England v Australia, 2nd Investec Test, Lord's, 1st day July 18, 2013

Bell prevents meltdown but Smith turns up heat


England 289 for 7 (Bell 109, Bairstow 67, Smith 3-18) v Australia
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

It was a sweltering summer's day with the prospect that Lord's would stage one of the hottest Tests - perhaps the hottest - in its history. And in this scorching atmosphere, so warm, by Gad, that a spectator was spied wearing a knotted handkerchief in the pavilion, Ian Bell produced his third Ashes hundred in succession to try to guard against an England calamity on the first day of the second Investec Test.

But on hot days like these, strange things happen. Birds fly backwards, trees talk to each other and derided legspinners rediscover their ability to pitch it - or normally pitch it - and take joy in a skill reborn. Steve Smith, armed with noticeable spin and what was now a misleadingly cherubic style, took 3 for 12 in 22 balls as the day took an unexpected turn.

If the day was dominated by Bell, it ultimately belonged to Australia, who bookended it in style. They even have the luxury of beginning the second day with the bowlers fresh and a new ball only two overs old.

This was meant to be Bell's story. At the SCG, Trent Bridge and now Lord's, he has secured his reputation. He came to the crease at 28 for 3, with England collapsing in front of the Queen - and, for that matter, Ryan Harris - but followed Jack Hobbs (twice), Wally Hammond and Chris Broad in making hundreds in three successive Ashes Tests.

The Big Easy is variously an American movie, a Chelsea restaurant and the nickname for New Orleans. But at Lord's the Little Easy was a freckled son of Coventry securing his cricketing reputation. If Trent Bridge, a strikingly slow, dead surface, had been a test of his acumen, Lord's increasingly became a pleasure. His exquisite cover drives studded most of the day.

On drowsy days like these, the serenest batsman can seek to make a big Test score without causing the merest rustle of a leaf; to amass run after run with the most slumbering members, mouths agog at the heat rather than the cricket, barely taking notice; to make a major contribution without leaving the slightest indentation. Bell is that type of player: understated quality in an age of overstatement.

England needed Bell's input because Harris, a stout man bowling with aggression and intent, barging through the heat haze like a combine harvester powering through a cornfield, had three for 28 in 13 overs by tea. Like the best harvester, Harris maintained an immaculate line.

England recovered, first through Jonathan Trott's consummate half-century, then with a stand of 144 in 43 overs for the fifth wicket between Bell and Jonny Bairstow to stabilise the England innings.

Then Smith took a hand. His sixth ball turned sharply, to have Bell easily caught at first slip; Bairstow knocked back a low full toss as he was deceived in the flight; and Matt Prior misread the length of one delivered out of the front of the hand and was caught at the wicket. For Australia's captain, Michael Clarke, it was a reward for his willingness to experiment rather than just await the second new ball. He not only brought him on, with the new ball due he kept him on.

Bairstow, who hit 67, had used up his fortune earlier. His fallibility, whipping across a full-length ball, was again evident when Peter Siddle bowled him on 21, only to be reprieved when the umpire called for a TV replay and Siddle was shown to have overstepped. It took a magnified image to prove it.

The UK heat wave was designed to remind Australia of home - and they have an excellent record on this ground too, with 16 victories and six defeats in 36 Tests. As the crowd queued down from St John's Wood tube station, few expected them to make a start like they did. England, who must have sensed a bountiful batting day after winning the toss, began gingerly: Alastair Cook, Joe Root and Kevin Pietersen all departing.

The Queen was presented to both sides before play began. She does not normally linger at the cricket - horse racing is her true passion - and once somebody had tried to explain the Decision Review System, she doubtless made her excuses and left.

But she would not have had to linger overlong to be aware of the fall of England wickets. Three were dispensed with in the little matter of six overs as Australia, 1-0 down in the series, made the start they had barely dared imagine.

Clarke gave the controlled pace of Shane Watson an airing after only four overs and it worked like a charm. Cook forever fights against the tendency to get his head too far over to the off side and a gentle inswing bowler, bringing the ball back down the slope, could potentially expose that. It took two balls; Cook trapped in front. The umpire, Marais Erasmus, spared the onerous TV duties he had to shoulder at Trent Bridge, considered at length before giving Cook out. Watson's spell lasted a single over.

England's refashioned opening partnership of Cook and Root, assembled after the dropping of Nick Compton, has yet to reach fifty in three attempts. This was definitely a chance wasted.

Root's decision to review Harris' lbw decision in the next over was appropriate because he could not be entirely sure if the ball had struck bat before pad. But replays suggested that Root had squeezed it - with the pad fractionally first - and Tony Hill, the third umpire, rightly found no reason to overturn umpire Kumar Dharmasena's on-field decision.

Pietersen lasted only four balls, his two runs courtesy of a thick edge against Harris backward of square. Harris had him caught at the wicket, targeting the stumps and maintaining an attacking length as one of Australia's finest, Glenn McGrath, did on his appearances at Lord's.

TV cameras showed the Long Room for the first time and revealed Pietersen giving a gentle tap to a stanchion as he passed through it, just polite enough to escape too much of a ticking-off, but inviting the question whether the stanchion was protecting KP from the members or the other way round.

Trott and Bell began as passively as possible, leaving as much as they could until the game settled. James Pattinson sampled both ends at Lord's by lunch without entirely settling to either. Siddle soon reddened in the heat. But a fourth wicket at 120 kept the initiative with Australia as Harris led Trott into an uncontrolled pull and Usman Khawaja held the catch at deep square.

