England v Australia, first Test, Lord’s, Day 2

Well, another fascinating day’s play awaits us. It’s cloudy here at the moment, quite thick cloud and coolish, which could make life even trickier for England’s lower order. The key wicket is, of course, Kevin Pietersen – who I thought played excellently given the circumstances yesterday, not forgetting it is his Test match debut too. If the tail can stay with him for an hour, he could go berserk – but equally, Australia could knock over the tail very quickly.

Leave your comments here as the day goes on…

Morning session
It has been a good start to the second day for Australia. KP continues to look impressively solid and clearly, is going to take a few more chances than he did yesterday. He has not slipped into all-out-aggression mode yet however. As I write this, Hoggard has been snapped up at slip of Warne and surely now, KP is going to have take matters into his own hands. If he stays in for any length of time, this should be good to watch. And right on cue: 4, 6, 4 and it is 50 for KP. Under the circumstances, worth more than a hundred on debut. What a fine way to begin a Test career!

KP finally went for 57 as he searched for more quick runs but England have scrapped their way to 155, a total that they would have been disappointed with at tea yesterday and v.happy with before play began this morning. Australia have a lead of 35 and we’re off again for another round of cricket. Once again, the new ball is going to be important, especially in the conditions.

Australia have given themselves a steady start to the second innings, going in to lunch at 47-1 for an overall lead of 82. England would have liked another wicket in that session but they now have their work cut out in the afternoon, with the pitch playing slightly easier today. The bowling intensity seems to have dropped off a bit too, almost certainly in part due to the fact that they conceded the first innings lead. They’ll have to put that behind them because the game is at a crossroads now, waiting for either team to assume charge.
Australia are threatening to do just that but England have shown a few times this summer already that they recover from setbacks quickly. An important session for both teams coming up.

Afternoon session
The runs continue to come steadily for Australia as they find themselves at 95/2 about an hour into the session. Hayden went early after lunch, once again a victim of his over-eagerness to dominate a bowler, but Ponting is looking quite assured now. The pitch seems to have become significantly more benign, but continues to hold out hope for the bowlers with a bit of uneven bounce and variable pace. Batting is certainly easier today than it was yesterday however, and Vaughan is rotating his bowlers around hoping for an inspired spell from one of his quicks. Time for Giles to turn his arm over, I would suggest.

After the frenetic first day, it has felt noticeably slower today, especially the second hour of the afternoon session. Australia have been content to accumulate runs, taking no unnecessary chances and building up as big a lead as they can put together. England are juggling between trying to keep the runs down and taking wickets at the same time and all of this meant that the cricket was more attritional than action packed. It was all very fascinating to watch nevertheless and if KP had held on to Clarke’s offering just before tea, England would have felt that honors were still even. But Australia went into the interval at 140/3, an overall advantage of 175 and they will still be the happier side. England will not want to be chasing anything over 300 so there is some serious work to be done by them. Three sessions in a row to Australia, after losing the first two of the match.

Post-Tea session
Momentum continues to build for these wizards from Oz as the lead has now been stretched to 233, with 7 wickets still in hand and a pair that is looking increasingly comfortable at the crease. Vaughan did turn to Giles just before tea and has persisted with him since, but his forte is not aggressive spin bowling and as luck would have it, Australia’s two best players of spin are batting in tandem at the moment. England need to break this partnership quickly, and they need to follow it up with more wickets otherwise they run the risk of being batted out of this match.

“Another fascinating day’s play awaits us” was the call before the start of play and dead right it was proved to be too. England recovered smartly to post 155, cutting Australia’s lead down to 35. Australia then put on a resolute batting display and as long as Clarke was in the middle, even threatened to shut England out of the game. But as they have shown all summer, England is now a resilient side and they got their second wind just in time – Clarke perished, rather unluckily, dragging one back on to his stumps but that was the opening England were hoping desperately for. Harmison, who was often the lone consistent threat today, then sent Martyn on his way before Flintoff worked his Gilly Magic yet again. Harmison then returned to finish off Warne and at the end of yet another rollercoaster, see-sawing, topsy-turvy day, Australia are 279/7, for an overall lead of 314. One would think that they have enough on the board already, but the late fightback will give England hope. If they can wrinkle out the remaining batting quickly and leave themselves something under 350 to chase, we could have a memorable finish to what has already been a memorable Test Match.

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