England v Australia, 1st Test, Lord's,1st day July 21, 2005

A tale of two metronomes

How Glenn McGrath and Steve Harmison exploited the Lord's pitch
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A day which began magnificently for the hosts turned pear-shaped by the end entirely due to the efforts of one outstanding individual. Before this Test, Glenn McGrath's Lord's stats read: 17 wickets in two matches at 12.76. One day into his third game at this venue, and the numbers look even better - 22 wickets at an incredible 10.82. McGrath has already won the Man-of-the-Match award in his first two Tests here, and if today's performance is any indication, he's well on his way to a hat-trick.

As always, McGrath's control over line and length was impeccable. The pitch, with its inconsistent bounce, was tailor-made for him, and McGrath exploited it to the hilt, homing in just around off stump, nipping it either way, and allowing the vagaries of the track to do the rest.

A look at McGrath's pitch map tells the story - 71 out 78 balls pitched on a good length, that's a mind-boggling 91%. Fifteen of his deliveries pitched on or outside leg stump, but 14 of those were to left-handers from over the wicket, which meant that the angle of delivery would have forced the batsmen to play at them. Against right-handers, McGrath's control was stunning - 52 good-length balls out of 58, with one ball which drifted further on side than off stump.

McGrath's virtuoso performance completely overshadowed Steve Harmison's heroics earlier in the day. He was expected to be Australia's biggest threat this Ashes, and so he proved on the very first day of the series with a fiery spell of 5 for 43. The key was the length that he bowled: of the 68 deliveries Harmison sent down, only three were pitched up, and they disappeared for 11 runs. He learnt quickly, and kept it on a good length or just short - on a pitch of varying bounce, that was the perfect way to bowl. Of the 51 good-length balls, 32 were back of a length, and all the 20 balls which pitched outside leg were to left-handers from over the wicket.

The Australians didn't help their cause by playing in one-day mode - they let only 71 out of 254 deliveries go through to Geraint Jones. A more cautious approach might have been the need of the hour on the first-day Lord's pitch, but then Australia only play their cricket one way.

S Rajesh is assistant editor of Cricinfo