Should Ollie Robinson have played as England’s undercooked attack toils on day two at Lord’s?

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England fight back to reduce South Africa to 210-6 after they were 138-1 at one stage in response to the hosts’ 165 all out; Keshav Maharaj and Marco Jansen then slam 72 for seventh wicket to see the visitors close on 289-7, with lead of 124

Last Updated: 18/08/22 8:09pm

James Anderson and Stuart Broad haven’t played in six weeks since the conclusion of England’s last Test against India

James Anderson and Stuart Broad. Undoubtedly two of England’s greatest ever bowlers, and unquestionably still worth their place in the Test team. But are they a little undercooked?

The relentless, packed cricketing schedule has drawn plenty of criticism of late, but it has also played its part in offering little to no first-class opportunities for England’s attack heading into this three-match series with South Africa.

Broad and Anderson haven’t played any cricket for six weeks since the rescheduled fifth Test against India at Edgbaston in early July.

Twenty-three-year-old Matthew Potts has appeared in just one first-class game since, Jack Leach two – with only a wicket apiece to show from them – while skipper Ben Stokes played in four one-day internationals before retiring from the format.

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Highlights from day two of the first LV= Insurance Test between England and South Africa at Lord’s.

Highlights from day two of the first LV= Insurance Test between England and South Africa at Lord’s.

England vs S Africa

August 19, 2022, 10:15am

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“England’s bowlers have looked a little bit on the rusty side,” Sky Sports’ Mark Butcher said at the tea interval on day two at Lord’s.

“You have to give them a little bit of an excuse in that, with only 165 runs on the board, the temptation is to push too hard and take a wicket with every ball.

“You can also give them an excuse and say they haven’t bowled much in the last five weeks. Who’s fault is that?”

Anderson and Broad did not bowl badly. They rarely do these days. But they also weren’t at the peak of their powers to exploit conditions that, while not anywhere near as helpful as they were to South Africa’s four-pronged pace attack on the first morning, still offered enough swing and seam movement – certainly early on in the innings.

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Dean Elgar endured a cruel dismissal, the ball ricocheting off his body and on to the stumps as Jimmy Anderson finally broke South Africa’s opening stand.

Dean Elgar endured a cruel dismissal, the ball ricocheting off his body and on to the stumps as Jimmy Anderson finally broke South Africa’s opening stand.

Dean Elgar dug in determinedly, as is so often his way, for 47, while Sarel Erwee impressed in notching 73 in just his fifth international appearance and first in England.

Anderson ultimately picked up Elgar, in rather fortuitous fashion – the ball deflecting off his forearm, behind his legs and trickling back onto his stumps – before a flurry of wickets after tea, including Broad’s 100th of his career at Lord’s, just about kept England in the contest.`

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Stuart Broad takes his 100th Test wicket at Lord’s with a ripper, dismissing Kyle Verreynne for 11.

Stuart Broad takes his 100th Test wicket at Lord’s with a ripper, dismissing Kyle Verreynne for 11.

It’s eerily reminiscent of England’s first Test against India at Lord’s last summer. After a similarly lengthy gap between Tests – June 13 to August 4 – it took till the 40th over for one of Anderson or Broad to make a breakthrough.

England had similarly underperformed with the bat, bowled out for 183, and KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma patiently and expertly blunted the threat of the new ball in a superb 97-run opening stand. Anderson eventually finished with four-for and Broad claimed one in the second innings as the hosts were defeated.

But might Ollie Robinson, a man who claimed five-for in that first innings at Lord’s last year and who took five in the match in an England Lions warm-up win over South Africa last week, have been a better option for this first Test? And even if not in place or one of Anderson or Broad, in addition to them?

Ollie Robinson was overlooked for selection in the first Test against South Africa but is expected to feature in the series

Of Robinson’s five wickets last week, three of them were dismissals of the very two batsmen to cause England the most problems on day two at Lord’s – he picked up Erwee in both innings, cheaply in the second, along with Elgar second ball.

Success against left-handers has been a feature of Robinson’s success early in his international career. In his nine Tests, the Sussex seamer has 14 wickets against them at an average of 22.57.

Potts, by way of comparison, has found the change of angle a bit more a struggle early in his Test career, with only five wickets at 38.20, compared to an overall average of 26.72 – and he again found the going difficult against Elgar and Erwee.

That is not to pick on Potts. The young Durham speedster has proven a potent weapon throughout this summer and was certainly deserving of keeping his place in a side that won four in four.

And, as the cliché goes, you’re never a better player than when you’re out of the side. Robinson’s outing for the Lions was only his second four-day game since May as he has struggled with a back injury, so he too may have found the going tough if thrown into the more demanding realm of Test cricket too soon.

The expectation is that he will feature at some point, with the three Tests crammed in the space of four weeks.

But, an undercooked England will just be hoping that they’re not already well done in the series by the time that any change to the attack happens.

Watch day three of first LV= Insurance Test between England and South Africa, at Lord’s, live on Sky Sports Cricket on Friday. Coverage starts at 10.15am, with play getting under way at 11am.

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