The Ashes: 3 key battles to watch out for in the second Test
For cricket lovers across generations, The Ashes is arguably cricket's fiercest rivalry. Tussled between its two oldest protagonists, England and Australia, the phenomenon of the Ashes commenced with a mock obituary following a splendid triumph for the latter at The Oval in 1882.
Riding on the spectacular hundreds in consecutive innings from the run-machine Steven Smith, Australia grounded world-champions England to dust in the opening Ashes Test, played at Edgbaston. Recklessly destituting at 122/8 on the first morning, the unconventional batting aficionado produced a transcendent 144, complemented superbly by a vigorous knock from Peter Siddle to steer Australia to a respectable total of 284.
Responding courageously, the hosts dominatingly outclassed the meager score to procure a substantial lead of 90 runs - courtesy a ton from Rory Burns on Ashes debut. Smith, again pulverized the England bowling attack to craft a majestic century in the second innings, wresting back the advantage in favor of the visitors as captain Tim Paine eventually declared on 487/7. Chasing an improbable 397, the English batsmen lost the plot as wickets kept tumbling at crucial junctures. The hosts were reprehensibly bundled out for a meager 146 as Australia inflicted a comprehensive 251-run whacking.
Nevertheless, the topsy-turvy encounter proved to be a visual delight for the cricketing fraternity, accomplishing the essential of a relishing challenge between bat and ball. While several batsmen prospered with flying colors, most endured a horrific period at the crease in the showpiece contest.
Leading into the subsequent clash, we look forward to three key battles to watch out for.
Steve Smith vs Jofra Archer
It would definitely not be an exaggeration to proclaim that Joe Root and his men lost the Edgbaston Test to Steve Smith himself, leave alone the rest. Trumpeting his arrival to the longest version of the game in style, the batsman notched twin tons to single-handedly demolish a potent English bowling unit. Unfazed despite the constant heckling from the audiences, the former skipper churned out gargantuan knocks to script a famous Australian victory.
24-year-old Jofra Archer, who is set to make his debut at Lord's replacing the injured Jimmy Anderson, is inherently shouldered with the responsibility to nullify the mightiest Australian threat. Archer, who was England's leading wicket-taker in their triumphant World Cup campaign possesses golden virtues of raw pace synthesized with the ability to bowl along a disciplined line and length consistently. The ingenious prowess of the Surrey bowler to nonchalantly deliver the perfect yorker might prove fatal for Smith, who generally tends to move a lot at the crease. Moreover, a deadly bumper snared at 150 kmph can even terrorize the most unfeared.
The intense battle comprising of Archer and Smith promises to be fascinating. Team-mates in Rajasthan Royals, the duo must have sparred against each other in numerous practice sessions before. It remains to be seen if Jofra Archer can discover a chink in the armor of Steve Smith, who is on the roadway to eclipse Virat Kohli as the premier Test batsman of the modern generation.
David Warner vs Stuart Broad
David Warner, optimistic of a blazing return in whites following the infamous ball-tampering episode, struggled to get going at Edgbaston. The dynamic southpaw never looked in rhythm, specifically against veteran Stuart Broad, who spearheaded the bowling unit in absence of the injured James Anderson, proved to be his nemesis twice. Beaten on the flick, the returning opener was adjudged LBW for 2 in the first innings, caught plumb on the shuffle.
The lanky speedster got rid of Warner in the second innings as well; puzzled whether to leave or defend, a nimble seaming delivery kissed the edge of his bat, depositing comfortably into the waiting mitts of Jonny Bairstow. Initially ruled not-out by Umpire Joel Wilson, an obvious review by England confirmed the ball slightly grazing the glove padding.
Relentlessly toiling in the humid climate, Stuart Broad rose to the occasion with a justified five-wicket haul in the first innings. Boasting of 106 Ashes wickets yet, the legendary pacer has always been a powerhouse against arch-rivals Australia.
David Warner has achieved success in the red-ball format by amalgamating his stroke-playing instincts with a touch of caution. The ongoing Ashes series will be a grueling test of character, considering his vulnerability against the moving ball. A tough ask ahead for the world-class performer.
Jason Roy vs Nathan Lyon
Renowned amongst the cream of the crop at the international level, England's latest Test recruit Jason Roy disappointed in the series opener with insignificant contributions. The dynamic stroke-maker perished cheaply to James Pattinson in the first innings, caught in the slip cordon after tentatively poking at a delivery nibbling away, pitched in the corridor of uncertainty. Though one can argue he copped an absolute peach, an absurd dismissal in the second innings left the supporters fuming as the hosts eyed a deadlock. In an abrupt rush of blood, the exuberant Roy charged down the track to wildly hoick a regulation offie from Nathan Lyon, only breaching through his defense to clatter the timber. Spinning a ferocious web around the Englishmen, Lyon went on to bag six wickets on the ultimate day, helping Australia rewrite history erasing their 18-year-old win-less drought at Edgbaston.
Rewardingly drafted into the Test squad for his credentials in the limited-overs format, the right-hander would be desperate to cement his spot, grabbing the opportunities on offer. Irrespective of the developing rhetoric of emphasis on counter-attacking at the top, Roy needs to labor through his runs, curbing his natural flair to somewhat extent. Dealing with spin bowling is a vital aspect, as far as attributes required for batting in Test matches are concerned.
Will Jason Roy effectively combat the spin wizard? Only time will tell.
Also read - Ashes Most ten wickets hauls