The Lord's square: Ex-skippers call for green pitch
Australia’s thumping win at Edgbaston increases focus on the pitch for the second Test at Lord’s as England look to square the series
6 August 2019, 02:08 PM AEST
Ten days after Joe Root said the Lord's pitch was not up to Test-match standard, two former England skippers say the current captain will need the ground staff at the Home of Cricket to help keep his side's Ashes hopes alive.
Australia's 251-run victory on an Edgbaston surface that was devoid of green grass has brought the pitch for next week's second Test into sharp focus.
A remarkable match between England and Ireland at Lord's a fortnight ago saw 40 wickets fall in less than seven sessions of cricket, a rate of one every five overs, which led Root to criticise the bowler-friendly nature of the pitch.
While a similar surface for the second Ashes Test would likely lead to more criticism, former skipper Nasser Hussain says England will need a pitch conducive to seam and swing bowling if they are the level the series.
Even if the man most credentialed to take advantage of the conditions, legendary swing bowler Jimmy Anderson, appears likely to miss the match due to injury.
"They won't beat Australia in conditions like that (at Edgbaston)," Hussain told Sky Sports. "That's like playing them abroad in Australia.
"If there's no lateral movement, as we've seen in the last few days, Australia on exactly the same pitch have got so much more out of that surface than England got.
"It's a real problem now for England; they're going to have to go to their next ground and ask for a bit of grass on it. And their number one bowler Jimmy Anderson is probably not going to be available."
After the Ireland Test, Root was measured in his criticism of the surface prepared by Lord's groundsman Karl McDermott – who is in his first season as the venue's head curator – but said he would be surprised if a similar pitch was produced for the Ashes Test, which starts on August 14.
"I don't like saying this but the wicket was substandard for a Test match," Root said. "I thought it was … not even close to a fair contest between bat and ball throughout the whole game.
"When you are getting scores like that, that tells a story in itself.
"We'll have to wait and see if it is similar (for the Ashes Test but) I don't think it will be."
Australia were reduced to 8-122 on the opening day at Edgbaston as England's seamers, minus the injured Anderson, took advantage of the fresh pitch that had a generous covering of dead grass but didn't swing or seam prodigiously.
That performance underlined the fallibility of Australia's top order against the moving ball, which would be made all the more difficult on a green surface.
Not only did the flatter surface at Edgbaston make life easier for Australia's batsmen, led by the unstoppable Steve Smith, it also made Nathan Lyon a far more threatening prospect than England's frontline spinner, the down-on-form Moeen Ali.
Former England captain Michael Vaughan conceded a green pitch could backfire on the hosts given it would also favour Australia's impressive seam bowlers but added it's a gamble England have to take.
"If the ball doesn't move laterally and there's a little bit of swing and seam, this has got mess written all over this series for the England side," Vaughan told the BBC.
"If the ball doesn't do a great deal or there are slow wickets, I think this series could be one where Australia completely wipe the floor with England. They've got a better spinner (Lyon) and they've got a batsman at number four (Smith) that you can't get out on slower wickets.
"They need a little bit more action out of the wicket … they'll have to gamble. They still might get beaten because of the likes of Cummins, Starc, Hazlewood and co.
"But this (England) team, when the wickets get a bit flatter and slower and you require your spin, they're not that competitive."
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
Tour match: Australians v Worcestershire, August 7-9
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