Ian Bell notched his third successive Ashes century but despite another great performance from the number five, Australia will feel the happier of the two sides after Steve Smith took three late wickets to leave the home side on 289-7 at stumps on day one at Lord’s.
England are now evens to go 2-0 up in the series and it is 5/2 on both Australia to level things up and the match to finish in a draw.
Alistair Cook’s men were cruising to a solid first innings total at 271-4 but the introduction of Steve Smith late in the day changed the whole complexion of another unpredictable day. The blonde leg spinner picked up three crucial wickets to leave Andy Flower wondering hos his side hadn’t finished the day ahead.
Despite the momentum swinging back in to Australia’s dressing room by the time the players walked off the field, the continued resurgence of Ian Bell along with the efforts of both Jonathan Trott and Jonny Bairstow, who both scored half-centuries , gave the Lord’s crowds plenty to cheer about.
Bell was under pressure from some quarters before the series began after a lean spell with the bat but what was never in doubt was the quality of the Warwickshire stalwart. Now the 31-year-old has returned to form with a vengeance and those who questioned his selection will be difficult to find.
Trott was typically solid, excelling once more in his often thankless role as anchor to the more exotic games that surround him, although no one will be more disappointed than the man himself for failing to capitalise once more having got another start.
Bairstow was making his way back to the hutch when bowled by Peter Siddle for 21 but after replays revealed the finest of no-balls the popular Yorkshireman was re-instated and he took full advantage to silence, for now, his own unwanted band of sceptics. He went on to add another 46, runs which now look crucial in the game situation.
The general consensus suggest a total of 350 is desirable on a flat pitch at the Home of Cricket and that will be the first objective for those left with first innings lives. It’s unlikely that the score will be far below or above that and this is reflected in the odds, which have remained in similar condition to what they were before the toss.
Just as it was at Trent Bridge the match is no closer to a clear conclusion after the first day’s play with both sides able to refer to high and low points in equal measure.
What has been confirmed is that Australia’s attack have the ability to bowl England out. The big question before the series and one that remains unanswered is whether their top order batsmen are able to build on the good performances in the field and take winning opportunities when they are available.
At present this still remains a mystery and explains why, despite holding the upper hand in this Test, they are still rated as underdogs.
Today has been another reminder of why suggestions Australia were arriving just to be rolled over are lacking in both line and length, however, to convert close finishes into wining positions the Aussie batsmen need to they are capable of keeping Jimmy Anderson and company at bay long enough to post big scores.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing