England v South Africa: Joe Root will never have an easier Test match as England captain.

England convincingly beat the Proteas by 211 runs thanks largely to the new skipper and Moeen Ali. 

Ahead of the 2017 Test series against South Africa, the spotlight was firmly on new England captain Joe Root.

Five months since he was announced as Alastair Cook’s successor, the 26-year old has had plenty of time to prepare for the role and the challenges that come with it. His first opponents South Africa may not be the force they were a few years ago, but their record on these shores speaks volumes.

The Proteas’ last defeat at the ‘Home of Cricket’ came in 1960, and they haven’t lost a Test series in England since 1998.

So when England recorded an comprehensive 211-run victory with a day to spare on Sunday, it looked as if Root had got all of his decisions correct.

But one could easily forget how South Africa helped the new captain find his feet with some clumsy fielding and lacklustre batting.

Dropped catches, lazy bowling and wasteful with the bat, South Africa’s downfall was a painful message to Du Plessis to rescue them. Their second innings total of 119-all out was a sorrow viewing in particular.

But this Test could have gone a lot differently had it not been for Root himself. Had the England captain not taken England’s first innings by the scruff of the neck with that all-important 190, then the hosts may well have ended 100-runs short of a respectable score.

Once he was out on the crease, he was able to relax and play his game. Unlike Alastair Cook during the back-end of his captaincy, Root’s batting didn’t seem to have been affected by the added pressure of leading the team.

However, he had plenty more to think about during his second innings. Declarations and which bowling attack to use when South Africa chase would have been firmly on his mind as he stepped out of the pavilion to bat. He only scored five runs before being bowled by Keshav Maharaj but again as he grows into his new role, he will find it easier to not think too hard about those decisions and focus solely on scoring crucial runs for his country.

On a whole, it was a straightforward introduction to the captaincy for Joe Root, but I doubt he will ever get an easier Test match as England skipper. The conditions didn’t change all week, he never had a major partnership he desperately needed to break up, and all his players contributed either with the bat, the ball or in the field. A Captain’s dream.

South Africa will (hopefully) not be as poor in the field  or with the bat as the series heads to Trent Bridge. Du Plessis returns to the side, and brings with him his experience and leadership that the South Africans missed at Lord’s. He will no doubt come in and fire the tourists up for the second match, and Root should be prepared for a response from the Proteas.









ASHES 2015: Australia Win One-Sided Second Test to Level Series.

2nd Test, Day Four, Lord’s.

Australia thrashed England at Lord’s by 405 runs to level the Ashes series 1-1 with a day to spare.

England’s horrific second innings batting collapse added salt into the wounds, as they were bowled out for just 103 on what was a decent batting pitch.

Australia had earlier in the day racked up another 146 runs, before declaring on 254-2 just before lunch. This meant England would need to withstand five sessions (or 155 overs) of brutal Australian bowling to save the test.

They managed to survive just 37.

With all their wickets in tact at lunch, no one would have seen the avalanche that was about to unfold. Alastair Cook, Gary Ballance and Adam Lyth were all caught behind to begin the carnage.

Under pressure Ian Bell could then only master up 11 runs from 50 deliveries before he poked a Nathan Lyon ball straight to short leg for the simplest of catches.

Just as the hosts thought it couldn’t get worse, Ben Stokes was daftly run out for zero. Somehow, he failed to ground either himself or his bat when Mitchell Johnson arrowed a throw directly at the stumps.

By tea England were five down and knew they just had to see the day out without losing any more wickets.

Instead, Jos Buttler and Moeen Ali both came and went within five deliveries from Johnson.

Stuart Broad, the only England player to have played decent cricket in this test, slugged the ball about to a quick 25 score before he was caught at cover to make it 101-8.

Only two more runs were added before Josh Hazlewood then wrapped up proceedings. He clean bowled both Joe Root and James Anderson, sparking wild celebrations for the Australians.

The only concern for the winning side was the health of in-form opener Chris Rodgers, who retired on 49 due to illness. He watched on from the pavilion for the remainder of the day, but should feature at Edgbaston in nine days time.

The defeat was England’s third heaviest against their rivals, and must now consider changes- particularly at the top of the order.

“When you get bowled out for 100, it isn’t good enough,” admitted Cook.

“Australia put us under pressure and we weren’t able to deal with it.

“We have come up short this week. But we have to take this on the chin. Now it’s about the character we need to show in order to bounce back.”

For Australia, it was the perfect response to their defeat in Cardiff last week as they now aim to win their first Ashes series in England since 2001.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better performance,” said a ecstatic Michael Clarke.

“We didn’t play our best at Cardiff, but now we can look in the mirror and say we played some good cricket here.”

It’s funny just how much can change in a week.

Australia this time last week looked nothing like the side that has transformed since Darren Lehmann took over. England played the perfect test in Cardiff, but couldn’t replicate that form at Lord’s. Now it is them who need to ponder long and hard about how they can recover at Edgbaston.

The third test begins on July 29th.

ASHES 2015: Australia Well On The Way To Level Series.

2nd Test, Day Three, Lord’s. 

Australia are well on the way to levelling the Ashes series after another dominant display at Lord’s on day three of the second test.

Mitchell Marsh took the two crucial wickets of Alastair Cook (96) and Ben Stokes (87), as the tourists eventually bowled out the hosts for 312.

A calm and collected David Warner and an ever reliant Chris Rodgers then saw out the day, reaching stumps in 108-0, 362 runs ahead of England.

At 30-4, England looked odds on to have to follow on, but a spirited effort from Stokes and Cook led to a 145-run partnership to save the team from any embarrassment.

With the England skipper leading from the front, it looked like Cook was heading towards a three figure score, but he lost concentration for a split second, costing him his wicket for 96.

He became the first English batsman to be dismissed seven times whilst in the 90s, a record he won’t want to remember.

Australia thought that they had Jos Buttler for just nine but replays showed that debutant wicketkeeper Peter Nevill had in fact grounded the ball. However, the England wicketkeeper could only add four before edging to Nathan Lyon.

Australia’s hero of the England innings though was Marsh, who took his opportunity with both hands. His bowling inflicted most of the damage, with a perfect delivery clipping the bails for Stokes on 87, before clean bowling Cook.

David Warner seemed much more composed than in the first innings, as he reached his 50 off 71 balls. However it could have been so very different. Adam Lyth could only parry a sharp edge from Warner to the boundary.

It was the third catch of the match England have failed to take, all of which would have changed the whole perplexity of the match. Rodgers and Steve Smith were dropped in the first innings before Warner in the second.

With the weather looking fair on Sunday, Australia could declare at lunch and try to make their job on day five a much simpler one. England are staring down a barrel of defeat unless they manage to stay in for five sessions, something only five teams have ever done in the history of the sport.

“At the moment, we’ve got to get our head around the fact that we are probably going to have to bat 150 overs to try and save the game,” said Stokes.

“If there’s ever a wicket to do it on it’s this one. There are no real demons in it, there’s not too much pace and there’s not too much turn.”

Australia’s Marsh told BBC: “We’ve got ourselves in a great position to really drive the game.

“I’m sure Michael Clarke has a total in mind, but I’m not sure. I imagine it will be around the 450 to 500 mark.”

ASHES 2015: Australia Looking Cosy at the Home of Cricket after One-Sided Second Day.

2nd Test, Day Two, Lord’s. 

Australia look strong favourites to level the Ashes series as they continue to dictate the second test at Lord’s.

After declaring on 566-8, the Aussie bowlers then demolished the top of the England batting order, to leave the hosts on 85-4 at the end of day two.

Steve Smith was the hero of the visitors innings- scoring 215 to become the third Australian to score 200-plus at the ‘Home of Cricket’.

After more than eight hours at the crease, facing 346 deliveries in the process, Smith engineered his sixth three figure total in his last eight tests, all of which have come during his first innings at the crease.

Had anyone before the match question his rank as second best in the world, they were silenced very quickly.

After breaking the record for the most runs in an Australian second wicket partnership at Lord’s, Smith’s batting partner Chris Rodgers fell for 173 to Stuart Broad, the only shining light of what was a very grey England bowling performance.

