Duckett smashed a counter-attacking 98 as England ended Day 2 at 278 for 4 in an another high octane “Bazball” batting display after Ben Stokes and co. bowled Australia out for 416 in the morning session.
In the latest extraordinary display of modern-day Test cricket, England enjoyed their best Ashes opening stand for 11 years and rattled to their total at almost five an over.
However, the counterpoint of their all-action approach meant they also gifted key wickets when well-set batsmen refused to back down in the face of Australia’s somewhat desperate short-pitched approach.
Day 2, As It Happened
As the chaos mounted after tea, veteran Australian radio commentator Jim Maxwell described it as “the most bizarre hour’s cricket I’ve ever seen – this is madness at the home of cricket,” and few in the packed Lord’s grandstands would disagree.
England, so flat on Wednesday, began the day much more purposefully as Australia resumed on 339-5 with Steve Smith on 85, as Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson quickly removed Alex Carey and Mitchell Starc.
However, Smith, who on Wednesday became the fourth Australian to pass 9,000 runs, pressed on to claim his 32nd Test century before finally departing for 110 via a superb catch by Duckett at second slip to give Josh Tongue his third wicket. Captain Pat Cummins, who batted superbly to bring Australia home in the first Test, again looked assured to end unbeaten on 22 and, though he will be delighted with his team’s final tally, it represented something of a tail off from when they were seemingly cruising at 316-3 on Wednesday afternoon.
England set about their reply at their now customary speed and Duckett and Zak Crawley’s 91-run partnership was their best opening stand in the Ashes since Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook put on 98 in Sydney in 2011.
Crawley looked particularly dominant until he was stumped for a run a ball 48 after what looked a pre-meditated advance to Nathan Lyon.
Ollie Pope came in and maintained the momentum as Australia’s attack struggled for any sort of penetration. He was looking untroubled with spaces all over the outfield but could not resist a Cameron Green bouncer and hooked it straight down the throat of Smith, one of three men placed on the leg side boundary for exactly that gift, to depart for 42.
Australia were celebrating even more loudly moments later when Joe Root, seemingly infected by the giddy excitement, was caught behind swinging wildly at the second ball he faced, only to be recalled after Green’s delivery was deemed a no ball.
Despite that escape, England continued to engage as Australia continued with their short ball/stacked leg side approach and Duckett was the next to pay the price, caught off a top-edged hook two short of a place on the Lord’s honours board.
Almost unbelievably Root followed soon after for 10 doing the same thing, well caught by Smith off Mitchell Starc, while Harry Brook was then dropped by Marnus Labuschagne at square leg, also swinging at a short ball.
It fell to captain Ben Stokes, of all people, to introduce a note of calm to proceedings during the final hour as the captain reminded his team mates that it is within the laws of the game to leave a bouncer.
He was unbeaten on 17 at the close with Brook on 45 and England trailing by 138.
Australia suffered a setback during the final session when off spinner Lyon, playing his 100th consecutive Test, limped off in some distress with what looked like a calf injury which could leave Australia short of options in the fourth innings.
(With inputs from Reuters)