It was Warner who looked settled and confident during the World Cup, and Warner who was forecast to bring his great determination to his best format, the five-day game, while Smith’s mental space was causing concern. Things haven’t turned out that way.
Possibly Warner is trying too hard. Lord’s was abuzz with Archer’s appearance, and the Bajan dialled up the pace to 150kmh in a bracing first spell.
Had James Anderson been fit, England would have had a selection problem. Warner steeled himself against the fastest bowling the Australians have faced all year. His footwork was steadier than at Edgbaston. But he received a good ball from Broad, one that might have dismissed him if he was 3 or 103, so maybe that is all there is to it. Story to be continued.
If there was a sense of the cavalry arriving for England in the form of Archer, that had clearly been the case for Australia with Josh Hazlewood’s return. It must have been a balm to Australian eyes to see the Bendemeer paceman leading the attack. Galloping in at the Nursery End, Hazlewood brought some New England values to the old country: dropping straight onto a length, seldom bowling a bad ball or a bouncer, and coming up with the key wickets of Jason Roy, Joe Root and Joe Denly.
The return of good players is always intriguing. Hazlewood had missed the late part of the Australian summer with injury, was omitted from the World Cup and the first Test squad and, apparently, was caught up in lost luggage somewhere in transit. When Justin Langer explained the bowling selection for the first Test, he said the final choice lay between Peter Siddle and Mitchell Starc. This was later explained as a slip of the tongue – the coach-selector meant Hazlewood, not Starc – but a telling one. Hazlewood, as distinct from Starc, seems to suffer from Oscar Wilde’s curse that the one thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about. Hazlewood must, in a quiet Bendemeer kind of way, been ropable.
Too orthodox for mystique, too reliable to cause bar-room argument, he has simply been Australia’s best bowler for the past three years and it was his omission from the earlier stages, not Starc’s, that was most noticed by close watchers. He made sure that his return was noticed by everyone.
As a team effort, Australia’s bowling performance was outstanding. Patrick Cummins bowled intelligently, pitching full before lunch and then testing England with the short ball afterwards. Peter Siddle bowled just one poor over, his first. Thereafter he was excellent, having Rory Burns dropped and nabbing Jos Buttler. Nathan Lyon again looms as the danger man for England. His loop and turn were menacing even on the day-one wicket, and he has a clear hold over England’s most important player, Ben Stokes.
The bowlers justified Tim Paine’s decision to invite England to bat in what has turned into a four-day match (and may yet turn into a three-day one, with some iffy weather on its way). Every day of this series has been fascinating. Thursday developed some tantalising rivalries. Now Friday is on everyone’s mind.
Malcolm Knox is a sports columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald.