After a remarkable win at Edgbaston, Australia heads into the second Ashes Test with every reason to be confident.
Steve Smith scored twin tons to lift the side from the edge of defeat to a comfortable victory, while Nathan Lyon put on a fifth day clinic to leave England wary of serving up another dry track.
On the opposite side of the ledger, the hosts lost their best bowler to injury and the fragility of its batting order was exposed.
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The two sides will resume hostilities on Wednesday and in a gift from the fixture-making gods for Australia, the match is at Lord’s. The Australians have a win loss ratio of 2.142 (15 wins, seven losses) at the venue making it comfortably its happiest hunting ground in the UK.
Nevertheless, Australia will have to be at its best if it is going to take a 2-0 lead. There is plenty for the tourists to worry about.
WOAKES IS A WEAPON AT LORD’S
The searing pace of Jofra Archer and the match-turning abilities of Stuart Broad may seem the biggest threats to Australia’s ambitions, but it’s the all-round ability of Chris Woakes that could truly shape things at Lord’s.
He may be overshadowed by the more explosive Ben Stokes, but in home conditions Woakes is as good an all-rounder as any team can hope for, averaging 43.37 and 22.10 with bat and ball respectively in the UK. At Lord’s those numbers become even more impressive .
From four Tests at the home of cricket, Woakes has taken 24 wickets at 9.75 runs apiece and scored 274 runs at 68.50. That’s the best average of anyone to have ever taken 20 wickets at the ground and a respectable 30th of anyone with more than 200 runs there.
The right-hander took 6-17 in his previous Test at the venue – admittedly against Ireland – and 11 in a game against Pakistan in 2016. In between he chipped in with four wickets against India in a match that saw him make a decisive and unbeaten century.
Woakes scored runs in both innings at Edgbaston and was particularly impressive with the ball on day one. If Australia is not careful, he could have a much bigger say at Lord’s.
LOOK OUT FOR ARCHER
It has been almost a year since Jofra Archer played a first-class match, with his tune-up for Sussex’s Second XI last week not given that status. Archer ran riot against the Gloucestershire Second XI, taking six wickets and scoring a century but is up for a much sterner test against Australia.
Nevertheless, he will be confident heading into his Test debut. The fast-bowler averages 12.87 in first-class cricket at Lord’s. That is from the smallest possible sample size – he has only played one match at the venue – but he has enjoyed himself at the first-class level. He has taken 131 first-class wickets at an average of 23.44, so he could hardly be considered a white-ball specialist.
Just about England’s best bowler at the World Cup (20 wickets at 23.05), it would be a surprise if Archer was overawed by the occasion and the hosts are hopeful his extra pace could bring Steve Smith unstuck.
“Smith has run riot against England over the last six Test matches when they have hit him with a diet of right-arm medium pace – they haven’t had any pace in their ranks at all,” Atherton told Sky Sports.
“Suddenly they are going to get Archer, who is fast, and that is going to be the test for Smith.
“Archer looks a nightmare to face because he gets tight to the stumps and gets his pace from jogging in.”
LEACH VS SMITH
Speaking of Smith, England look set to test out the latest theory as to just what the superstar batsman’s kryptonite is. CricViz crunched the numbers and it seems left-arm finger-spin could be the golden ticket, with Smith’s average plummeting from 62.96 overall to 34.90.
Given Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow are the only members of England’s XII-man squad for the second Test boasting a better Test average than 34.90 it is hardly a damning statistic for Smith. But if you’re going to clutch onto anything as the opposition this seems as good a thing as any.
With that in mind, England has called up Jack Leach at the expense of Moeen Ali and only the greenest of pitches would see him miss out on selection to Sam Curran.
Leach grabbed headlines last month for his match saving 92 batting as a nightwatchman against Ireland but it is his skills with the ball that England require. The left-arm finger-spinner has taken 270 wickets at 25.29 in first-class cricket and has averaged 26.20 across his five Test matches. If he can find way a past Smith at Lord’s, he can consider himself a lock for the rest of the series.
THE BROAD FACTOR
It’s a strange idea but Broad might actually be a more dangerous bowler in the absence of James Anderson.
The pair became the most prolific Test opening bowling duo of all time last year and have been the engine room of the England team for the past 10+ years, but neither is too dependent upon the other for success.
So while the Australians won’t have to deal with the greatest Test wicket-taker in fast-bowling history this week, it won’t have an easy time of it against Broad. Statistically speaking, the veteran shines when he is the main man.
Broad has only played 14 of his 128 Tests without Anderson – indicative of the latter’s impressive fitness record – but left his mark in those matches, averaging 26.54 runs per wicket and striking every 55.8 balls. By comparison, he averages 29.04 with a strike rate of 58.4 in Anderson’s company.
The 33-year-old has taken nine wickets at 12.22 against Australia without Anderson, though that number is skewed by his eight-wicket haul at Trent Bridge in 2015.
Broad is 10 wickets away from being the second man to 100 at Lord’s — Anderson was predictably the first — and if he gets there this match then Australia is in trouble.