England defeated Australia by 347 runs yesterday to go 2-0 ahead in the Ashes series. The victory was as complete and clinical as the scoreline makes it sound, as overwhelming as the first in the series was narrow.
It came in the last over of the fourth day, just when it seemed that Australia’s tail, one of the few elements of their play to lend them respectability in the series so far, would take them into the last day. But England deserved to secure their triumph on sun-kissed evening in front of full house rapt with anticipation and delight.
For the tourists it was a devastating blow to any chance they had of regaining the Ashes. That is still theoretically possible with three matches still to play but it is a purely academic supposition. To become reality it would need something from the realms of fantasy, say Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne to be rejuvenated and Don Bradman to be reincarnated.
Australia are being urged to try less dramatic surgery such as the recall of the veteran batsman, Simon Katich, who is playing superbly for Lancashire, and summoning the recently nationalised Pakistan-born leg-spinner Fawad Ahmed, who is on tour in Zimbabwe with Australia A.
But the evidence of what has taken place at Lord’s in the last four days suggests that these would be plasters on gaping wounds. This was England’s fourth win in four Test matches at home this summer, following the brace against New Zealand.
Perhaps as pertinently it was Australia’s sixth successive defeat following their 4-0 loss to India. The last time they suffered such a sequence was in 1984 when Kim Hughes ended his brief tenure as captaincy in tears.
Michael Clarke, their captain on this tour, will neither be crying nor going anywhere soon but the strains of office will be starting to tell. After failing so narrowly to overhaul England in Nottingham it seems that Australia expended their best efforts. Their performance at Lord’s, a ground on which they had not lost a Test for 75 years until 2009, was miserable, undermined by an exhibition of batting in their first innings that was a light year away from the method and control that is needed in a Test match.
When England begin to bring their A game to this series, Australia will be in real trouble. They have done quite enough to be the superior team but they made mistakes again yesterday as they did in the opening match, not least by missing three chances in the field.
But that is perhaps to quibble. England, who not long ago were treated with utter disdain by Australia, are clear favourites to win the Ashes four times in succession with another series to follow this in Australia this winter.
They kept their nerve in Nottingham and when the opportunity arose at Lord’s they recognised their opponents’ fallibility. It was a triumph of preparation and taking advantage of the conditions they requested.
Australia have shortcomings in almost every area except their tailend batting which was again obdurate as they slid abjectly to defeat yesterday. Their spin bowling has not truly been up to it with Ashton Agar failing to take a wicket in either innings on a turning pitch.
Nor has their fast bowling been quite as potent as expected with James Pattinson, especially, not living up to the expectations bestowed on him before the series started. But all criticism eventually arrives back at the place it started: their top order batting.
There was never the remotest opportunity that Australia would make the 583 runs they needed after England declared their second innings at 349 for 7 15 minutes into the fourth day. They batted on to allow Joe Root, an obvious candidate for man of the match, to reach his double hundred.
It was rather more than a sentimental gesture by Alastair Cook, England’s captain. The milestone would not only have established Root – that was already done – but the effect on Australia would have been more sapping than it already was.
In the event, Root perished for 180, playing a reverse ramp shot which might be more at home in the Twenty20 arena but will be increasingly seen as part of Test matches. Australia needed 583 to win and their innings never gained any impetus.
By lunch they had already lost three wickets. Shane Watson was routinely leg-before, set up beautifully by Jimmy Anderson for a ball moving down the slope. Chris Rogers and Phil Hughes were both bowled by Graeme Swann with balls they expected to turn but did not.
Had Matt Prior stumped Clarke when he went down the wicket and was beaten by the flight Australia’s position would have been more parlous. As it was, Clarke and Usman Khawaja kept England at bay in the afternoon.
They both played neatly, using their feet and their bats adroitly. But it could not last. It did not last. They were both dismissed by Root. And why not. He may be no more than a part-time off spinner but he is the sort of player who instinctively knows what is required in big games.
He had Clarke caught at leg slip from one which turned across him and Khawaja smartly held at second slip by Anderson. It was only a matter of time after that and if there was far too much of it left in the match for Australia to fill, they did at least try to use it up.
Swann was turning the ball hugely out of the rough, Anderson was always a handful, Tim Bresnan showed why he was selected for the match. England again had the better of the decision review system with both Steve Smith, whose review failed, and Ashton Agar, who was originally given not out, departing after replays. Bad luck perhaps but England had made their own luck.
The last two wickets were resilient and added 73 runs. Anderson managed to spear one past Peter Siddle and then at the last gasp with the crowd becoming restless Swann won an lbw verdict against James Pattinson. It was done and the Ashes are coming home sooner than anybody might have expected.
Shot of the day
Joe Root demonstrated both innovation and selflessness in the reverse ramp shot he played, chasing his double hundred. Instead, he was caught, on 180, and England promptly declared.
Ball of the day
Root again. Australia were showing signs of resistance at last when Root found one which turned across Michael Clarke and was glanced to leg slip, a position to where Alastair Cook had only just moved.
Non-review of day
Shane Watson, out lbw 23 times from 76 Test dismissals, has unsuccessfully reviewed the decision seven times. When he was hit on the pads by Jimmy Anderson, he declined this time and trudged off.
