This Ashes series has been a tale of two conflicting Tests. The difference? The wicket of Joe Root.
In Cardiff, Brad Haddin grassed the chance England’s one-man counterpunch offered with his second ball. His 134 put England ahead of the game and they never looked back.
Just over a week later, Peter Nevill – replacing Haddin behind the stumps – leapt for joy as a Mitchell Johnson snorter thudded in to his gloves by way of Root’s outside edge on the Englishman’s fourth delivery.
The Yorkshire lad wouldn’t inspire a comeback this time. Even the resistance Ben Stokes offered with Alastair Cook felt superficial. Sure enough, England managed just 27 more runs in two attempts at Lord’s than two of Australia’s top three made in just their first innings.
Chris Rogers and Steve Smith flogged England’s attack to all parts under the sun. What was a well-balanced home bowling unit in Wales, one that seemed to match up well to Australia’s own five-pronged might, suddenly looked short of ideas and as blunt as a Geoffrey Boycott barb.
Mark Wood’s pace was down, Ben Stokes’ inner Beefy vanished, Moeen toiled and Jimmy Anderson went wicketless. Only Stuart Broad, on a second-morning burst, managed to replicate the incisions the Mitchells and Josh Hazlewood made throughout this battering.
England roll on to Edgbaston with questions whirring around their team bus. Should the top order change? Is it time for Adil Rashid to play? What’s the point of playing on now Johnson has relocated his mojo?
In all likelihood, the same XI that have been brought back down to earth so forcefully in London will be given the chance to make amends in Birmingham, but another performance of this ineptitude will signal the end of the series for a number of the side.
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