ONE of my favourite sporting cliches is the one in which a coach says that he will not be pressing the panic button after his side’s latest defeat.
So much so that I live in hope of one day hearing a coach say that he will, in fact, be pressing the panic button, even cutting short his post-match interviews to do just that.
As access to SPECTRE and the like is unavailable, however, England will instead have to rely on such as Jofra Archer and Jack Leach to take care of Smith.Chris Waters
Indeed, I would have paid money (well, so long as I could have claimed it back on The Yorkshire Post expenses) to have heard England’s Australian-born coach Trevor Bayliss say as much after Australia’s 251-run win in the first Test at Edgbaston.
“Aw, look, we will be pressing the panic button after that result,” he might have told reporters, “so, if you journos will excuse me, there’s a panic button in the dressing room and I’m just off to press it now. Bye...”
At the risk of spoiling my own carefully crafted introduction, however, there is indeed no need for England to press the panic button in light of Edgbaston.
There were a number of extenuating circumstances in that match – not least that England effectively played with 10 men after James Anderson did a fetlock early in the piece.
Would Steve Smith have scored twin hundreds had Anderson been fit and firing, or if another bowler had delivered Anderson’s overs?
Why, it could just as easily have been Australia coach Justin Langer insisting that there was no need to press the panic button, Langer instead keeping his finger away from this mythical button which is mentioned all the time and yet never seen – a bit like the Tooth Fairy.
Of course, Smith looms as an ongoing obstacle if England are to win the five-Test series, which continues at Lord’s on Wednesday before rolling on to Emerald Headingley, Old Trafford and The Oval.
Short of arranging for him to be eliminated, as a James Bond villain would say, it is not immediately apparent how to prevent him from plundering vast quantities of runs.
As access to SPECTRE and the like is unavailable, however, England will instead have to rely on such as Jofra Archer and Jack Leach to take care of Smith.
Both Sussex pace bowler Archer and Somerset left-arm spinner Leach are set to play in Joe Root’s side at Lord’s, with Smith’s record against left-arm spin apparently his worst statistically against all forms of bowling, which presumably means that he only averages about 500 against left-arm spin.
Unlike James Bond, however, Smith is not indestructible, much as that might seem hard to believe.
He is due a failure or several and it is unrealistic to expect him to continue in the same prolific way.
Australia rely on Smith to such an extent that if he fails to perform, there is a clear chance for England to take advantage.
In terms of all-round strength, there would seem little between the teams on paper, and England are certainly capable of the sort of comeback that they managed in 2005, when they won 2-1 after losing the first Test.
All does not depend on Archer, of course, but he certainly gives England a significant cutting edge – one that is capable of wounding Smith.
Archer missed the first Test as he had not fully recovered from a side strain suffered during the World Cup, but he has since proved his fitness for the Sussex second team.
Although he has yet to play Test cricket, there are no concerns regarding Archer’s ability to cope with the big stage and the big occasion.
Indeed, anyone who can hold their nerve in a World Cup final super over, as Archer famously did against New Zealand, is not likely to crumble when the pressure is on, and Australia will be worried about what he can potentially bring to the mix.
There are other reasons for England to be confident, or at least optimistic.
Chris Woakes has a splendid record at Lord’s – 24 Test wickets at 9.75, while Australia’s batting, Smith and David Warner excepted, does not inspire huge confidence, with Tim Paine almost playing as a specialist captain.
Paine has made one first-class century in a career comprising 120 matches.
That will not give England any sleepless nights.
England need conditions to suit them more than they did at Edgbaston, which means more pace in the pitch and movement through the air.
In recent Tests, statistics show that the level of movement at Lord’s has been almost twice that seen in the Edgbaston game.
That this Australia side does not have the same firepower/mystique of the 2005 combination is obvious to see.
It is not yet time to press – oh hell, I might as well say it – the dreaded panic button.