England in position to win

History could be made over the next few days after a magnificent England bowling performance on the second day of the Lord’s Test. As a pack, the four England fast bowlers were brilliant.

Australia have not lost an Ashes Test at Lord’s since 1934 and, before that, it was 1896! But they are under serious pressure now, as England’s quick bowlers reduced Ricky Ponting’s team to 156 for 8.

The 47-run last wicket stand between Jimmy Anderson and Graham Onions, which took England’s first innings total past 400, was psychologically important at the start of day two, but Australia would have begun their own first innings still feeling pretty good about fighting back in the field after Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook had put on 196 for the opening wicket.

Now, however, they are in danger of being asked to follow on, and England know – given reasonable weather over the last three days – that they are in a wonderful situation.
Anderson, with four of the first eight wickets to fall, has led the attack superbly. He is now without question the leading bowler in England’s Test team – and here he underlined what we have all seen in the past year: he has matured and is near his peak as an international-class swing and seam bowler.

Stuart Broad also came to the party with the wickets of Mitchell Johnson and Brad Haddin, both to short balls, and Graham Onions also employed the short ball to dismiss Simon Katich.  

But, for me, it was the aggression and pace of Andrew Flintoff which, in tandem with Anderson, kick-started this fantastic display in the field.

This is still a decent Lord’s pitch, but England got so much out of it because they put so much in, starting with Anderson and Flintoff, who was given the new ball and sent down an initial six-over and very hostile spell.

Then, when he was brought back and deservedly got the wicket of Mike Hussey with a beautiful delivery that touched 95mph, Flintoff simply tore in and bowled a genuinely quick burst which really rattled the Australian batsmen.

Flintoff has the ability to work batsmen over, because he is not just fast but also very accurate and, when he is at his best, there is a relentlessness about his attack on the batsmen. He also makes things happen for the bowlers at the other end.

I think the rest of the England attack really took their lead from Flintoff and Anderson, and thus inspired they were also aggressive in their approach. Australia will never just fold and go away – they will always have to be got out, and England’s aggression did the job. It was great to see.

Personally, I thought England got their selection for this match slightly wrong, because I would have brought in Steve Harmison for Broad, as well as Onions for Monty Panesar.

Harmison is clearly bowling well at the moment, and he has gone back up to Durham this week and taken another five-wicket haul – against Nottinghamshire – to show the selectors that he is still very much in the frame.

What is good is that Harmison’s presence within the squad – he was, after all, in the 14 for this match – is now really putting pressure on the other fast bowlers. I think we have already seen Broad’s response, after his own poor game in Cardiff, but all the bowlers will be feeling Harmison’s hand on their shoulder.

In short, what a great position for England to be in. And, with the majority of the rest of the series likely to be played on pitches which will demand a four-seamer attack, I think it is very encouraging to see England’s four quicker bowlers looking so good as a unit.

Onions, in particular, looks a very good bowler to me. He is lively, skiddy and on a pitch with a bit more assistance he will be a real handful. All this, and Harmison still to come if it is necessary!

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