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Ashes 2023

Stokes’s near-miracle, stumping controversy and Ollie Pope’s shoulder – takeaways from the Lord’s Ashes Test

Ashes 2023, Lord's
by Katya Witney 4 minute read

Australia took a 2-0 lead from the second Test match at Lord’s, despite Ben Stokes’s heroics threatening the perception of what should be possible in cricket once again.

England have plenty to think about coming away from the game, not only the makeup of their side going into a definitive match at Headingley but how to avoid another collapse in the proportion of their first innings capitulation. Australia will have to think about how best to balance their bowlers with no Nathan Lyon.

After a breathless finish at Lord’s, here are the main takeaways from the match.

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Ben Stokes comes so close to another miracle

As Ben Stokes brought up his century with a third consecutive century before Lunch on day five, whispers of Headingley 2019 had already started to echo around the ground. While at that point a similar result looked even less likely than four years ago, as the runs ticked down and no wickets fell, Winviz put England’s noses in front. It’s hard to fathom the regularity with which Stokes plays these innings. Lord’s was raucous while he was bashing down the Australia seamers, an atmosphere that it’s only seen twice, both time Stokes the cause.

In the end, this was too much. At the time Jonny Bairstow was out, England still needed 173 and there were four non-batters to come. The fact that he go England to a point where most of those watching were convinced he could go all the way is testament to his genius in these situations. There was expert management of Stuart Broad at the other end, powerful hitting and that authoritative aura that he gives off in these scenarios. Had he pulled it off, it would of been the innings to top all his others, that he didn’t quite manage it doesn’t stop it from being one of his best.

Time for Todd Murphy?

Nathan Lyon’s heroic battling innings all-but confirmed he’s done for the series. For the first time in 100 Tests, Australia will go into a Test without their dependable off-spinner. That will, in all likelihood, mean Todd Murphy will make his Ashes debut. He is the spare spinner in Australia’s squad, selected after an impressive showing in India where he took 7-for on debut in Nagpur.

While it’s unlikely, the other option Australia have is to play a very deep seam-lineup by adding Scott Boland back into the side. There would then be five seam bowlers in the team, but heavy reliance on Steve Smith, Marnus Labuschagne and Travis Head as part-timers. Nevertheless, regardless that Australia managed to bowl England out effectively in the final innings at Lord’s without Lyon, this would be a risky path to take.

Questions loom over England seamer selection

England’s trademark new ball pairing of Stuart Broad and James Anderson struggled to take wickets early on in Australia’s innings during this Test. Short-pitched bowling overtook traditional seam and swing for both sides as the match progressed. Anderson has now struggled in two Tests on the bounce, and while he didn’t bowl badly at Lord’s, he wasn’t at his penetrative best. They will have to weigh-up pushing their aging seamers too far without placing too much responsibility on Josh Tongue and Mark Wood’s fitness.

Ollie Robinson’s speeds were also well down in the first innings before his successful spell in the third innings. If Mark Wood is deemed fit enough to play, he is likely to come into the side.

Ollie Pope under injury cloud

It’s unconfirmed whether Pope will be fit to play at Headingley, but he has been named in the squad. Pope has been a huge part of the success of England’s new era, cementing himself at No.3 and providing them with a firm base at the top of the order. Although he has yet to get going in this series, he will be a hard man to replace. Potential options at England’s disposal include Dan Lawrence, the spare batter in their squad, or calling up Ben Foakes to the side. Both of these scenarios will necessitate one of England’s incumbent middle-order to move up to No.3. They could also call up Alex Lees, who has starred for Durham over the last few months, and dropping one of Zak Crawley or Ben Duckett down the order.

Ashes needle rears it’s head

Alex Carey’s dismissal of Jonny Bairstow opened a post-match can of worms on day five at Lord’s. Pat Cummins was booed during the post-match presentation as he reiterated the legitimacy of the dismissal, while Stokes questioned whether it was in the spirit of the game. With strong feelings on both sides and the Headingley crowd notoriously raucous, the knives are definitely out during the tense flash-points Ashes matches tend to produce. While both captains talked down the hostility between the two sides after the match, there was clear animosity on the field, particularly from Stuart Broad. How much that will progress through the rest of the series will be a thread to follow.

Will the short-pitched bowling plan persist?

Bouncers dominated the wicket-taking methods during the second Test. The nature of the pitch, selection of the side and England’s attacking nature meant shorter-pitched bowling was preferred for both sides. For England, if Mark Wood is selected he will have the pace to inject a different kind of bouncer ploy, and the balance England decide to go with for their seam-attack will also have a part to play. Given that it’s expected both sides will have a front-line spinner rather than neither which was the case for most of this Test, that will also affect each side’s plan of attack.

The pitch and conditions at Headingley will also have their part to play. Given that Headingley usually offers something for all types of bowlers, we could see more varied attacks next week.

England are clearly capable of refocusing their all-out batting attack mentality

England lost this Test match on the evening of day two and the morning of day three. The fact that they were still in with more than a chance of winning it on the evening of day five is testament to Stokes’ brilliance rather than anything else. Had they executed their shots better or been clearer in how they would play the short pitched bowling on offer, they would not have collapsed the way they did in their first innings.

When Duckett and Stokes came out on day five, they played the short stuff well. They made sure the ball mostly went along the ground (until Stokes teed off) and didn’t take the many catchers on the boundary on. England are capable of refocusing, and that doesn’t mean a change in their attacking mentality. That’s here to stay and will undoubtedly be on display at Headingley. It’s their execution that will be the focus.

Australia one win away from retaining the urn

When it boils down to it, regardless of how close England have run them, Australia are 2-0 up with three to play. They could retain the Ashes at their earliest possible opportunity at Headingley. Even a draw will mean retention, as England will be unable to win the series. If they manage it, it will be a crowning achievement for the side Australia have become over the last two years under Cummins.

They came into these series as World Test Champions, but with a reputation of going to pieces in the closest moments of matches. In the first two Ashes Tests, they have completely put that label behind them. If they secure the urn at Headingley, it will secure their status as a truly great Australia side and befit the dominating force they’ve become.

You can bet on the 2023 Ashes with our Match Centre partners, bet365.

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