateful for it. Josh Hazlewood, brought in for James Pattinson, showed just why he was preferred to Mitchell Starc, challenging England’s ragged top order with some high-class probing.
Jason Roy faced three deliveries from Hazlewood (3-58) and looked like getting out to all of them. After wafting at a wide one and missing another he was drawn into an entirely predictable outside edge. On a day in which many were getting A-level results it was a grim failure for Roy.
According to analytics platform CricViz, England’s latest hope has now edged or missed 29 per cent of the balls he’s faced in Test cricket – a record worse than every other opener, bar one, to have played more than three innings in the last 12 months.
From then on in it was a case of familiar problems as only Rory Burns (53) and Jonny Bairstow (52) prospered among a litany of disappointment.
Joe Root (14) was pinned lbw by some seam movement from Hazlewood, Joe Denly (30) was outdone by a picturebook away-swinger from the same bowler and Burns was caught brilliantly at short leg by Cameron Bancroft before the real underperformances came.
Rot sets in
There wasn’t much swing, seam movement or spin for Australia to play with and yet Jos Buttler (12) and Ben Stokes (13) managed to give their wickets away. Buttler contrived to edge Peter Siddle behind before Stokes was plumb lbw trying to lap-sweep Nathan Lyon from in front of his stumps.
Right now, and for some time, England have needed to prioritise grit and substance over style and speed – and yet they look either incapable or unwilling to play an old-school innings.
Bairstow and Lord’s specialist Chris Woakes (32) ensured England hobbled from 138-6 to 258, but the rot had already set in and damage been done.
If England are going to reclaim the Ashes they have to win this Test match, but they are intent on making it harder for themselves.
Sub-par batting and poor weather, which has already washed out the first day and is threatening chunks of the remaining three, could well undermine their efforts.
Stuart Broad continued his success against David Warner, bowling the left-hander with a beautiful delivery to make it three dismissals in a row, but Cameron Bancroft (5 not out) and Usman Khawaja (18 not out) rode their luck against debutant Jofra Archer to reach 30-1 at stumps and ensure Australia had much the better of the day.
After another poor batting performance, England have once again left their bowlers with work to do.
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