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England v Australia: Second Test review: Aussies survive Stokes heroics to take Ashes stranglehold

Australia are closing in on their first Ashes series win in England since 2001 after surviving another heroic innings from Ben Stokes to record a 43-run success in the second Test at Lord's.

The Baggy Greens were in control of proceedings going into the final day and were 1/8 favourites to go 2-0 up before the first ball was bowled, having reduced England to 114-4 by the end of Saturday's play.

This Ashes pendulum has been swinging both ways from the off and Stokes started to turn the match in his side's favour as he smashed a sensational 155 to steer England towards the victory target of 371.

However, he was unable to see his side across the line this time, despite some super cameos from Stuart Broad and Josh Tongue, and Australia were able to wrap up the tail not long after his dismissal.

The omens are against England as only one side has come back from a 2-0 deficit to win an Ashes series, and that was Australia way back in 1936/37, thanks in no small part to a certain Don Bradman.

Neither side has long to dwell on what may or may not have been with the third instalment starting at Headingley on Thursday this week.

WhatThird Ashes Test
WhereHeadingley, Leeds
WhenThursday, 6th July 2023
How to watchSky Sports Main Event, Sky Sports Cricket
OddsEngland 8/5, Draw 4/1, Australia 11/10

Aussies overcome adversity to prove their worth

It could be argued that Australia snatched victory from the jaws of defeat to win the first Test at Edgbaston, but they were largely in control of the second at Lord's, and that was despite a number of things going against them.

Firstly, they lost the toss and were put in to bat on the first day, batting in what seemed like bowler-friendly conditions - only to put an impressive 416 on the board in their first innings. That was built around Steve Smith's superb 110, an innings which won him the Player of the Match award, and would have been a massive boost for the tourists for the rest of the series, after he had failed, relatively speaking, to make much of an impression in the first Test.

They also lost their star spinner, Nathan Lyon, to injury in England's first innings, and would have to play the rest of the match - and the series - without one of their key bowling weapons, while they began their second innings in gloomy conditions under the lights, with a bit of rain in the air.

Still, they were bossing most of the action, certainly for longer periods than the hosts, with Stokes' fifth-day knock invoking some painful memories before it was ended, although it made their margin of victory much less than what it could have been.

More regrets for England

England will be wondering how they are 2-0 down after dominating play at Edgbaston and there is no doubt there was an opportunity to level the series at Lord's, even if they were coming from behind.

While they will be disappointed to have conceded 416 after winning the toss, the bowlers fought back on day two to limit the damage before the top order made a brilliant start as they looked to ultimately secure a lead.

There were 91 runs on the board before they lost a wicket, while they reached 188-1, seemingly in control before the wheels came off.

With Lyon forced to leave the field with a calf injury, Australia spread the field in the deep as they resorted to a short-ball approach, only to find England throwing their wickets away in their bid to dominate.

The hosts still looked to be in a decent position at 278-4 at the end of day two, but Australia ripped through the line-up the next day to establish a 91-run first-innings lead, having taken the last six wickets for 47 runs, and the last nine for only 137. The tourists are 8/11 to secure another first-innings lead at Headingley, with England on offer at 11/10.

The hosts were up against it from then on, until Stokes grasped the moment on the fifth day as he blasted and bullied his way to 155. While he was at the crease, England had actually assumed favouritism on the final day but he was unable to see it through this time.

Controversies could spice up series

There had been suggestions from the media that there had not been enough animosity between the two sides in this Ashes series, but that could be all set to change after a couple of incidents at Lord's.

Ben Duckett had been playing well to reach 50 on day four but late in the day his uppercut shot flew all the way down to Mitchell Starc at fine leg. Moving to his left, Starc seemed to be in control of the catch for long enough before he put his hand down, and ultimately the ball, with the third umpire reviewing the catch and giving Duckett a reprieve.

Although England had no real say on that review, with Duckett having almost left the field before he was called back in, there was certainly a conscious decision by Australia on the final day when they dismissed Jonny Bairstow.

The tourists had noticed that the Yorkshireman was leaving his ground early after a delivery and, after he ducked underneath another bouncer on what was the last ball of a Cameron Green over, he set off to meet his captain for a chat. Alex Carey had already under-armed a throw at the stumps, and with Bairstow out of his ground, the third umpire had little choice but to give the stumping.

There was the opportunity for Australia to withdraw their appeal, with Bairstow in no way trying to upset the bowler's length or indeed attempt a run - something that Stokes alluded to in the post-match interviews - but Cummins was happy with the appeal and Bairstow was on his way.

It sparked an immediate change in the atmosphere at Lord's, not only from the terraces but even in the Long Room, and it might just lead to a little bit more aggression and confrontation in the rest of the series.

Plan B needed

It could simply have been due to the little assistance that the fast bowlers were getting from the surface, but both sides may have to come up with a plan to counter the bouncer barrage that was in full effect at Lord's.

England certainly lost the initiative when getting out to it in their first innings, but Australia did the same thing in their second.

In some ways, it also did not make for a great spectacle either with nine fielders in the deep, and a constant barrage aimed towards the batter's head - even when Stokes was in full flow.

Lyon was the victim when he came out to bat in the second innings, made a little bit more farcical by the fact he couldn't run any singles, while even with Stokes gone, it was a short, short, short approach from Australia until they took the 10th and final wicket with one of the very few aimed at the stumps.

Australia have a decision to make on how to replace Lyon after he was ruled out for the rest of the series, and whether to give Todd Murphy a run in the side, while Moeen Ali could be recalled by England, should they want a front-line spinner.

The batters though, from both sides, will need to develop a gameplan to play the short stuff, otherwise we will be seeing plenty more in the remaining three Tests.

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