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England's top order routed

Sky Sports logo Sky Sports 18-07-2015 skysports.com

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Australia are in a dominant position after two days of the second Investec Ashes Test at Lord’s after an inspired spell of fast bowling routed England’s fragile top order. 

Adam Lyth, Gary Ballance, Ian Bell and Joe Root all fell cheaply as England collapsed to 30-4. Dogged resistance from Alastair Cook and Ben Stokes then guided the hosts to 85-4 in the face of a thunderous onslaught from the tourists with both bat and ball.

Galvanized by a masterful double century from Steve Smith, and the Australia vice-captain’s record-breaking partnership with Chris Rogers, the tourists ended day two with a mammoth lead of 481 runs after declaring their first innings on 566-8.

England’s response couldn’t have been more inauspicious. To just the second ball of their reply, a nervy-looking Lyth edged behind as he lamely hung his bat outside off stump to a probing delivery from Mitchell Starc.

Mitchell Johnson required just one more ball to make his own instant impact. First change into the Australian attack, a full-pitched delivery from the fast bowler arrowed in under the bat of a static Gary Ballance. Worse was to follow as a problematic 28-2 became a calamitous 29-3 when Ian Bell, angling his bat towards mid-on to a swinging ball which hit his off stick, was dispatched by a gleeful Josh Hazlewood. 

It has become a familiar routine: in as many Test matches this year, England have lost their first three wickets for less than 52 runs on seven different occasions. The difference here was that Joe Root, so often their saviour, could not stem the tide as he edged a fired-up Johnson through to debutant Peter Nevill. On what remains an uncooperative surface for bowlers, it was a spell of the highest order from Johnson.

Stokes’ reply, typically, was to meet fire with fire as he launched a blistering run-a-ball counter-attack. Nathan Lyon was hoisted high into the stands by England’s belligerent all-rounder but with three days of the Test remaining the odds remain stacked against the hosts leaving London with their precious lead in the series still intact.

What a contrast to the serenity of Australia’s innings. Rogers, hit on the head by the first ball of the day, a well-directed bouncer from James Anderson, had progressed his overnight score to 173 when he was comprehensively beaten by a full delivery from the excellent Stuart Broad. Rogers' partnership with Smith had spanned 484 deliveries and produced 284 runs – nine more than the tourists averaged from their two innings in Cardiff – and set a new record for Australia’s second wicket at Lord’s.

But there was no stopping the indefatigable Smith, dropped yesterday on fifty by Bell at second slip, as he cut, nurdled, drove and pulled England to all corners. Only after a stay of 346 deliveries was Smith eventually dismissed – and only then by the narrowest of margins with barely a sliver of the ball hitting the batsman's front pad in line with the stumps -  as he attempted to reverse-sweep part-time spinner Root for what would have been the 26th boundary of his remarkable innings. Following a brief demotion, Smith is certain to start the Edgbaston Test later this month ranked as the world’s best batsman. 

Only Michael Clarke failed to prosper before Australia’s middle order commenced their chase for quick runs. Padded up for almost the entirety of a full day’s play, Clarke never settled after belatedly reaching the middle as England’s bowlers, led by Broad, probed the defence – and patience – of the Australia captain outside off stump. 

But having survived a series of airy wafts, Clarke’s dismissal occurred in soft fashion as he shovelled a short delivery from Mark Wood to square leg. He departed for just seven and a series average of 17 – a rare black mark on another dominant day for Australia for which has left the tourists perfectly positioned to level the series.

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