Australia in control for second Ashes Test

Steve Smith’s poise and Travis Head’s strokeplay has batted Australia to a position of dominance in the second Ashes Test at Lord’s, going to stumps on day one at 5-339.

Jun 29, 2023, updated Jun 29, 2023
Australia's Travis Head on day one of the second Ashes Test at Lord's, London. Photo: Mike Egerton/PA Wire.

Australia's Travis Head on day one of the second Ashes Test at Lord's, London. Photo: Mike Egerton/PA Wire.

On a big day for the visitors following their thrilling Edgbaston first Test triumph, Smith finished Wednesday unbeaten on 85, Head smashed 77 off 73 balls and David Warner posted his first half-century in nine innings with 66.

Marnus Labuschagne also showed signs of being closer to his best with 47, before he was against caught behind edging a ball outside off stump.

England, though, were very flat.

The liveliest the hosts looked was when Jonny Bairstow tackled a “Just Stop Oil” protester after the first over of the morning, as teammates rushed to protect the pitch.

In truth, the day might have almost turned out better for England if they had let the protesters pour their orange powder on the pitch and play had to be abandoned.

After winning the toss and bowling first, England dropped two catches in the first session and only took a wicket on the last ball when Josh Tongue bowled Usman Khawaja, who made a bad leave on 17.

Warner’s half-century was the opener’s first since laying out retirement plans for next January, and only his second score above 50 in 20 innings.

The left-hander set the tone in the opening over when he cover-drove James Anderson for four, and later brought up his 50 off 61 balls, hooking Tongue for six.

He also made a point to unsettle England’s bowlers, walking down the pitch at Stuart Broad, attempting to scoop-sweep the seamer on another occasion and slog-sweeping Ollie Robinson for four.

“With the white ball, I play (the sweep) quite a bit,” Warner said.

“It is risky, but in the back of my mind, I’m looking to score and try and put them off the line and lengths.”

Tongue (2-88) eventually got his wicket with a brilliant ball that seamed back between bat and pad.

Then Smith took charge.

The right-hander scored 24 from his first 15 balls before he settled into the same kind of batting trance that was evident during the record-breaking 2019 tour of England.

Smith’s innings took him past 9000 Test runs, with the former Test captain the second fastest in history to reach the milestone with 174 innings, behind Kumar Sangakkara’s 172.

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After questions were asked about whether Broad had a mental edge over Smith and Labuschagne following their Edgbaston struggles, the pair answered emphatically.

Smith hit the first two balls he faced from the English seamer for four through the covers, before Labuschagne followed it up with three boundaries in the next over.

Broad’s first spell at the pair lasted two overs but went for 21 runs.

Then came the Head onslaught.

The South Australian cut balls from marginally outside off stump and drove on the up.

He flicked off his pads and brought up a 48-ball half-century with a cracking hook shot off Tongue.

“He can take it away from you in that half-an-hour patch,” Warner said.

“Striking at over 100 on that wicket is exceptional.

“He applies the pressure back on to the to the bowling unit. They bowled pretty good to him first up. The ball was moving a little bit and then he countered.

“He just manages to hit them through backward-point or get on top of the ball that’s rising off the wicket. He just finds a way.”

Head appeared on track to challenge Victor Trumper’s 95-ball century from 1902 as the fastest scored by an Australian in England.

But he was stumped late in the day trying to take on Joe Root, when England’s best-batter-turned-chief-spinner saw him coming.

Root (2-19) also claimed Cameron Green’s wicket in the same over, caught at mid off after miscuing a pull shot.

Even so, it was Australia’s day in conditions made for England.


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