Friday 20 October 2017

Root causes havoc to send Aussies into spiral

Joe Root: Caused havoc for Australia
Joe Root: Caused havoc for Australia

Stephen Brenkley

England have defeated Australia by 347 runs at Lord's to go 2-0 ahead in the Ashes series.

The victory was as complete and clinical as the scoreline makes it sound, as overwhelming as the first in the series was narrow. It came in the last over of the fourth day, just when it seemed that Australia's tail would take them into the last day.

For the tourists it was a devastating blow to any chance they had of regaining the Ashes. That is theoretically possible with three matches still to play, but it is a purely academic supposition. To become reality it would need something from the realms of fantasy, say Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne to be rejuvenated and Don Bradman to be reincarnated.

Australia are being urged to try less dramatic surgery such as the recall of the veteran batsman Simon Katich, who is playing superbly for Lancashire, and summoning the recently nationalised Pakistan-born leg-spinner Fawad Ahmed.

But the evidence of what has taken place at Lord's in the last four days suggests that these would be plasters on gaping wounds.

This was England's fourth win in four Test matches at home this summer, following the two against New Zealand.

Perhaps as pertinently it was Australia's sixth successive defeat following their 4-0 loss to India. The last time they suffered such a sequence was in 1984 when Kim Hughes ended his brief tenure as captaincy in tears.

Michael Clarke, their captain on this tour, will neither be crying nor going anywhere soon, but the strains of office will be starting to tell. After failing so narrowly to overhaul England in Nottingham it seems that Australia expended their best efforts.

Their performance at Lord's, a ground on which they had not lost a Test for 75 years until 2009, was miserable, undermined by an exhibition of batting in their first innings that was a light year away from the method and control that is needed in a Test match.

Australia have shortcomings in almost every area except their tail-end batting, which was again obdurate but could not prevent the team sliding abjectly to defeat yesterday. Their spin bowling has not truly been up to it with Ashton Agar failing to take a wicket in either innings on a turning pitch.

Nor has their fast bowling been quite as potent as expected, with James Pattinson, especially, not living up to the expectations bestowed on him before the series started. But all criticism eventually arrives back at the place it started: their top-order batting.

There was never the remotest chance that Australia would make the 583 runs they needed after England declared their second innings at 349 for 7. They batted on to allow Joe Root, an obvious candidate for man of the match, to reach his double hundred.

But it was more than a sentimental gesture by captain Alastair Cook. The milestone would not only have established Root – that was already done – but the effect on Australia would have been more sapping than it already was.

In the event, Root perished for 180, playing a reverse ramp shot which might be more at home in the Twenty20 arena but will be increasingly seen as part of Test matches. (© Independent News Service)

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