When chaos escalated after tea, Australian radio veteran Jim Maxwell called it the weirdest hour of cricket I’ve ever seen-it’s madness in the home of cricket-and few in the crowded Lord’s stands disagreed with him.
England, who were so depressed on Wednesday, started the day much more determined when Australia resumed play at 339-5 on Steve Smith’s 85, and Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson quickly removed Alex Carey and Mitchell Stark.
However, Smith, who on Wednesday became the fourth Australian to break the 9,000-run mark, continued to press on for his 32nd Test century before finally bowing out at 110 thanks to a superb catch by Duckett at second slip, giving Josh Tonge his third wicket. Captain Pat Cummins, who fought superbly to bring Australia home in the first Test, looked confident again, finishing unbeaten on 22 points, and while he will be pleased with his team’s final score, it represents something of a departure from when they seemed to lead by 316-3 on Wednesday afternoon.
England proceeded to respond with their usual speed, and Duckett and Zach Crowley’s partnership of 91 runs was their best starting stand at the Ashes since Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook scored 98 in Sydney in 2011.
Crowley looked particularly dominant until he was stumped for a run on the 48-ball after he seemed to have prepped for Nathan Lyon’s attack.
Ollie Pope stepped in and kept the momentum going while the Aussie attack tried to get some penetration into the game. He had no problem with spaces all over the field, but he couldn’t resist Cameron Green’s bouncer and sent the ball straight down Smith’s throat, one of three men placed on the boundary on the leg side for just such a gift, and he dropped out in the 42nd minute.
Australia was celebrating even more loudly a few moments later when Joe Root, seemingly caught up in the giddy excitement, was caught behind his back, swinging wildly at the second ball he faced and was only recalled after Green’s serve was ruled a no-ball.
Despite this save, England continued to act, while Australia continued with its short-ball and foot-stand approach, and Duckett was next to pay for it, caught on the hook with the topher edge two steps away from her place on Lord’s Honor Board.
Almost unbelievably, Ruth did the same in the 10th minute, caught by Smith on Mitchell Stark, and Harry Brook was dropped back to square-leg by Marnus Labuschagne, also swinging at the Scottish ball.
It was captain Ben Stokes, more than anyone else, who had to bring a note of calm to the game during the final hour, as the captain reminded his teammates that it was the law of the game to leave a bounced ball.
By the end of the game he was unbeaten by 17 points, Brook by 45, and England was 138 points behind.
Australia suffered a setback during the final session when off-spinner Lyon, playing his 100th straight test, limped in pain and appeared to have a calf injury that could leave Australia with no options in the fourth inning.