There are moments that define Ashes series. The evening session in the second day at Lord’s may yet be looked at as one of those.
In the final session of the day, Australia’s spinner Nathan Lyon was forced to leave the field through injury, and England’s attacking style was put under the microscope and questioned in a way it has not been before, as they finished on 278 for four.
While the Lord’s Test might not have received the hype of the series opener at Edgbaston, nor the costumes or chanting from the stands, it has a pivotal place in the series. An England victory and it’s all square, a defeat and it’s a bigger mountain to climb than Ben Stokes’ side have ever faced.
Root had scored an unbeaten 118 on the first day of the series. Before any rogue declaration or missed chances, he played an innings that helped him move to the top of the world’s Test batting rankings ahead of the second match.
Lord’s was momentarily stunned when he came to the crease with England 188 for two, and as a new batter, the Yorkshireman gloved an ugly miss-timed pull shot through to wicket-keeper Alex Carey.
Australia were jubilant, but there was a lifeline, when Cameron Green’s delivery was called a no-ball. However, it did not prove as costly as first feared, as Root followed a trend of poor decisions made by England’s batters.
Root tried to pull Mitchell Starc, top-edged the ball and was caught by Steve Smith, a catch that underwent an umpire’s review, but the decision was made. And England let a leading position slide from 188 for one to 222 for four, after Australia put on a first innings score of 416.
Ben Duckett was dismissed for 98, just two runs short of a first Ashes hundred— (Getty Images)
Ben Duckett was caught off a top edge for 98, and Ollie Pope caught on the boundary for 42 just picking out deep square leg. As ever under Bazball, their scoring rate pressed on, but England arguably allowed what would have been a definitively dominant position slide.
It could have been even worse for the home side, when Harry Brook was dropped on 26 by Marnus Labuschagne, but they managed to reach stumps four down, thanks in large part to a slightly uncharacteristically measured 17 from 57 by Stokes.
For Australia, the main talking point may not even be the flurry of wickets. Nathan Lyon made history when he took the field for his 100th successive Test match, becoming the first bowler ever to do so.
But it could prove to be a short-lived one. When going for a Duckett top-edge, Lyon pulled up, and had to hobble off the field for treatment.
Sat down beyond the boundary rope, the Australian spinner cut a crestfallen figure. It evoked memories of Glenn McGrath’s slip on a cricket ball hours before the second Test of the 2005 Ashes.
Nathan Lyon leaves the field after picking up an injury in the second test— (Getty Images)
If Lyon’s is similarly severe, it would reshape Australia’s formidable bowling attack for the rest of the summer.
Of all the Australian players, it almost had to be Lyon. He has become a villain among England fans for his comments ahead of the 2017/18 Ashes, that he hoped Australia would ‘end careers’ of the visiting players.
While his calf injury may not be quite as serious as McGrath’s two ruptured ligaments and bone damage, it could have series-long implications.