Make no mistake, the real actor in what happened on the final day of the second test at Lord’s was England captain Ben Stokes. There were his exploits at Headingley in 2019, but four years later he has moved up a few notches. Unlike the Leeds game, Stokes’ 155 balls (214) with nine fours and as many sixes could not bring his team home as the Australians won by 43 points on another day of thrilling Test cricket. But the rates offered for the second consecutive game will keep fans coming back for more.
Stokes has struggled with a sore knee and took a blow to various other body points during his batting, but his record, whether it’s the White Ball World Cup final or crucial Test matches, shows that he loves big events when everything rests on his shoulders.
It may have all started with Johnny Bairstow’s drowsy cricket, according to some commentators, when he emerged from his box after dodging Cameron Green’s bouncer. It was the last ball, but the umpire on the bowler’s side did not declare the end. Goalkeeper Alex Carey had already collected the ball, and when his armpit shot hit the stumps, Bairstow was already well outside his penalty box.
The ball was not dead, and the batsman was ruled stumped.
For about 90 minutes on either side of lunch on Sunday – since Bairstow’s dismissal – it was unusually hectic at Lord’s. Forgy Carey, there was only going to be one winner, though the last English couple tried their best to delay the inevitable.
The Big Picture
In addition to the dramatic final day, this test will also be remembered for the fact that both teams used short pitches with great success. The two-tempo nature of the pitch may have influenced this, and even on the final day when Stokes was coming off, Australia resorted to the same tactic as the pitch didn’t help much and they lacked their main off-spinner Nathan Lyon, who was expected to do his thing in the fourth inning.
Even after Stokes was dismissed, the eighth and ninth wickets fell due to bounces before Mitchell Stark broke the Tonga resistance with a yorker.
This series was billed as a clash between baseball and Australia’s more thoughtful, traditional approach. Both matches so far have gone almost to the winning end, and both times the more conservativeapproach. After a more energetic style at Edgbaston, England showed a little more pragmatism in the second test, which manifested itself in a flurry of bouncers midway through the fourth day that got them back in the game. That dried up the runs, and with a few fielders on the boundary it made using the short ball a risky option.
With the fielder on shortstop and the fielder on leg-gallies, using the bouncer was also a challenge.