After negotiating a horrendous situation yesterday, Cook and Stokes would surely have to bat long and well today if England were going to have a chance of saving the test. Having been 30-4, the two had negotiated a very tricky period yesterday and kept their wickets intact.
The initial period this morning saw Stokes continue to play in his usual, counter attacking way. He passed fifty and looked good value for those runs, moving closer to yet another Lord’s hundred. Mitchell Marsh helped reassure the Australian selectors that their decision to pick him was a shrewd one, when he took the wicket of the all rounder. Stokes departed for 87, having shared a partnership of 145 with his skipper. Such a partnership represented a significant recovery from 30-4 last night, and it was now down to Jos Buttler to continue the revival.
England’s keeper could only add 13 though, before Nathan Lyon got himself his first of the match. When he was dismissed the score was 210-6, leaving the hosts some way off avoiding the follow-on still. Alastair Cook continued on his merry way, and despite being dropped on 63 by Steve Smith he looked set to occupy the crease for a lot longer. Once in the nineties, few would have bet against the England captain hitting his first ever home Ashes hundred. With the score on 266, and Cook needing another 4 for his ton, he chopped on. As he dragged himself off the field England looked desperately to Moeen Ali to try and get somewhere near the follow on target.
He played quite well, making 39 as England were eventually bowled out for 312. While the Aussies could have enforced the follow on, they chose not to. That might have had something to do with the undoubtedly huge amount of enjoyment their batsmen experienced last time out, or it may simply have been seen as a chance to rest the bowlers. Either way, England failed to take a wicket before the close, with Warner and Rogers putting on 106.
To sum up, Australia are effectively 362-0, with two days left and a lot of control. England will not win the game from here, anyone can see that. They might well still draw it though, while it will take a better batting display than the first innings effort. A quick word on Rogers, who seemingly just starts off where he left off every time he walks out to bat. Warner made 60 of the runs too, and England could certainly have done without a return to form for him.
If I had to say either way, I’d say Australia will win. That doesn’t mean England can’t hang on for the draw though, with Cardiff 2009 springing to mind. Regardless of which way it turns out, it should make for a very interesting spectacle!