Bell did not hit a single boundary down the ground in his hundred at Trent Bridge. He again prospered square of the wicket here. But when he did go down the ground, handsomely so, against Siddle, it illustrated that this Lord's pitch was far more amenable to good cricket than its predecessor. "It will turn, too," the experts said. And then, by Gad, Steven Smith proved it.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • H on July 19, 2013, 12:34 GMT

    @Mitty2 Don't think Pattinson's overrated at all mate, I just think he's struggling to adjust to the Dukes ball, where Starc seemed more comfortable with it. Experience with the ball was one of the main reasons I thought Siddle had to play every Test.

    Pattinson's a gun bowler, and if we're talking about the return series he's probably the bowler I'd fear most in that one. But in English conditions I could see an attack with Siddle, Harris and Bird, suffocating England of runs, being more effective. Not like those guys don't take wickets either, especially Harris.

    It's just that at the moment Pattinson looks way off colour, he's not only bowling a lot slower than he usually does, but he's lost accuracy at the moment. If he's trying to bowl slower to control the swing better, it's not working.

    Maybe the answer is to stick with him and bowl him in really short sharp bursts, but if he keeps leaking runs like this, he's letting the others down. Hope he improves as the series goes on.

  • H on July 19, 2013, 12:25 GMT

    @Shaggy076 I agree with you, the pitch is a belter for batting. 450 pitch at least.

    @Biggus no, I agree with you, Cook's nowhere near the captain Strauss was and that's a big difference. I've often wondered whether we'd have put up more of a fight in 2006 had Strauss been captain instead of Freddie. Doubt we'd have won that series, you were just too good, but we crumbled so pathetically.

    And I also have the same vibe about the opening partnership, which is why I'm inclined to shuffle the order. Bell's in great form, move him to 3 and Trott's done reasonably well too, so move him up to open. Root at 5 where he's done so well.

    Broad's the big question mark. If he bowls well, we're probably a stronger attack than in 2010. If he bowls badly, we're worse. It was noticeable how much better our attack was in 2010 when Broad and Finn were both missing.

    I was just suggesting that it's less the quality of the players and more the mental side of the game. Is this team as hungry? We'll see.

  • Mashuq on July 19, 2013, 11:35 GMT

    For those who did not want to hear about Harris playing this series, I guess his five-for is answer enough. Pattinson must definitely sit out the next test, maybe Siddle also. Starc (for his swing - both conventional and reverse) and Bird (for his accuracy and McGrath-like movement) should join Lyon (since it always turns) in the team for the next test. The team is a work-in-progress and by careful management of resources/conditions a good outcome may be possible: Rogers, Watson, Khawaja, Hughes, Clarke, Smith, Haddin, Starc, Harris, Lyon, Bird. Now that looks good for Old Trafford!

  • Martin on July 19, 2013, 11:35 GMT

    @YorkshirePudding & @A_Vacant_Slip. I have been watching Ashes cricket for 45 years now and have seen both teams fortunes ebb and flow. No Australian, except perhaps @jonesey2 would attempt to claim that this current Australia side is strong. This isn't a great England side either but I believe we will come out on top in this series. FYI wombats are going to be viewing Tests 3, 4 and 5 whilst actually in Australia. It will be interesting to watch the rest of this series with my mates in Aus and I look forward to reporting! 5w

  • Hamish on July 19, 2013, 11:19 GMT

    Pattinson averaged 27 in India; jimmy (who was dhoni's credited difference between the two sides) averaged 30. In your first ever tour to India on horrendous pitches like those, you'd think that averaging under 30 as a quick would be an amazing performance no? During that series his pace was at worst 140 klicks all throughout, he bowled superbly for LONG spells despite India having the confidence and scoreboard dominance. He's hardly overrated. Right now though, he's bowling no where near as quick as he can and he's bowling without rhythm and/or consistency. If he doesn't lift in the second innings, here comes my favorite bird - who after watching the shield final two years ago and going to a few tas games here and there, I can confidently say is the best shield bowler by far.

    The pitch is a featherbed; an absolute belter. We got 500 and 600 against a far superior bowling attack on such pitches (albeit with hussey), if we don't take a lead here it would be terrible.

  • Nicholas on July 19, 2013, 11:07 GMT

    Well done to Harris - very well bowled. 361 not a bad score, particularly when you think back to 28 for 3...

    There's a danger now here for England, that Swann and Broad have shown that you can come out swinging at times and rack up a quick-fire score. England must bowl tight and not make the same mistakes as Pattinson...

  • Dummy4 on July 19, 2013, 11:06 GMT

    Stuart Broad, I am sorry,gentleman. You did it once again. You nicked it, still hanged on there and called for review. I am not happy with you man. You should show some decent, least expected......

  • Jason on July 19, 2013, 11:05 GMT

    @A_Vacant_Slip, I think you might find that england fans who grew up with the team during the 90's have a more pessimitic, glass half empty, attitude while those that started following the team since 2005 have a slightly more optomistic view, glass half full view.

  • Pulkit on July 19, 2013, 11:04 GMT

    Kind of disappointed to see how both Siddle and Pattinson were unable to keep the pressure built by Harris early on. Had they complemented Harris, we'd be well into Australia's innings by now. Siddle was economical but hardly threatnening (and just got whacked around by Broad/Swann) while Pattinson was decidedly rubbish throughout. Too much was left for Harris/Smith to take care of and it showed - wickets could have been taken for a lot less but they weren't.

    Alas, let's hope the batting comes through and the top order lives up to its potential. Great pitch to bat on - as Broad/Swann just showed - so shouldn't be too hard once you settle in. They'll need to apply themselves, however.

  • Dean on July 19, 2013, 11:02 GMT

    Well down to Broad & Swann, that's a bit more than I was expecting us to get to, Aus will not been happy conceeding 73 runs this morning. However the score is probably still a little below par & we will have to bowl well & make early inroads with the new ball. I hope the blow Swann took is not going to affect his bowling.