'Can he ask the opposition to make the choice?'
If a captain wins the toss, can they defer the decision to their opposite number? Australia coach Justin Langer mulled that question as rain ruined day one at Lord's
Andrew Ramsey in London
15 August 2019, 03:36 AM AEST
Had the coin been flipped into London's low, grey sky to formalise the start of the second Ashes Test, Australia were pondering if they might defer any decision to their rivals, England – regardless of the way the penny dropped.
So bleak was the weather at Lord's throughout the scheduled opening day, which was ultimately abandoned without so much as a coin toss, that the responsibility of whether to bat or bowl first would have hung as heavily over skippers Tim Paine and Joe Root as the thick, suffocating cloud.
The overhead conditions were even more extreme than those in Edgbaston, where Paine earned first choice and felt compelled to bat, despite knowing that ball was likely to dominate.
That instinct was proved correct as Australia slumped to 8-122 midway through the day, and a similarly agonising decision loomed at Lord's where a break in the weather saw umpires reschedule the toss amid biting cold at 3pm.
The arrival of further rain shortly before that ceremony took place meant the call will instead be made on Thursday morning, by which time the sun may have appeared and the smart choice is far more obvious to the successful skipper.
But during the fleeting moments on Wednesday that heavy covers were removed, and ground staff prepared the playing surface for a possible start of play, men's team coach Justin Langer wondered aloud if Australia could feasibly ask Root to make a decision should the coin land in Paine's favour.
With the rain delaying play at Lord's, we might see more of this from Pat to pass the time! #Ashes pic.twitter.com/QiilHX5zE1— Direct Hit (@directhitau) August 14, 2019
"We had a joke there for a moment, if the captain tosses the coin and he wins the toss can he ask the opposition to make the choice?" Langer said shortly after play was called off around 4.30pm.
"I think we decided you can’t do that.
"A couple of the umpires weren’t sure, but they checked for us - you have to make a decision.
"Today would have been tough, we knew there was a bit of rain around, some overhead conditions, the grass is wet and knowing the Dukes ball gets a bit soft when it gets a bit wet.
"Luckily Tim didn’t have to make the decision, so we’ll see how it pulls up but it looks like a pretty good cricket wicket, quite dry underneath though."
A portion of the time lost to rain can be made up over the ensuing days, where the scheduled finish time can be extended – although the mandated starting time of 11am each day cannot be altered.
However, the London forecast looks problematic for parts of Friday and there's a possibility of further showers over the weekend.
But Langer noted that, apart from having to prepare for the additional playing hours in the final session of coming days, nothing in Australia's planning will fundamentally change despite it being effectively rendered a four-day Test.
"There'll be longer sessions we're going to have to deal with but our guys have said all along we have to keep adapting and be ready with whatever the conditions or the situation of the game throws up at us," he said when asked about the impact of a rain-ruined day.
"It's actually quite mentally tiring, because you're always on edge (thinking) 'are we going to get out there?'
"Physically it's obviously not (tiring), but the boys have just been doing things - some play cards, some sleep, some listen to music, some read their books, some just sit around and talk all day.
"Everyone does it a bit differently."
The challenge for Langer and his fellow Bupa Support Team members was to balance that level of relaxation and alertness: to ensure the players were switched on and immediately ready to play if the weather held for long enough.
That preparedness needed to be managed alongside the risk of burning unnecessary mental energy by having players revved and ready for action that never materialised.
As such, the decision made by umpires Aleem Dar and Chris Gaffaney to abandon the day hours before the scheduled time for stumps came as something of a relief to Langer and his men.
For as both teams well know, a Test match can't be won in the course of an hour or less of batting on a damp, dreary afternoon.
But heading into day two, staring at a scoreboard showing 4-15 or some similar catastrophe inflicted the previous night would undoubtedly represent a sizeable stride towards losing one.
"We talked about that - I keep saying that we are here for a five-Test series, and these moments," Langer said, noting how the first Test dramatically turned within such small windows of play.
"We saw it at Edgbaston, whether it be the (lower-order) partnerships of Peter Siddle with Steve Smith, and (Smith with) Nathan Lyon.
"Also, the fact that England were only 17 runs ahead (in the first innings) and then, in the next session, we turned the whole game around.
"It's about sessions, it's about hours.
"Whether we play a full day or part of a day, we have to be on, we have to be ready because it can change a Test match or a series in an hour, or a couple of sessions."
2019 Qantas Ashes Tour of England
Australia squad: Tim Paine (c), Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner.
England squad: Joe Root (c), Moeen Ali, Jimmy Anderson, Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes (vc), Olly Stone, Chris Woakes.
First Test: Australia beat England by 251 runs at Edgbaston
Second Test: August 14-18,Lord's
Third Test: August 22-26, Headingley
Tour match: Australians v Derbyshire, August 29-31
Fourth Test: September 4-8, Old Trafford
Fifth Test: September 12-16, The Oval