Most assumed England would take a series lead into Headingley, but only the truest of believers considered a 2-0 scoreline possible. In a match that has seen five-and-a-half sessions lost to rain, light and a water-logged outfield, England have somehow found enough time to exploit Australian frailties to the point where the most improbable of victories is now within view, albeit still some way off in the distance.
Ricky Ponting climbed to the summit of Australia’s run list but refused to enjoy the view until after the third Test. Ponting become the country’s most prolific batsman when he passed Allan Border’s mark of 11,174 during the second morning at Edgbaston and allowed himself a couple of bat raises to celebrate and a hug from Michael Clarke – but nothing more.
“Pup was trying to get some emotion out of me in the middle,” Ponting said. “He came down and said: ‘Well done, I’m really proud of you.’ I said: ‘Mate, we’ve got a job to do.’ I waved my bat around a little bit more than I normally do, but it was just straight back into it to get through a tough morning.”
Ian Bell will resume his international career after being confirmed as Kevin Pietersen’s replacement for the third Test against Australia. He was named in a 13-man squad for Edgbaston that also included Steve Harmison and Monty Panesar to provide bowling options, but England are hopeful that Andrew Flintoff will be fit.
After losing Pietersen for the rest of the series it is crucial to England’s cause that they retain Flintoff for the remaining three Tests. The allrounder sent down a 10-over spell on the final day at Lord’s as England wrapped up victory by 115 runs and despite feeling discomfort in his knee is desperate to finish his swansong series.
Allan Donald, the former South African fast bowler, has said bowlers must be allowed to “prepare” the ball – ball-tampering, in other words – to redress the balance between bat and ball and protect the “dying breed” from increasingly lifeless pitches.
Speaking to Cricinfo on Friday, Donald was asked if he would recommend legalising ball tampering. He said: “The ICC would shoot me for saying it but, with the wickets that we play on and the dying breed fast bowlers are becoming on these flatter wickets, I would say we do need some sort of defence mechanism, something to fall back on to say ‘Right, we can do this. We can now prepare this ball to go’.”
Kevin Pietersen’s participation in the IPL will come under further scrutiny after it emerged his Achilles injury deteriorated while on duty with the Royal Challengers Bangalore. According to Evan Speechly, Bangalore’s assistant coach and physiotherapist, Pietersen aggravated his right Achilles while jogging along Durban’s beachfront and returned to England for the home series against West Indies experiencing increased discomfort.
Pietersen reported for IPL duty with a pre-existing Achilles problem, sustained during England’s ill-fated tour of the Caribbean. The ECB, who dispatched senior medical officers Simon Timson and Nick Pierce to South Africa to monitor their IPL-contracted players, outlined a revised training plan for Pietersen, the Bangalore captain, which the franchise’s medical staff strictly enforced.
Andrew Flintoff has vowed to play through pain in his attempt to be fit for next week’s third Ashes Test at Edgbaston. Flintoff’s role has assumed added significance after Kevin Pietersen was ruled out of the summer and the allrounder said he will do whatever it takes to play.
“There are no guarantees for anybody. But I have three Test matches left, and I’d do anything to get through, maybe put myself through things I wouldn’t do if I was looking more long term,” Flintoff told the Independent. “I will do whatever it takes to get out on the field. If I don’t it has to be something extremely serious. The encouraging thing was that I bowled regularly over 90mph at Lord’s.”
Shane Watson is ready to become a makeshift opener if Phillip Hughes’ woes continue, but the allrounder expects it will be the added value of his bowling that earns him a Test return. Watson, who has recovered from a thigh injury, is officially in the squad as a specialist batsman and has the backing of the coach Tim Nielsen to fill any spot in the order.
England’s coach, Andy Flower, is confident that his team can build on the success and momentum they took from their historic victory over Australia at Lord’s on Monday, regardless of whether their two star players, Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen, overcome their fitness concerns.
Amid the euphoria of England’s first Ashes win at Lord’s for 75 years, a result that gave them a 1-0 lead over Australia for the first time since 1997, there have been growing concerns about the ability of both Flintoff and Pietersen to take the field in the third Test at Edgbaston, which starts on July 30.
The contrast could not be more stark. Andrew Flintoff, England’s marquee all-rounder and emerging pace spearhead, claimed 6 for 119 and man-of-the-match honours from 39 high velocity overs, highlighted by a second innings haul of 5 for 92 from 27 overs, the last ten of which were delivered without respite on the final day. A Herculean performance, and one worthy of recognition on the Lord’s honours board.
In his last Test at the home of cricket, Andrew Flintoff broke England’s 75-year Lord’s curse with his first five-wicket haul since the Ashes-clinching Oval Test of 2005. It was, unquestionably, a performance that will enhance his already mythical status within English cricket, but more pertinently for now, delivered England to a 1-0 series lead heading into Edgbaston.
Victory was sealed 17 minutes before lunch when Graeme Swann, another major contributor on Monday, pegged back Mitchell Johnson’s middle stump with the Australian total at 406. The wicket prompted scenes of jubilation not witnessed at Lord’s in decades, and a collective furrowing of brows in the Australian dressing rooms as the series momentum shifted sharply in the hosts’ favour.