After reaching an Ashes landmark on the day the Queen visited Lord’s, Ian Bell claimed the turn Steve Smith found to take his three late wickets might ultimately do Australia more harm than good.
Bell’s 109, the same score as he made in the first Test at Trent Bridge last week, was the third successive Ashes match in which he has made a century. Only Jack Hobbs – twice – Wally Hammond and Chris Broad have achieved that feat.
Despite Bell’s fine knock – the vast majority of which was not seen by Her Majesty, who left the ground shortly after midday – England would have been slightly disappointed to close on 289 for seven, especially after winning the toss. They recovered well from 28 for three but Smith’s spell left Australia with renewed optimism as they try to level the series.
“It’s incredible,” said Bell, of his accomplishment. “I found out only shortly after getting back into the dressing room and it’s a huge honour to be up there with those names.
“Lord’s is a special place to play and it was great to get back to the dressing room and see the lads had already stuck a piece of tape with my name on the honours board.
“So it was very special to play an innings that was important for the team. The late wickets were disappointing, but we would have probably taken this total after we were 28 for three at one stage.
“I was a little bit surprised by the turn Steve Smith was able to find because at Lord’s the ball normally skids on when the spinner is bowling. It’s a good sign for us, too, that there is a bit of spin from the wicket already.
“This is much drier than a normal Lord’s pitch and it looks very different. It is difficult to know what a par score might be but the longer we have this weather, the drier it will be, and we hope there will be more pace in the wicket when days four and five come around.”
Ryan Harris’s brisk, aggressive approach saw him end the day with figures of three for 43 from 20 overs. Had things turned out differently, he might have been playing for England. Harris had a British passport, as his father was born in this country. He played one game for Sussex in 2008 before the county realised he had signed for Queensland as a local player.
That led to a future with the Australia team. Harris admitted: “It was a messy situation. I had contemplated coming over here but I had a really good offer from Queensland. The thought was there but I wanted to play for Australia and that was my best crack at it.”
The no-ball delivered by Peter Siddle, with which he bowled Jonny Bairstow for 21, was more worrying for Australia. At the time, England were 171 for four. When Bell was eventually out, he and Bairstow had added a further 97 runs for the fifth wicket, before Bairstow was dismissed for 67.
Harris said: “[The coach] Darren Lehmann wasn’t very happy. You can’t afford to need 11 or 12 wickets. It’s unacceptable, it cost us a lot of runs today and it’s the kind of thing that could potentially cost us the Ashes.
“We have people watching us in the nets and we work very hard on it in training, but there is no excuse for it. The line is there for a reason. It’s funny, because it was probably the only no-ball he delivered.”
Play began 15 minutes later than usual, at 11.15, because of the royal visit. Both teams were presented to the Queen but her presence seemed to inspire Australia rather than England, as they removed the captain, Alastair Cook, Joe Root and Kevin Pietersen as the monarch watched from the Committee Room.
Bell said: “It was a great occasion and it’s what Ashes cricket is all about.”
Harris added: “I never thought I’d get the chance to meet the Queen. She asked us if we’d brought the weather with us. It was a great privilege.”