The spell that changed The Ashes
This post was supposed to be about superstars in their sport. It was going to based predominately around the heroics of Steve Smith, which it kind of is, but then on Saturday, Jofra Archer bowled one of the most ferocious spells of bowling an England bowler had ever bowled.
It’s very rare for a player to live up to all the hype. The last in an England shirt would have been Kevin Pietersen, on the same ground some 14 years ago. England lost the Test Match but there was a glimpse of a mood swing in England’s direction. England failed to win the second Test Match on Sunday too, but again there seems to have been a huge shift in dynamic for the hosts that seems crazy 1-nil down going into the third Test Match this Thursday.
It was mid afternoon on Saturday when the duel began. The world’s greatest batsman facing the world’s most highly rated rookie. Archer was reaching speeds of over 96mph when he struck Smith on the forearm. How it wasn’t broken is truly a incredible. Perhaps he is superhuman?
The duel to was concoction of euphoria and concern. We hadn’t seen an English bowler do this to anyone since Devon Malcolm’s demolition of South Africa a quarter of a century ago.
And then Smith was floored. The young colt had felled the warhorse with a blow to the neck. The man who couldn’t be moved was leveled on the Lords turf. And there it was, as if the outcome of the whole Ashes rested on that very moment, the series had changed. It was a relief to see Smith rise to his feet. You could see the affect it had on him when he returned to the crease as he battled towards his century, only to fall 8-runs short after gross misjudgment to a Chris Woakes delivery that nipped back and rapped him on the pads while playing no shot.
Smith’s return was short and he didn’t field or bat in the second innings. Instead, for the first time ever, a concussion substitute was used. Australia were 19-2 when Marnus Labuschagne come to the crease. He too was flattened by a Jofra Archer bouncer. He bounced to his feet like a boxer would in round one, trying to convince the umpire that everything is fine. He batted well for 50 and must be a certainty for the next game, but will it be Steve Smith that he replaces?
It’s not quite dire straights for the Australians who need just one more win to retain the Ashes, but they are definitely rattled. England have seized the initiative and have new weapon. A weapon that will strike fear in every batsman who faces him this series and beyond, the same affect that Mitchell Johnson had on the English batsman in 2013.
Headingley will offer much of the same, if the Australians don’t find a way to combat Jofra Archer, it could be a long 4 weeks for their batsmen.