Prior ensures England hold all the cards

Wicketkeeper rampant after Strauss elects to bat again and put game beyond Australia's reach.

History beckons for England. After 75 years, the place which had become a fortress for Australia has begun to collapse around them like a house of cards. It is certain that they will resist, since this record above all records – never having lost a Test at Lord's since 1934 – is one they are desperate to preserve because much else would disappear with it.

To do so, however, and also avoid going behind in the Ashes, they will have to bat for most of the last two days of the Second Test. To achieve the target set they would have to make comfortably the highest total scored in the fourth innings to win a Test match. To survive, unless they go into complete self-denial, which is hardly in their collective nature, they may still surpass the second highest fourth innings of all.

Being Australia, they might have a crack. Being Australia, they might just do it. But those fallen cards are stacked against them. England are hardly flawless but Australia's bowling attack, with honourable exceptions, is beginning to look ragged. The man who was intended to lead them to glory, Mitchell Johnson, has been overcome by the weight of expectation and the side of the wicket he bowls on is determined by fluke. Drunks have driven along country roads more steadily.

By the time England had stretched their lead to 521 runs Ricky Ponting, Australia's captain, was fit to burst. Steam was coming out of his ears all day and some concealed thermostat was having to work overtime to prevent the top coming off. If someone had mentioned that it was Dennis Lillee's 60th birthday yesterday (it was also the day on which WG Grace was born) he might have offered him a bowl for old time's sake. It might not have been just for old time's sake.

Much to the delight of another packed house, England were rampant in the evening as Matthew Prior scored a thrilling half-century which he might have converted into an equally thrilling century but for a spectacular piece of fielding.

There was a peculiar rhythm to the third day. England eventually took the two remaining Australia wickets in the morning but did not enforce the follow on. This was greeted dubiously in many quarters but if it looked like a milksop's sort of decision it was based firmly on recent precedent, which cricket captains have to observe like lawyers.

Twice recently at Lord's they have been denied by rearguard actions after imposing the follow on, first by Sri Lanka in 2006, whom they failed to dismiss in 199 overs and against South Africa last year when 167 overs yielded a measly three wickets. The hour that England were forced to spend in the field yesterday morning was also quite sufficient to tell their captain, Andrew Strauss, that it was not a bowler's day.

The difference between the sides was 210. England then had the ebullient start they required with Strauss and Alastair Cook merely continuing what they had started during their exemplary first-innings partnership. Cook was as flamboyant as he can have been while batting in a Test match but was out lbw for the third consecutive innings, playing across the line of a straight ball.

Shortly after, when Strauss edged a drive against a turning off-spinner from Nathan Hauritz to slip, England had their two most enterprising batsmen at the crease. There followed some excruciating work by two tortured souls. Neither Kevin Pietersen nor Ravi Bopara could time the ball and their shot selection was done randomly. They appeared to be in a competition to see who could play in the least appropriate fashion.

Both men had escapes. Pietersen might have been run out when a leg before appeal was turned down and he was taken out of the crease with the impetus of his shot. Instead of scrambling back he looked distracted, more concerned about what verdict the umpire was about to reach. Had Ponting's direct throw hit, as it should have done, Pietersen would have been on his way.

In the next over Ponting shelled a straightforward chance at second slip after a loose drive by Bopara. Australia's captain looked into the middle distance. He was mad as hell all right but he was a man for whom the anger management courses appeared to have worked.

Bopara, scorer of three successive Test hundreds earlier this year, is finding that the Ashes is a different ball game. An army of amateur psychologists is probably already on his case, but only in the minimal time off they are taking from scrutinising Pietersen. There is something wrong with Pietersen and whether it is technical deficiencies leading to doubts in the mind or mental uncertainty creating technical flaws it is already emerging as a big something.

England's best batsman, although the highest scorer in the first innings at Cardiff, is playing like a man in turmoil. He began with a characteristic stroke, a hoisted four over the infield off Hauritz, but then wafted about like a man chasing flies. He made Bopara look a model of assurance.

Having tried the approach which is known as "have a go you mug" the pair suddenly changed their minds. They began to play no shots at all, hoping that this might get them back into form. Runs all but dried, and with them so went the initiative. The last 15 runs before tea yielded 25 runs and nothing was happening.

On the stroke of the break, Bopara launched a frantic slog at Johnson towards mid-on where Hauritz immediately claimed the catch. Lesser batsmen would have been glad that their ordeal was over but Bopara stood his ground. The interminable replays were as so often indeterminate but the benefit of the doubt as so often went to the batsmen and not the fielder. But at last Bopara was out, nudging one limply to short leg and giving Hauritz his ninth wicket of the series. The selectors will soon have to ask themselves a hard question and if the hard answer will not be yet forthcoming this cannot go on.

At length Pietersen unfolded a couple of lovely cover drives as if to stamp his authority. But he then groped too far at one and was on his way. Perhaps he does not do long dark nights of the soul, perhaps he should.

Prior, Paul Collingwood and Andrew Flintoff at last illuminated the innings with 86 runs coming from 74 balls. Glorious stuff but the real glory still awaits.

A week, Australia might have observed, is a long time in cricket.

Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
art
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine