Australia's batsmen knuckle down to stem the blood loss

Matthew Wade dug in as the rain fell Getty Images

Lord's day two, evening, 2009. The Oval, day two, afternoon, 2009. Lord's, day two, afternoon, 2013. Durham, day four, evening, 2013. Edgbaston, day one, afternoon, 2015. Trent Bridge, day one, morning, 2015.

Just six sessions over 10 years, but together they have been enough to more or less hand England the Ashes on three consecutive tours. Each time Australia suffered a cataclysmic batting collapse of at least six wickets in a session that either set-up or sealed a match for England, generally when clouds and pitch provided assistance for the hosts.

To that catalogue it would have been so easy to add Lord's day three, morning, 2019. Clouds overhead, rain in the air preparing to fall for the rest of the day, a pitch that had sweated under its overnight covers. These were conditions made to order for England, and it was a marked departure from the aforementioned litany that saw Australia lose only three wickets in the two hours of play that were possible prior to lunch.

Far from a strong session for Tim Paine's team, but not disastrous. As their mentor Steve Waugh observed afterwards, the potential for a match-shaping session had been avoided through some doughty batting from Steven Smith and Matthew Wade in particular. "I thought we actually did pretty well," Waugh said. "We talked before the start of the series that the key to doing well over here is to not have a disastrous session.

"You're going to lose some sessions, but just lose them closely, not by big margins. That's exactly what we've talked about and that's what the guys did really well. If you lose a couple of quick wickets there, the potential is to lose five or six or seven and then really the Test matches you're going to struggle to come back from that. We hung in there really well. I thought while Wade is 0 not out he's faced 20-odd balls. Steve Smith again looked pretty self-assured. But that was a crucial partnership, if we lost a couple more wickets there, it could've been a tough session.

For Smith (13 from 40 balls) and Wade (0 from 23 balls) the instinct for survival took precedence over their natural desire to score. "It was difficult conditions," Waugh said. "I was down on ground level and that was good quality bowling - England were very disciplined. There's a bit in the pitch, it's a bit two-paced and a bit off the seam so you have to work really hard. It's the sort of pitch where you've seen everyone who's scored runs in this Test match has scored at less than a run every second ball.

"So it's not a pitch where you're going to go out and dominate, you've got to work really hard and get through the tough periods and hopefully the ball gets soft or the sun comes out and conditions change. You've got to sum up the conditions and I guess from a bowling point of view try to seize the moment. From a batting point of view you've got to stem the blood less and hold steady."

Part of the process of staunching the bleeding was not allowing any to be spilled in the first hour, Cameron Bancroft and Usman Khawaja did exceptionally well to see out the initial exchanges, rotating the strike and showing decent judgment of what to leave. Bancroft's efforts to get his head over the ball were sometimes to exaggerated as to give the impression he might trip directly over it, while Khawaja nailed a pair of back foot drives off Chris Woakes that got the Friday Lord's crowd purring.

However, Bancroft's tendency also to fall across his crease meant England's lbw search looked likely to be rewarded, as it was when Jofra Archer brought one back down the hill to hit him on the back pad. A review from Bancroft only confirmed that the ball was clipping the bails, and England had opened things up. They opened further when Khawaja, having left well earlier in his innings, dabbled at a Woakes delivery that, while well pitched, was fractionally wide enough to also shoulder arms.

Travis Head, so proactive at Edgbaston, immediately found himself cornered, beaten from over the wicket before Stuart Broad reverted to the line around the wicket that has so confounded the South Australian captain over the years. Crease bound in part due to Archer's pace, he was the plumbest of lbws, even if Aleem Dar initially declined the appeal for the hint of a double noise. Wade was given out before the showers arrived, also lbw, but ball-tracking revealed that Stokes angle from wide of the crease had the ball pitching marginally outside leg stump.

All the while Smith left the ball as much as he could, offering his post-leave flourishes with even more spark than usual - as though giving himself little post-delivery rewards for denying a natural instinct to get bat on ball. England, in keeping with Joe Root's assertion before this match that Smith's outlandishness can have a tendency to "put off" bowlers and captains from orthodoxy in their plans, stuck more rigorously to the region just outside the off stump and if they didn't dismiss Smith, made it far harder for him to score.

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England, too, were left with hope from the session that, while the dam did not burst this day, it may yet do so at Leeds, Manchester or the Oval. "Yeah it will happen," Broad said when asked whether he could see England scooping six or seven wickets in a session this series. "We know in England it's not necessarily the pitch that plays a huge part in that, it's the overhead conditions that you need a bit of luck when you're batting or bowling. Here at Lord's if the sun comes out you can quite easily go and get a wicketless session with the bat.

"But you know if it clouds over and the humidity rises you can get 10 wickets in a session. You need a bit of luck of when those conditions fall, and both bowling attacks I think have got a lot of confidence in taking wickets, and I think this series will be quite intriguing in periods in which batting unit can soak up the pressure and actually get through periods of good bowling, and which batting unit maybe tries to hit their way out and struggles.

"The weather's played a part in this Test match and there's still a chance of a result. I can't see too many draws coming in the next three, I think they'll be result Test matches."

Nevertheless, this was the sort of session in which the teams of 2009, 2013 and 2015 may well have lost six wickets or more. To only lose three meant that the Australians entered the final two days of a rain blighted match with a chance to wriggle their way to a more advantageous position. For the first time in at least four Ashes tours, they ended a potential banana skin of a day without having fallen on their faces.