A few key things came out of the Second Ashes Test at Lords.
Forget the result, momentarily. You can even go as far as forgetting the weather.
We witnessed one of the Ashes battles – Jofra Archer versus Steve Smith.
Is there anyone out there still wondering whether Archer can easily transition from white-ball to red-ball cricket? If there are, they are fools.
Smith has been virtually impossible to remove from the crease in this series – until Archer was unleashed. Granted, Archer didn’t actually get him out as such but for the first time since his return to the Test arena Smith didn’t look like someone totally and utterly dangling England’s bowling attack on puppet-like strings.
That spell was brutal and it did end with Archer hitting Smith somewhat worryingly just below the ear – but this is not about that. For all the people immediately saying Archer was bowling dangerously, unfairly, unsportingly, whatever – hush your noise and go and watch Robin Smith bobbing and weaving in the 80s and then go back even earlier and watch the guys that used to bat without a lid on uncovered pitches.
I am not downplaying the Smith injury at all – how he got up I do not know and the fact he was ruled out the following day was completely expected. But, batsmen are more protected than ever nowadays – armour, pitches and bowling regulations mean that it is very much in the batter’s favour compared to how it used to be.
So to see a proper battle like this – the closest thing to Don Bradman Australia have had facing the closest thing to Michael Holding England have had – was thrilling Test cricket and bodes well for the rest of the series.
Justin Langer did say Australia would look to tire Archer – the fact that he just got quicker and quicker the longer his spells went on will have been noticed by the Aussies.
As for the rest of it – well, it briefly looked like England might get themselves level.
But let’s not hide from the fact that if you take Archer and Ben Stokes out of that match and there’s not a great deal to get excited about in the England camp.
Jason Roy needs more time and we hope we can work out how to become a Test player. Joe Root is proving why he thinks he is better at four. Joe Denly loves a pretty 20-odd just like James Vince did – and he needs to convert them into something of more substance.
Jos Buttler looks a bit lost, despite digging in pretty well with Stokes on Day Four and the early part of the last day and Jonny Bairstow looked like he might just be remembering how to bat.
But that strong point England used to hide behind – that middle order. Not so much right now.
It’s clear the rest of this series is going to come down to whether (a) Smith plays in the next Test and (b) if he does how quickly can we get him out?
From there, it’s all down to the x-factor Archer brings to the party and which bowling attack controls the conditions.
It’s a great series for England to win from here!