Happy with that: Mitch Marsh celebrates after taking the wicket of Ben Stokes. Photo: Ryan Pierse Breakthrough: Ben Stokes plays on to his stumps. Photo: Shaun Botterill
Live coverage: Second Test – day three
LONDON: It is meant to be Australia’s unlucky number but on Saturday it served them well.
Ben Stokes, the kind of boom all-rounder Australia hope Mitchell Marsh can also be in this northern summer now they have promoted him, looked destined for a second Test hundred at Lord’s in the space of two months.
It was one England desperately needed in their bid to drag themselves back into the second Ashes Test. Instead, on 87 and with only 15 minutes left until lunch, Stokes dragged a ball that kept a fraction low onto his stumps. Marsh, who after steaming in from the Pavilion End as Michael Clarke switched his attack around repeatedly, picked up his first Test wicket against England in his fourth over.
It wasn’t the ending Stokes had in mind. The Kiwi-born red-head won a name for himself when he was among the only England tourists to leave Australia with their head held high 18 months, having scored their lone hundred in that 5-0 series thrashing.
In the lead-up to this Ashes campaign Stokes was then cast as the aggressive England’s aggressor-in-chief, and appeared to lap up the responsibility.
“It sounds like all I want to do is fight them,” he said in a pre-series event at Lord’s. “If I get involved I don’t want to take a backward step and let them know they are on top of me and can say what they want and get away with it.”
On Saturday, there weren’t any of the feuds that he found himself in two years ago in Adelaide, when he bumped shoulders in an incident with Mitchell Johnson, but not taking a backward step was exactly what England required from him with the bat on the third day here.
Alongside a resilient Alastair Cook (56 not out) Stokes was before exiting at the hands of Marsh on the verge of following up his 85-ball hundred in the win over New Zealand here in May, the fastest seen at the ground.
That record was never going to be endangered on Saturday. This was not the time for that kind of dash although Stokes, as is his way, was not afraid to get a move on, particularly when the bait of Steve Smith’s leg-spin was hung before him.
His partnership with Cook, rendered so important for England after they had come together with their team on the brink at 4-30 on Friday evening, was a key one for the Australians to break and lunch will have tasted just a little better having reduced the hosts to 5-181 at the first break. England, at that point, were still 186 runs short of avoiding the follow-on.
While Stokes’ departure was a big blow for them, on the subject of all-rounders the dropped Shane Watson also made an appearance on Saturday morning, filling in at first slip for a hurt Adam Voges, who had been wounded at short-leg the evening before by a Stokes sweep shot that battered him on the hip.
Watson was then replaced by another reserve player, Shaun Marsh, in the cordon in the lead-up to lunch, with Voges remaining absent while, according to Australian spokeswoman, he was having the hip iced.
The Australian team physio, Alex Kountouris, also paid a visit to Mitchell Starc on the boundary rope in front of the Tavern Stand to treat what appeared like back soreness although the left-armer continued to bowl right up to the lunch break.
There was also pain for Cook just before the interval when the England captain was struck on the elbow by a delivery from Johnson.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.