By Stephen Giles
- England’s top order collapses in second Ashes 2015 Test
- Australia declared on 568-8.
- England closed on 85-4, still 282 runs away from avoiding the follow-on.
LONDON, UK – England face a huge fight to avoid defeat in the second Ashes Test after another top order batting collapse on the second evening at Lord’s.
Replying after tea to Australia’s 566-8 declared, England slumped to 30-4, with Mitchell Johnson striking twice to compound another awful day for the hosts.
It was an exhilarating spell of fast bowling by Australia, and it took just two balls to reassert their dominance, making the all-too-easy breakthrough when Adam Lyth needlessly swiped at a wide delivery from Mitchell Starc, and edging it through to débutante wicket-keeper Peter Nevill to take the catch.
0-1 soon became 30-4 with Johnson taking two wickets in seven balls as England vulnerabilities were once again left exposed.
Gary Ballance, having drove Johnson to the boundary with his first ball, was greeted second ball with a full, fast and swinging delivery which somehow evaded his bat to send Johnson leaping into the air with delight, as the ball removed his off stump.
Ian Bell was then clean bowled by Josh Hazlewood when he misjudged a straight ball, only for it to clatter into his off stump, and Joe Root – England’s ‘Get out of jail’ card – edged Johnson behind for one. England were in a hole and digging furiously.
With 19 overs remaining on a pitch that remained slow, Alastair Cook dug deep into his reserves to reach 21 not-out and Ben Stokes counter-attacking 38 spared any extra embarrassment with an unbeaten stand of 55, closing the day on 85-4, still 282 runs short of avoiding the crucial follow-on target.
Earlier, Steve Smith had consolidated his first day exertions by making a wonderful 215, with Chris Rogers contributing with 173, while Stuart Broad was the pick of the England bowlers, bowling with discipline and ending with an admirable 4-83, as Australia lost their last seven wickets for 229 before declaring an over after tea, but by then, the damage had already been done.
England’s hopes of saving the Test appear to be gone, however there is one small crumb of comfort to grasp onto.
During the Test series against New Zealand in May, England found themselves in an all too familiar predicament. At 30-4, at the same venue, they recovered to reach the follow-on target and then went on to win the Test. With heavy rain likely to wash out Sunday’s play, anything is possible.
Play continues on Saturday 18 July at 11am BST.