BUMBLE AT THE TEST: Steve Smith has passed the test… but beware day five with Nathan Lyon on the prowl
- Smith played the perfect innings on a dry pitch – he made it look so easy
- England may need a new spinner – Moeen Ali has never looked so unconfident
- Nathan Lyon is the world’s best spin bowler and will relish Monday’s conditions
It was a nightmare day for England at Edgbaston on day four of the first Ashes Test as a Steve Smith-inspired Australia set Joe Root’s men a target of 398.
Smith made light of a dry pitch to make 142 before Chris Woakes at last took his wicket, but by then the damage had already been done.
England ended the day on 13 without loss but it’s Australia who are in the driving seat heading into the final day of play on Monday.
Sportsmail columnist DAVID LLOYD looks back at a frustrating day for England on day four of the first Ashes Test.
Australia’s Steve Smith was the star man on day four as he hit 142 in tricky conditions
SMITH PASSES THE TEST
I did the pitch report for day four and it was showing signs of wear and tear and was unbelievably dry. It probably started too dry and cracks were starting to appear. It was a real test of concentration, application and skill and once again Steve Smith passed with flying colours. It actually turned out to be slow paced but Smith made it look so easy…
Smith followed up his first innings knock of 144 with another stunning innings
BEWARE DAY FIVE
But day four actually turned out to be the best day to bat so far – perhaps because England’s spinner in Moeen Ali was so below par – and history tells you that is so often the case here. Stats for Edgbaston tell you wickets average 40 a piece on day four of a Test which is higher than the first three. But it drops dramatically for day five!
Moeen Ali’s loss of form with bat and ball is cause for concern ahead of second Test
LYON’S ON THE PROWL
So all eyes will be on Nathan Lyon on Monday. He was out at lunch and tea looking at the pitch and it really does look tailor-made for him. He’s the most accomplished finger spinner in the world with 343 Test wickets and his perfect scenario would be to have runs on the board to play with and England looking to survive on a worn pitch. He’s got the lot.
Nathan Lyon is the world’s best spinner and could exploit the cracks on the pitch
JOFRA CAN BOUNCE BACK
What a player Smith is and all the talk in the commentary box among some world-class former players was how on earth do you get him out? Well, I reckon three who would have fancied themselves would be Glenn McGrath, Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh because they would have been relentless and deadly accurate bowling at the ‘fourth-stump.’ With extra bounce too. Enter Jofra Archer at Lord’s!
Jofra Archer’s blistering pace could hold the key to halting Steve Smith at Lord’s
… BUT FITNESS IS THE KEY
England will clearly want Archer to be a hundred per cent fit for that second Test in 10 days’ time but he only seems to have been bowling left-arm spin in the nets here at Edgbaston. At least he’s playing a second team game for Sussex on Tuesday and that will be crucial. If it’s not him it’s got to be Olly Stone. It’s clear England need that bit of extra pace.
Olly Stone is another option who could add pace to their bowling attack in the second Test
SNAP OUT OF IT, MOEEN
They also might need another spinner because Moeen has been completely out of sorts. I’ve never seen him so devoid of confidence. There’s been no snap in his action and it just seems he has something on his mind. It could well be England freshen it up at Lord’s with Jack Leach – Smith hasn’t got quite such a fantastic record against left-arm spin!
If Moeen Ali can’t rediscover his best form then England could call upon Jack Leach
I’M HAVING A REAL BLAST
I’ve not been up to any antics during this Test because I’ve been rushing back to my hotel to watch the T20 Blast. I’ve seen a couple of cracking matches, too, with great crowds at Northants against Derbyshire and Lancashire against Notts. But there is one big problem with the Blast – it’s too long! This year’s total of 138 matches is far too many…