After a torrid day in the field, England really needed some early success on day 2 to bring them back into the game. While it would have been a tall order to skittle the Australians on such a flat deck, the way back into the game was clear: restrict the visitors and get some confidence back up.
That early success did come when Broad got through the defences of Chris Rogers. The score was 362 when Rogers was dismissed for 173. He had played a truly magnificent innings, facing 300 balls and punishing the bowlers whenever they strayed. Now though, Michael Clarke came to the crease seeking to cash in. However, the Aussie captain really struggled to deal with Broad’s aggressive bowling, and fell to Mark Wood for just 7.
Broad had bowled well first thing in the morning, and continued the good work after removing Adam Voges with a leg-cutter, and then bowling Mitchell Marsh shortly afterwards. Australia were 442-5, which represented a considerable improvement. While England were experiencing some success however, Steve Smith continued to look every bit the world’s number one test batsman. He moved past 200 and continued to cash in. When eventually he fell for 215, the score was 533 with debutant Peter Nevill going well.
Nevill scored at a very reasonable rate, making 45 before he was dismissed by Joe Root. That only left the question of when Clarke would elect to declare. Tea came and went without the expected call, as the Aussies seemed determined that bowlers Johnson and Starc were best off warming up by swinging a bat. The declaration came when Johnson fell, Broad claiming his fourth victim. Australia had made 566-8, heaping scoreboard pressure on the hosts.
Now, the worst thing England could do in this situation would be to be lose a couple of early wickets. Therefore, when Adam Lyth decided to fish at a wide one outside off stump second ball. Starc was elated, Lyth’s head was down and England were 0-1. Gary Ballance walking out to the middle might not have filled too many England fans with much confidence, and perhaps that lack of confidence was founded. Ballance followed Lyth back to the pavilion after making just 23. He was bowled by Johnson, and was out yet again to a full delivery. While I’m not suggesting Ballance has to go, he certainly has to be the first to go should there be a change to the batting order. As one sky pundit put it, there aren’t many number 3s in test cricket who ca’t play short bowling or full bowling.
Ian Bell had looked good in the second innings at Cardiff, but lasted just two balls here. He got a beauty from Hazlewood that swung away and took out his off stump. England were 29-3 as Root walked to the crease. The Yorkshire golden boy had dug England out of similar situations enough recently, and would have to do it again now.
When Johnson had him caught behind, reducing the hosts to 30-4, the bookies’ odds for an Aussie win would have soared. Quite how England had turned a flat track into a 30-4 track is beyond most. Perhaps it was scoreboard pressure, perhaps Australia bowled better, but the bottom line was that England had it all to do.
Ben Stokes walked out in less than ideal circumstances, but he and Cook managed to see the day through. Stokes even managed to launch a six off Nathan Lyon, giving the England faithful something to get cheer (perhaps ironically) about.
Regardless of that cheer, Australia are in control and simply have to level the series. Certainly, 16 English wickets are a long way off, but judging by the events thus far of the test, something is going to have to change.