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UK View: Poms fume over 'brainless, reckless, sheer stupidity' as brazen batters blow 'Glenn McGrath moment'

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29th June, 2023
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Nathan Lyon’s calf injury was touted as the Glenn McGrath moment of this Ashes series but a frantic failed foray into Bazball from their batters has threatened to waste the good fortune that came their way on day two.

The UK media and former players appeared dumbfounded that having reached a powerful position at 1-188, England’s top order was “suckered in” by Pat Cummins bouncer barrage response.

England finished day two at 4-278 in response to Australia’s 416, but Ben Duckett, Ollie Pope and Joe Root fell to short balls soon after Lyon limped off. It reminded everyone of the McGrath injury in 2005 when he stood on a ball during warm up, rolled his ankle and the series momentum shifted dramatically.

“What came for the next hour or so was absolute stupidity,” said former England captain Michael Vaughan on the BBC.

“That is not entertaining, I’m sorry, that is stupid Test match cricket and Australia will be delighted with that method because when the ball is not swinging over the next few weeks, guess what they are going to do?”

 Ben Duckett of England leaves the field after losing his wicket Josh Hazlewood of Australia during Day Two of the LV= Insurance Ashes 2nd Test match between England and Australia at Lord's Cricket Ground on June 29, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

Ben Duckett of England leaves the field after losing his wicket. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

Scyld Berry, writing in the UK Telegraph, concurred: “It was not Bazball, it was not Ben-ball. It was simply brainless.

“The way England batted from the moment that Nathan Lyon hobbled from the field was the biggest example of headless chickens since the Old Trafford Test of 1961 when England were confounded by Richie Benaud going round the wicket on the last afternoon.


“And the chief culprit was Ollie Pope. The player who was appointed England’s vice-captain before the start of this series was the one who was incapable of reading the blatantly obvious match-situation.

“Pope was reported to have a sore shoulder: perhaps the painkillers had dulled his senses. Or put it in a positive way: the chances of Harry Brook, Zak Crawley and Ben Duckett becoming the next England captain have just been vastly enhanced.”

Berry, and others, felt that the aggression from the batsmen was a tactical error. The goal should have been to grind down Australia’s pacemen, who no longer had the relief of a frontline spinner.

“Pope seems to have been oblivious of the fact that the next Test starts on Thursday. Put miles into the legs of Australia’s three main seamers, all of them either side of 30, and England’s chances in the third Test are improved, quite apart from this second Test,” wrote Berry.

“But no. The moment Lyon had gone to nurse his calf, Pope started playing the highest-cricket imaginable, backing away from his stumps against Mitchell Starc and taking on Cameron Green’s bouncers. Common sense, the evaluation of risk, a single thought of doing what Australia least wanted, did not seem to feature in his calculations.”

Simon Wilde said Lyon’s injury shifted the series momentum.


“When Nathan Lyon pulled up in pain running in from the boundary at square leg to field a top-edged pull from Ben Duckett at 4.32pm, England were already in a good position at 182 for one with Duckett and Ollie Pope going well. As Lyon withdrew beyond the rope to be aided by Australia’s physiotherapist — and it became clear this was something more serious than cramp — the balance of power in the match, and indeed the whole series, appeared to lurch further towards the hosts.

“The players from both teams, and the coaching staff looking on from the dressing rooms high in the pavilion, must have been hurriedly calculating what Lyon’s probable absence from the remainder of the game, and beyond, might mean.”

He agreed that England should have been intent on working the paceman harder.

“It would be negligent of England if they did not consider the longer game and make it a priority to put overs into the legs of Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Starc with a view to the second innings here as well as the match in Leeds — though, goodness knows, England seem determined to never do the conventional, sober thing.”

Lawrence Booth, in the Daily Mail, compared Lyon’s worth to his team to McGrath in 2005.

