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  • England v Australia, 2nd Test, Lord's, 2nd day

Swann's five embarrass Australia on manic day

The Report by David Hopps
July 19, 2013 « Live County Championship coverage | Chartbeat test »
England 361 and 31 for 3 (Siddle 3-4) lead Australia 128 (Swann 5-44) by 264 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Graeme Swann made the most of Australia's generosity to claim five wickets © Getty Images
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It will require the services of a cricket historian to determine when Australia last batted as woefully as this. Many Australian supporters will neither know nor care. It will be enough merely to condemn the sheer awfulness of their batting performance in the second Investec Test.

England were serviceable in the field, Australia were simply dreadful with the bat. This was an opportunity to bat themselves into a winning position, the occasional sign of sharp turn for Graeme Swann notwithstanding. Instead, they floundered, dismissed in only 53.3 overs. Nothing in their three innings defeats against England in 2010-11 felt as bad as this.

Just as bafflingly, England then tossed away three wickets of their own, all three to Peter Siddle with the new ball. This pitch is dryer than normally seen at Lord's but in the first two days it has essentially been a batsman's surface. But in 20 overs to the close, Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott both dragged on and Kevin Pietersen gifted a catch to point. England lead by 264.

Australia's dismissals variously revealed frailties of temperament, technique and team ethic. Swann was the chief beneficiary with five wickets and, as ably as he bowled, if he claims he worked hard for it, he will be playing it for laughs. As for Darren Lehmann, Australia's new coach, he now knows the size of the job.

Ryan Harris must have been beside himself with fury. He had bowled with skill and resolve to put himself on the honours board before lunch with his return of 5 for 72, only for Australia's top order to produce a dishonour board of their own.

Harris helped reduce England to 28 for 3 on the first morning with the attributes developed over a decade as he defied a broken body time and again; Australia lost ten wickets for 86 primarily because of their own negligence. Swann confirmed that England felt 450 was par.

It would be easy for Australia to hide behind more resentful discussion about the Decision Review System. It is little more than scapegoating. If Australia did not make things any easier with their irrational use of DRS, the dominant story should be one of batting incompetence.

Shane Watson's decision to review his plumb lbw decision against Tim Bresnan will rightly leave him open to accusations that he put his ego ahead of team needs, but the cricketing accent should also be on his desire to plant his front pad and work Bresnan through the leg side in the final over before lunch.

Australia's self-possession in an opening stand of 42 fell apart. The psychological fallout from his twin error was astonishing.

Chris Rogers will understandable gain sympathy for his dismissal: firstly for a dreadful lbw decision by Marais Erasmus, who was as caught unawares as the batsman when the ball slipped out of Swann's hands and arrived as a waistband-high donkey drop; secondly because Watson's selfishness left him reluctant to risk Australia's final review.

But that should not preclude an examination of why such a wise old hand, a batsman who must have seen everything over a long career, failed to survive the shock of receiving such a stray delivery.

Phillip Hughes walked off shaking his head, contending that he had not edged Bresnan to the wicketkeeper. Hot Spot was not clear, leaving the TV umpire Tony Hill with no evidence to overturn umpire Kumar Dharmasena's decision; Snicko, for what it is worth, indicated that there was a nick and Hughes was just posturing. But that was not the point. The emphasis should have been on why Hughes was hacking so wildly at a wide one.

Usman Khawaja, a batsman held by his captain Michael Clarke to be ready for Australia's No. 3 spot, was badly dropped by Trott at first slip when he pushed defensively forward to a routine offbreak. But if that persuaded him he must be more assertive, it does not formulate a case for why he lofted Swann so weakly down the ground - not much more than a badly timed push shot - to be caught out of the sun by Pietersen, standing at mid-off.

At least Australia's last two batsmen to fall before tea were dismissed in a more approved fashion. Steven Smith was beaten by extra bounce and caught off the glove at short leg - Ian Bell having just been moved by Swann for that very eventuality. Clarke, a captain who repeatedly finds himself lacking support, pulled Stuart Broad dismissively, but fell lbw in the same over to a near yorker.

There had to be a run-out. There were indications at Trent Bridge that Brad Haddin and Ashton Agar have no understanding between the wickets, not as much a different approach as much as a generational divide.

Agar dashed for a single from the non-striker's end when the ball bobbled into the leg-side off Haddin's body, Haddin did not respond, and Matt Prior returned quickly to the bowler's end. And this was a subdued Agar, hindered by a hip injury.

After tea it got no better. Anderson, upon whom England were so reliant at Trent Bridge, took his first wicket when he had Siddle caught at second slip. Haddin heaved at Swann and Trott held on this time.

The last-wicket pair clung on for eight overs, but only because Swann dropped a simple return chance from Harris. A good running catch by Pietersen, as Harris went long, gave Swann a five-for.

All this mayhem on the pitch where Harris had bowled so gamely, removing Bresnan to the first ball of the day and Anderson for his own five-wicket haul. England were grateful for an ebullient last-wicket stand of 48 from 40 balls between Broad and Swann, a stand which illustrated both the quality of the pitch and the chemistry that can result when they combine in some late-order hitting.

James Pattinson, so out of sorts that he bowled his 20 overs in nine spells, finally put an end to it when Broad nicked to the keeper. Broad naturally reviewed it and by the time Hot Spot revealed an edge, Australia, to a man, were stood by the Pavilion gate, having had quite enough for one series of watching Broad remain at the crease under false pretences.

Anderson's appearance as a nightwatchman for Broad, a No. 9 batsman, had caused grumbles. But there were logical reasons to try to protect Broad and Swann from the new ball in the hope they would create havoc later. And they did just that.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

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