A brave new world or a crime against the conventions of cricket?
On Thursday, with Lord’s stunned watching, England threatened to waste a good day at work against Australia in successive shots.
Having eased to 188-1, the hosts stayed true to their Bazballing instincts and attacked a clear short-pitched bowling plan from Australia.
England attempted to score but three wickets fell in quick succession – Ollie Pope, Ben Duckett and then Joe Root all offering catches playing pull shots.
Criticism from the pundits was vociferous as Duckett stood his ground in a stinging exchange afterwards as Lord’s witnessed another impressive day of Ashes cricket.
How the chaos happened
England scored quickly in the afternoon session but did so in relatively calm fashion – reaching 145-1 after 30 overs at tea.
Then, Australia turned to burly all-rounder Cameron Green for a short-bowling tactic, a move that only increases as a spinner. Nathan Lyon was hobbled off with a calf injury.
In a 21-over spell, Australia bowled 59% of the time and England accepted it – sticking to the aggressive tactics that have brought them success recently by attacking more than 60% of those deliveries.
- Pope tries to hit Green for a six and is caught at deep square leg.
- Three balls later, Root was caught off the glove playing another pull, which was only recovered by a no-ball.
- Duckett, a first Ashes century two runs away, top-edges Josh Hazlewood to fine leg – with one worn at slip, the other slants to the keeper and almost hits a chance at deep square leg.
- Root was caught by a jubilant Steve Smith after he offered another catch off the edge.
- Harry Brook was brought down by Marnus Labuschagne after playing an explosive pull shot.
From 188-1, England were 222-4 and it took a more measured approach from Ben Stokes to take them to 278-4 at the end.
‘Absolute stupidity’ – pundits criticize England
Australia started the day 339-5, so for England to dismiss them for 416 and finish 138 runs behind represented a successful day.
However, former England captain Michael Vaughan said their attack against the short-ball ploy was “absolute stupidity”.
“For the first 182 runs, I saw an England side that came out to knock and played with great entertainment because they played the right strokes of cricket,” he said on the BBC Test Match Special.
“Pat Cummins was the only one left with that option because there was nothing going on in the air, no seam movement.
“What happened after that for the next hour or so was absolute stupidity.
“That’s not entertaining, I’m sorry, that’s stupid Test match cricket and Australia will be happy with that approach because when the ball isn’t swinging in the next few weeks, guess what they’re going to do.”
Australian batter Steve Smith seems to have given in to Vaughan’s opinion, suggesting that England’s strategy played into their hands.
“Sometimes it really happens,” he told BBC Sport.
“You can only go short things for so long. The ball wasn’t working very well, it was soft and the clouds were gone. As they continued to play for them, we felt the game.”
‘I was surprised by the question’ – answered Duckett
Duckett disagreed. The opener admitted he was disappointed to get out but backed the approach that has taken England to 11 wins in 14 Tests under Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum.
“That shot got me a lot of runs in my career,” he told the BBC’s Test Match Special.
“That’s how I was scoring runs before it got me out. I’m just gutted I didn’t get over the line, if I would have gone away from my natural game, I’d have been more frustrated.”
Asked again if there was any doubt in the dressing room about the three similar dismissals, he said: “I’m not sure how to answer that. I was surprised by the question.
“We have played positive cricket in the last 12 months and we are certainly not going to change.
“We’re very happy with the position we are in, if we can eek close to them and even get a lead, I think we’re on top in this game.”
England will stick to their ways, however much it polarises opinion. That’s it, say it…
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