“For a moment, it looked innocuous. Nathan Lyon did no more than pull up after running in from deep backward square, having failed to reach a top edge from Ben Duckett. Then he flexed his right calf. And then he hobbled a bit, hoping for the best, maybe fearing the worst.

Nathan Lyon leaves the field.

Nathan Lyon leaves the field. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)


“By the time Lyon was being examined by an Australian medic over the rope in front of the Grand Stand, his team-mates were holding their breath.

“And when he was helped towards the pavilion, wincing and grimacing, it was tempting to wonder whether Lyon – the leading wicket-taker in the early stages of these Ashes – had already sent down his final ball of the summer.

“Calf injuries can be debilitating at the best of times, and a statement from Australia’s dressing-room didn’t immediately suggest the best of times. Lyon would be assessed after play, and a further update, ‘if available’, would be shared on Friday morning.

“If he is ruled out for the next few weeks, and therefore – in this most truncated of Ashes – from the final three matches, it will be no sort of reward for a superb off-spinner who in this game has become the first bowler to play 100 successive Tests.

“Comparisons have been rife this summer with 2005, and the gut feeling was that here we had another.

“Eighteen years ago, before the start of the second Test at Edgbaston, Glenn McGrath trod on a stray ball in the outfield and twisted his ankle, ruling him out of both that game and the fourth Test at Trent Bridge. In his absence, England won both.

“Lyon is no McGrath, but he is not far behind.


“Like McGrath in 2005, he was Australia’s match-winning bowler in the first Test: Lyon took eight wickets at Edgbaston to McGrath’s nine at Lord’s. And while McGrath finished his career with 563 all told, Lyon is closing in on 500 – hallowed territory occupied by only seven others.”

Stephan Shemilt, the BBC’s chief cricket writer, wrote: “England came close to wasting a superb fightback with some brainless batting late on the second day of the second Ashes Test against Australia at Lord’s.”

He added: “This was so close to being a magnificent day for England – for more than two sessions they were every bit as good as they were lethargic on Wednesday.

“As the pitch quickened up, the home bowlers found more zip. The catching was sharp and the batting, led by the increasingly dependable Duckett, was grinding Australia down.

“Indeed, as the touring bowlers battled in vain to extract any movement from the ball, England’s only error came from Zak Crawley, who ran down the pitch and was stumped down the leg side off Lyon for a handsome 48.

“Then came eight overs of madness that threatened to derail any chance England have of regaining the Ashes. Their success under Stokes has been built on an attacking style, but the reckless way they allowed Australia back in defied cricketing logic.”

There was a lone voice in the English press pack who revelled in rather than reviled England’s approach.


“Put the smelling salts away, still your beating heart, quiet your righteous indignation, stop your ranting about the death of cricket and other such nonsense and have a quick look at the scorecard. That’s right: it’s OK. Actually, it’s more than OK,” wrote Oliver Holt in the Daily Mail.

“At the end of one of the most compelling days of Ashes cricket many can remember, a day when England played beautifully for some passages of play, a day when they played like Babe Ruth, struck out swinging for the fences, for some passages of play, they closed on 278 for four.

“So, pretty much even-steven with Australia, who were bowled out earlier in the day for 416. England got to their total at stumps by scoring at close to five an over, at first with judicious aggression and then with, well, injudicious aggression.

“England’s approach, after tea in particular, appeared to induce a collective meltdown in the cricket nation when Ollie Pope, Ben Duckett and Joe Root got themselves out in the space of seven overs, all dismissed because they tried to overpower Australia’s short-ball tactics.

“One of the results of the way England are playing under Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes is that some fans want all the thrills and none of the spills. Sport isn’t like that. If you take risks, sometimes it isn’t going to work and sometimes you are going to look stupid. It takes courage to play the way England are playing because they know that after the plaudits, there will be brickbats.

“But it’s a wild ride getting there. And it’s a heady mix of brilliant shot-making and rash shot- making. It’s a mix of the beautiful and the insane. It’s some of the most breathtaking, unpredictable sport you will see anywhere.”