England, despite a strong start in the first Ashes at Edgbaston earlier this month, found themselves at the wrong side of the spectrum by the end of the game. The unavailability of James Anderson, who left the pitch after bowling just four overs on the opening day, sure had its effect, but to say England knew what they had signed for during the selection would be an understatement. Afterall, he was selected merely a month after he had torn his calf.
At this stage though, valid reasoning would deem as an utter excuse. So, as England prepare for the second Test at Lord’s, what lies ahead of them?
Anderson’s injury has forced England to make subtle changes in the team. Moeen Ali has been omitted, with Jack Leach being called as a replacement. Jofra Archer, on the other hand, is set to make his much-awaited Test debut, leading to the suggestions that England are heading into the fixture with a much-needed momentous intent; something that they were deprived of by the end of the first Test.
Having said that, it is safe to say the grass is still greener for England, and here’s why they can restore the parity when the two teams meet at Lord’s.
Chris Woakes – A ‘Lord’ at the Lord’s
Stuart Broad’s five-fer, which included wickets of David Warner, Cameron Bancroft and Steve Smith, almost made England forget that Anderson is no longer available for selection. That coupled with Chris Woakes’ three-wicket haul raised England’s hopes over the roof.
Birmingham might very well be Woakes’ home ground, but it Lord’s where he has let his performance do all the talking to an entirely different level. In only his second Test at the venue, the 30-year-old entered the league of greats by scalping 11 wickets in the first of four-match Test series against Pakistan in 2016.
Chris Woakes’ Test record at Lord's as a Batsman
Chris Woakes’ Test record at Lord's as a Bowler
Best bowling figures
His all-round performance at the venue is something that England need to build their game on. In four matches at Lord’s, Woakes has scored 274 runs at an average of 68.50. His bowling figures, on the other hand, are even more superior; 24 wickets (best figures 6/17) at a bowling average of mere 9.75, which happens to be the fourth best bowling average at a single venue in Test cricket.
You see, Woakes at Lord’s is a synonym to sheer success.
A psychological advantage
Since January 2010, England have won as many as 11 of their 19 Tests at Lord’s, with Pakistan being the only team to overpower them (two victories in three games at the venue). As for their captain, Joe Root, he has, over the years, made a habit of losing at least one Test in a series. And for all those defeats, victories have come on a trot. His record as a captain reads, 4-1 (against India), 3-1 (against South Africa), 2-1 (against West Indies) and 1-1 (against Pakistan).
The pressure is there for sure, but then again, England are used to working under pressure and get better results out of it.
The mighty Jofra Archer
Anderson’s injury is a blessing in disguise for Jofra Archer. And for all those talking about his inclusion, a certain Shane Warne has backed the pacer to come out victorious when Archer faces Steve Smith at Lord’s. Archer, who plays alongside Smith for team Rajasthan in the Indian T20 League, missed the first Test with a side injury. But now that he is back and running, Australia are up against a fiery contest.
"No one likes to face tall 90 mph bowlers," Warne said of Archer.
"They (Archer and Smith) will have faced each other a lot in the nets so if anyone will have a plan, it will be Jofra."
He may have not played an international Test, but his record for Sussex is something the Aussies will have to look for. It was only earlier this month that the 24-year-old scalped six for 27 and went on to score an 84-ball ton with the bat.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Lindsey Parnaby