Review of the day
Alastair Cook asked for another look at the not out verdict given against Ashton Agar for a catch behind. Agar was unhappy but technology left no doubt that, albeit faintly, his bat brushed against the ball.
Lord’s (Third and fourth days): England beat Australia by 347 runs
England won toss
ENGLAND First Innings 361 (Bell 109, Bairstow 67, Trott 58, Harris 5-72)
AUSTRALIA First Innings 128 (Swann 5-44)
ENGLAND Second Innings Overnight 31-3
J E Root c Smith b Harris 180
338 balls 2 sixes 18 fours
T T Bresnan c Rogers b Pattinson 38
137 balls 0 sixes 4 fours
I R Bell c Rogers b Smith 74
103 balls 0 sixes 11 fours
J M Bairstow c Haddin b Harris 20
54 balls 1 sixe 2 fours
†M J Prior not out 1
8 balls 0 sixes 0 fours
Extras (b15 lb8) 23
Total (for 7 dec, 114.1 overs) 349
Fall: 1-22, 2-22, 3-30, 4-129, 5-282, 6-344, 7-349.
Did not bat: S C J Broad, G P Swann, J M Anderson.
Bowling Spells: RJ Harris: 18.1-4-31-2 (4-0-12-0; 1-1-0-0; 3-1-7-0; 2-0-2-0; 6-2-7-0; 2.1-0-3-2), SR Watson: 12-5-25-0 (4-2-9-0; 3-1-6-0; 2-0-7-0; 3-2-3-0), PM Siddle: 21-6-65-3 (5-3-4-3; 4-1-13-0; 3-0-11-0; 4-1-8-0; 3-1-15-0; 2-0-14-0), JL Pattinson: 20-8-42-1 (5-3-5-0; 4-2-6-0; 2-0-8-0; 7-3-5-1; 2-0-18-0), SPD Smith: 14-0-65-1(1-0-1-0; 2-0-9-0; 1-0-5-0; 2-0-13-0; 8-0-37-1), AC Agar: 29-5-98-0 (6-2-14-0; 2-1-1-0; 4-0-9-0; 4-0-13-0; 1-0-9-0; 12-2-52-0)
Day three Progress: 50 runs in 26.4 overs, JE Root 50 off 122 balls (6 fours), 100 runs in 45.5 overs, Lunch: 114-3 in 51 overs (JE Root 63, TT Bresnan 32), 150 runs in 72.5 overs, Tea: 171-4 in 78 overs (JE Root 97, IR Bell 16), JE Root 100 off 247 balls (12 fours), 200 runs in 85.5 overs, IR Bell 50 off 82 balls (7 fours), 250 runs in 92.1 overs, JE Root 150 off 311 balls (18 fours), 300 runs in 102. 4 overs.
AUSTRALIA Second Innings
S R Watson lbw b Anderson 20
23 balls 0 sixes 3 fours
C J L Rogers b Swann 6
29 balls 0 sixes 0 fours
U T Khawaja c Anderson b Root 54
133 balls 0 sixes 7 fours
P J Hughes lbw b Swann 1
21 balls 0 sixes 0 fours
*M J Clarke c Cook b Root 51
85 balls 0 sixes 7 fours
S P D Smith c Prior b Bresnan 1
14 balls 0 sixes 0 fours
†B J Haddin lbw b Swann 7
32 balls 0 sixes 0 fours
A C Agar c Prior b Bresnan 16
13 balls 0 sixes 4 fours
P M Siddle b Anderson 18
62 balls 0 sixes 1 four
J L Pattinson lbw b Swann 35
91 balls 0 sixes 3 fours
R J Harris not out 16
40 balls 0 sixes 1 four
Extras (b4 lb5 w1) 10
Total (90.3 overs) 235
Fall: 1-24, 2-32, 3-36, 4-134, 5-135, 6-136, 7-154, 8-162, 9-192.
Bowling Spells: JM Anderson: 18-2-55-2 (6-1-23-1; 6-0-16-0; 6-1-16-1), SCJ Broad: 21-4-54-0 (4-0-9-0; 6-1-22-0; 6-2-6-0; 5-1-17-0), GP Swann: 30.3-5-78-4 (17-3-44-2; 12-1-34-1; 1.3-1-0-1), TT Bresnan: 14-8-30-2 (1w) (5-4-4-0; 7-2-26-2; 2-2-0-0), JE Root: 7-3-9-2 (one spell).
Day Four Progress: England: Innings Break: 349-7 in 114.1 overs (MJ Prior 1). Australia: Lunch: 48-3 in 22 overs (UT Khawaja 8, MJ Clarke 11), 50 runs in 22.1 overs, 100 runs in 36.1 overs, UT Khawaja: 50 off 113 balls (6 fours), MJ Clarke: 50 off 80 balls (7 fours), Tea: 136-6 in 50.5 overs (BJ Haddin 0), 150 runs in 54.1 overs, 200 runs in 78.6 overs.
Umpires: HDPK Dharmasena (Sri Lanka) and M Erasmus (South Africa).
TV umpire: AL Hill (New Zealand).
Match referee: RS Madugalle (Sri Lanka).