There were a number of similarities between Australia’s performance at the Rose Bowl and the one at Lord’s on Saturday. On both occasions, Australia batted first and posted 300 plus on the board. And again, England began well, and looked in a decent position to chase down the target. But, they lost their way mid-way through the innings and, for the second game in a row, their batsmen, barring skipper Eoin Morgan, failed to carry on after getting starts. Of course, there was the added distraction of the Ben Stokes controversial dismissal. But, England were struggling even otherwise.
Yet again, Australia displayed both their batting and bowling prowess, reiterating their world champion status in this format of the game. Skipper Steven Smith batted exceedingly well to put the Aussies in command early on. It was a significant knock in the context of the game since Australia had been dealt with a big blow, losing David Warner to a thumb injury and Joe Burns also fell after getting a start. At 42 for 1, effectively 42 for 2, Australia needed a partnership, and this is where Smith and the former captain George Bailey came to the team’s aid.
The Australian middle-order played the most significant role in the team going 2-0 at Lord’s. Smith and Bailey eased their way away, and ensured the team never fell behind as far as maintaining a decent run rate is concerned. And, they did this, finding the gaps, without looking in too much trouble. There were excellent contributions from almost everyone. After Bailey fell, just after crossing his fifty, Glenn Maxwell joined Smith and the two kept up the good work. Even Shane Watson, who has had his struggles in the recent past, contributed a quick cameo.
The most critical innings however came from Mitchell Marsh. The all-rounder’s big-hitting ability has always been known, but he hasn’t always delivered to potential. At Lord’s though, he was at his most dangerous best. It was his whirlwind knock that made the difference between a challenging score, and a match-winning one. England’s bowing was disappointing for the second game in a row. Steven Finn went at over 6 an over, Stokes claimed three, but he also was expensive. The spinners also couldn’t deliver like they did in the last game. Adil Rashid went at 6.3, and Moeen Ali at 8.5.
When it was England’s turn to bat, their batters let them down. Alex Hales and Jason Ray once again began confidently, but it did not last long enough. Hales seriously needs to start converting his starts. The experiment with James Taylor continued, and while he looked good again, he fell for the 40s in the second game running. And then, the Stokes controversy followed. Morgan was the only batsman who stood tall for England. But, his knock was not good enough to keep England in the chase. The hosts will need to improve their overall game to make a comeback in the series now.
--By A Cricket Analyst