143, 141, 40,6, 239,76, 102*,83, 144, 142. This is the Bradmanesque sequence Steve Smith has in seven Ashes contests against England. Smith averages 62 in Tests and 60 against England. He has 10 tons, five in Australia and five in England. England's analysts and commentators are devoting hours on TV and plenty of space on print and the common topic is: 'How to get Steve Smith out cheaply?'. Such has been the spectre of Smith for the England camp that Australia now hold an edge, both in skills and more importantly the mental space over England heading into the second Ashes Test in Lord's.
However, for Australia, this is a territory where surprisingly, they have proven to be vulnerable in the last couple of series. Australia were up 1-0 in the series in India in 2017 but they conspired to lose two Tests despite Smith's brilliance. In 2018, they had won the opening Test in Durban but a Kagiso Rabada spell and the ball-tampering scandal saw their reputation plummet with Smith handed a one-year ban.
In 2019, they have taken a lead in the Ashes series for the first time since 2005. However, a word of caution there as well. They lost Edgbaston and Trent Bridge to surrender the Urn after 16 years.
What might be different for Tim Paine's team in 2019? The fact that they have the right combination for most of the conditions in England puts them in a good shape. In 2009, they were undone by the absence on Nathan Hauritz on a spinning deck at The Oval while in 2015, Siddle's omission on a pitch tailor-made for his seam and swing allowed England to dictate terms after Stuart Broad's 8/15.
This time, Australia's team have a good composition. Smith, Matthew Wade and the tail-enders rose to the occasion with the bat and Paine would be happy to see David Warner and Cameron Bancroft rise to the occasion. For England, their woes against quality spin continued as Nathan Lyon spun a web.
For some time now, England's batting has been undone by some poor shot selection. In the 2017/18 tour Down Under on wickets which were flat, England gifted their wickets away and in Edgbaston, barring Rory Burns and Joe Root, the rest of the players played too many loose shots. Root would be hoping to get back on level terms as England look to continue all the good work they have done in their glorious summer so far. An Ashes loss could sour their World Cup glory and raise some uncomfortable questions on their Test team.
Australia are once again blessed with a problem of plenty when it comes to the fast bowling department. Who do they rest? That is the major question. Will Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc feature in the game or will Peter Siddle and James Pattinson continue to hold on to their spots? Siddle and Pattinson played an important role in keeping the runs down and that allowed Lyon to chip in at the other end. On the other hand, England are all set to unleash Jofra Archer as they grapple the continued absence of James Anderson. Will Jack Leach, who contributed with the bat but was ineffective with the ball against Ireland, feature in the playing XI as England look to exploit Australia's traditional weakness against spin.
Who will win?
Australia completely changed the script with a thumping 251-run win at Edgbaston, which was their first after 18 years. With Steve Smith in great form and Nathan Lyon in sublime form with the ball, Australia might once again perform well on a wicket that is more closer to Australian conditions than English.
Weather and pitch
The Lord's wicket is expected to be flat and will be a good batting wicket as the game progresses. However, the weather at Lord's is not too promising with three out of the five days potentially being rained out. The forecast for the second day is 90 percent chances of rain.
3 - The number of losses for Australia in 85 years of playing Ashes Tests at Lord's. They lost in 1934 and remained unbeaten for 75 years before losing Tests in 2009 and 2013.
Stadium and timings
The match will be played at Lord's, London and the match will begin at 3:30 PM IST.