Clarke responsible for day one position

Date: July 20, 2013 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

Australia had a day of extremes on the opening day of the second Test at Lord’s but finds itself in the ascendancy with the hosts 7-289.

Play was delayed for 15 minutes as the teams lined up in the front of the iconic members’ grandstand to be introduced to the Queen.

Her Majesty left the ground about an hour into the day’s play but at least she outlasted three of her countrymen who were part of a shambolic start to England’s innings, reduced after six overs to a miserable 3-28.

The initial breakthrough was engineered by skipper Michael Clarke who replaced James Pattinson after two overs with Shane Watson who struck with his second ball, claiming the prize wicket of Alastair Cook for 6.

Ryan Harris then repaid the selector’s faith – he came in to the side at the expense of Mitchell Starc – with a double strike in the sixth over, snapping up Joe Root (6) and Kevin Pietersen (2).

But even with those three vital strikes England still had the opportunity to keep the scoreboard ticking over with as a result of plenty of wayward deliveries with eight boundaries struck in the first hour total of 3-42.

After the scintillating start the wickets dried up as the quality of the bowling fell away.

The hour following lunch was Australia’s worst with Ian Bell and Jonathon Trott making merry against some lacklustre bowling that lacked controlled line and length with the total being bolstered by 61 runs in just 14 overs.

The second half of the middle session was better but the only success came courtesy of Harris who dismissed Trott for 58, ending a stand of 99.

Bracketing the tea break, Bell and Johnny Bairstow continued to score largely at will adding 144 runs under minimal pressure.

Bairstow was handed a reprieve from the governor when clean bowled by Peter Siddle for 21 with the third umpire rightly adjudging the delivery was a no-ball.

Once the new ball shine disappeared the Australian pace attack failed to produce any reverse swing and as a result looked reasonably impotent, a problem that has beset them on recent Ashes tours.

With the pitch and the outfield less abrasive then Trent Bridge it will be interesting to see if James Anderson and co can make the old ball talk when they are in the field.

With the Australian quicks battling to bend the ball off the straight and on a firm and true pitch England recovered from a shaky start to the relative safety of 4-271.

At that point Clarke pulled a rabbit out of his baggy green in the shape of part-time leg-spinner Steve Smith.

Introduced in the 77th over with the new ball on the horizon he produced a peach to have Bell caught at slip.

It a carbon copy of his Trent Bridge heroics he was again out for 109 – his third Ashes century in as many Tests.

Clarke kept the new ball up his sleeve and it paid dividends with Bairstow (67) falling to a return catch off a Smith full toss in the 81st over.

Matt Prior (6) was then caught behind on the cut off Smith in the 85th over.

With Smith having snaffled 3-18 off six overs he gave way to the new ball for the final two overs of the day.

England limped to stumps at 7-289 with Tim Bresnan (7no) sharing the pitch with night-watchman James Anderson (4no).

Australia has its nose in front but its position in the match is more as a result of some intuitive captaincy rather than tight and probing bowling.

Harris was the pick of the pace battery with figures of 3-43 off his 20 overs.

Both Siddle and James Pattinson went wicket less with Pattinson well below his best with 18 overs costing 79 runs at a rate of 4.4 per over.

The first hour of the second day is crucial if Australia wants to restrict the home side to a sub-350 total.

Bresnan is a capable batsman as are Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann who are still to come.

A par first innings on this pitch looks to be around 450 so Australia has a real chance to put themselves in front of the game early.

But to capitalise, the batsmen must come to the fore.

They will be tested up front by Anderson, Broad and Bresnan.

With Ed Cowan having been jettisoned – perhaps permanently – the onus at number three falls to Usman Khawaja.

His form thus far in the United Kingdom with Australia A and the Test squad in one of the first-class warm-up matches in the run in to Trent Bridge has been modest.

He has been on the periphery of the Test team for the past eight months and he has now been handed a chance to nail down a permanent spot at his second attempt.

Khawaja, like all Australian fans, will be hoping his introduction to the crease will be delayed by a solid start from Watson and Chris Rogers.

The pair put on 84 at the top of Australia’s second innings at Nottingham.

They need to at least replicate that performance to give the best possible conditions to the rest of the top-order.

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 19 July 2013