London: England’s Ashes series lead is in jeopardy after Steve Smith’s maiden double century, and a rush of early wickets for Australia's pace attack, put the tourists in control at Lord’s. Smith reached 215 and Chris Rogers made 173 as they completed Australia’s highest stand at the home of cricket, 284 for the second wicket, in a first-innings of 566 for eight declared in this second Investec Test.
Australia’s Steve Smith celebrates his double century against England on Day Two at Lord’s in London yesterday. Pic/Getty Images
Poor start for England
Mitchell Johnson then led the demonstration of fast, swing bowling as England lost three wickets for two runs en route to 30 for four -- before Alastair Cook and Ben Stokes engineered a partial recovery to 85 without further loss at stumps on Day Two. James Anderson had observed 24 hours earlier that -- despite Australia’s 337 for one at that stage -- England merely needed to ‘win’ the remaining four days to go 2-0 up here after all.
But Smith refused to yield until almost tea as Australia extended their plunder on a benign pitch -- and then Johnson and Josh Hazlewood took the surface out of the equation by bowling full, fast and moving the ball late.
The ploy of delaying the declaration until one over into the evening session, preventing any leeway for England’s openers to adjust mentally from toil to new-ball pressure, perhaps affected Adam Lyth.
He was first to go, to a poor shot, pushing out on the back foot as he edged behind off Mitchell Starc for second-ball duck. Gary Ballance registered four boundaries, with gaps available as Michael Clarke packed his slip cordon.
But England’s number three was then stuck deep in the crease, as he has been so often this summer, and was bowled off-stump driving without using his feet when first-change Johnson found immediate and telling swing.
That was the first of three wickets in successive overs, Hazlewood bowling Ian Bell with more of the same, and Johnson doubling up when Joe Root went after a short ball but could only edge behind for debutant wicketkeeper Peter Nevill’s second catch already.
Smith had lost his status as the world’s number one batsman when he mustered only two 33s in last week’s defeat at Cardiff, but will surely be heading back to the top after passing 200 for the first time at any level -- and becoming only the third Australian to do so here.