With a massive lump on his forearm from an earlier blow, Steve Smith suffered a sickening knock last night in the second Ashes Test.
As callous Lord’s spectators booed, the Australian was led off the pitch after he collapsed to the ground, and stayed there for some time, when he was hit flush on the neck by a Jofra Archer short ball.
Yet, so tough and so determined is Smith, he returned about 40 minutes later to try to convert his score of 80 not out into a third consecutive ton. It was perhaps too brave a move by Smith, as he did not look right once he returned.
Quite astonishingly, Smith was booed three separate times by spectators – first when he was led off the ground, then when he returned to bat, and finally when he was out LBW for 90. Those spectators should be ashamed of themselves.
Archer and his team-mate Jos Buttler may also regret their behaviour in the wake of Smith being hit. While Smith was still flat on the turf, Archer and Buttler were shown laughing and grinning together.
Given the way Phil Hughes’ death still haunts cricket, that footage of the English players did not look good.
The knock suffered by Smith was the culmination of one of the most thrilling and intimidating spells of fast bowling witnessed in Test cricket since Mitch Johnson ran amok in South Africa in 2014.
Archer had bowled well, but without any unusual level of menace, up until he thudded the ball into Smith’s forearm, forcing the Aussie to get prolonged medical treatment and don an arm guard. Suddenly, Archer found another gear.
Sensing that the immovable Smith was suddenly vulnerable, the English quick pushed his pace up above 150 kilometres per hour. Not just once, but repeatedly. Archer produced the fastest Test over on record by an Englishman, according to CricViz, with a set of six balls that averaged 149 kilometres per hour.
Jofra Archer's average speed in that last over was 149.34kph, or 92.79mph.
That's the fastest over by an English Test bowler where data is available. #Ashes
— The CricViz Analyst (@cricvizanalyst) August 17, 2019
While Smith has been troubled by the moving or spinning ball in the past, never have I seen him bullied by raw speed in this fashion. Should he be cleared fit to play in the next Test, Smith’s battles with Archer could be epic.
Smith’s ability to bat on after two horrific blows was rousing. So often he is praised for his skill, consistency and patience.
Yet he’s also proved, again and again, that he is a tough and fearless cricketer.
Similarly valiant was the innings by Smith’s batting partner at the time, Pat Cummins. Imagine seeing the world’s best batsman smashed twice by Archer and then, as a tailender, having to face him yourself. Yet Cummins refused to give in for two hours, scratching his way to 20 from 80 balls.
His brave effort frustrated England and allowed the tourists to make 250, giving England a lead of just eight runs.
Cummins then took the new ball and snared two wickets in as many deliveries to start the fifth over. At 2/9, with the inexperienced pair of Rory Burns and Joe Denly at the crease, Australia had an opportunity to make major inroads into the England batting line-up.
They squandered that, however, by offering four lives to England in a short space of time. First Denly was dropped at first slip by David Warner off the bowling of Peter Siddle. Then in the next over, Lyon trapped Burns in front but it was given not out and Australia failed to review it.
Then Warner turfed another catch, this one more difficult, after Nathan Lyon had tied Ben Stokes in knots again and again. First Stokes inside edged Lyon past the keeper, then he nicked just fine of Warner at slip, then he edged to his right side and Warner dived and dropped the chance. All that occurred in just one over.
England’s fourth piece of fortune came soon after when Australia didn’t review a Lyon LBW shout against Stokes that was shown to be crashing into leg stump.
These wasted opportunities greatly reduced Australia’s hopes of going 2-0 in this series. However, cricket is wildly unpredictable.
Here’s hoping for a crazy Day 5.