Broad took 4-82 in the end; with part time spinner Joe Root second best on the English bowling sheet with figures of 2-55.

If there was anything wrong with the Australian batting performance, it was the coming and going of captain Michael Clarke for just seven runs of 31 balls.

The batsman, whose batting record since the last Ashes series reads worse than Shane Watson, who was dropped for the second test, may want to move himself back down to number five in the order. His batting average at five is far better than his one at four.

After Australia declared, England faced the mammoth task of staging their own huge score to match their rivals- however it didn’t take long for the hopes of the nation to slowly crumble away.

Adam Lyth went for a two ball duck and not long after Gary Ballance was clean bowled by Mitchell Johnson. Ian Bell and Joe Root, who played so magnificently with the bat in Cardiff, both went for one as the weary hosts were left 30-4, with 19 overs still of the day to go.

Captain Alastair Cook and Ben Stokes saved England from any more embarrassment as they produced an unbeaten 55-run partnership to see the day out.

With fatigue kicking in, this will be a huge test for England to try and draw the test. One thing in their favour presumably is the weather, with heavy rain forecast for Sunday.

“There are no demons in the pitch but we had a ropey 20 minutes,” Broad told BBC Test Match Special.

“We’ve still got a chance to bat big. We have to apply ourselves. We’ve got 16 wickets to play with in this Test and if people get in and play to their game plan, they’re going to be hard to get rid of.”

The day though truly belonged to the Australians, who know a series draw would see them retain the Ashes. A win at Lord’s would mean a first test victory in England since 2001.

“England will be having a good night’s sleep and digging in,” Johnson told Sky Sports.

“Hopefully they’ll play that aggressive brand of cricket they’ve been talking about and we’ll see where that goes.”

ASHES 2015: Australia Bite Back With Record Partnership To Dominate Opening Day at Lord’s.

2nd Test, Day One, Lord’s.

Chris Rodgers and Steve Smith both scored centuries as Australia ended day one of the second test on 337-1 to seize control at Lord’s.

Following their heavy defeat in Cardiff, the tourists hit back with a five-star batting display from opener Rodgers and second best batsman in the world Smith.

Despite David Warner handing his wicket recklessly to England, the two batsman were confident on what was a slow pitch with little bounce in the capital.

Their partnership of 259 broke an 85-year record for an Australian second-wicket partnership. It had previously been 231 set by Bill Woodfull and Don Bradman.

Rodgers also overcame a record of seven consecutive fifties without converting them to three figures as he scored his highest test score of 158. As a result, he became just the fifth Aussie to score over 150 runs in one innings at Lord’s.

“It’s one of the proudest moments of my life,” said the Aussie opener.

“To get a hundred here is so special.”

Smith in contrast played like two different batsman. Taking 111 balls to make it to half a century, he smashed his next 50 runs in just 50 deliveries.

“The pitch was a little bit slow and if you got in you needed to go big,” said Smith.

“I wanted to make it count today and get up on that board. It was about keeping England out there for as long as possible.”

As Australia eye up a massive score in their first innings, England will be desperate to find more wickets on what will be a crucial second day.

The English bowlers will feel a bit of injustice, as they didn’t play entirely bad. Stuart Broad was, in particular, very consistent with the ball. His high-pitched deliveries were unplayable at times, but narrowly missed the bails.

Mark Wood also played well once he got going, but again his unplayable deliveries just went wide of the stumps.

The same can’t be said of James Anderson, Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali, who were punished when they pitched the ball too short.

“Hats off to the two guys who made hundreds – they played brilliantly throughout the day,’ said Anderson.

“They stayed patient, they attacked us when they could and made it really difficult for us to bowl at them for long periods of time and create that pressure.”

It was the first time in 22 years that England only took one wicket on the opening day of an Ashes Test match, and just the second time that only one wicket was taken in a Lord’s test.

England know that wickets are needed to get their foot back in the door and keep their Ashes lead in tact.

But with Michael Clarke and debutant Mitchell Marsh, who scored two hundreds in the warm up matches heading into the Ashes, to come in, things are looking good for Australia.