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The Ashes: Is the Bodyline bowling at Lord's 'tedious', an 'underused' tactic, and is it fair?

Sky Sports' Kevin Pietersen, Sir Andrew Strauss, Ricky Ponting and Mark Taylor debate the use of short-pitched bowling tactics in the second Ashes Test as the wickets tumbled at Lord's; watch day five live on Sky Sports Cricket from 10.15am on Sunday (first ball 11am)

Australia's Steven Smith plays a shot during the fourth day of the second Ashes Test match between England and Australia, at Lord's cricket ground in London, Saturday, July 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Image: Australia's Steve Smith was out to the short ball on day four of the Lord's Test, falling to England seamer Josh Tongue

Roughly 90 years on from England's controversial 1932-33 'Bodyline' tour of Australia in which Douglas Jardine led the tourists to a 4-1 success, we saw similar bowling tactics on day four of the second Ashes Test at Lord's.

England sent down almost exclusively bouncers to Australia and although the tactic worked, with the Baggy Greens ultimately bowled out for 297, it did make for some rather stale cricket at times.

Australia got a taste of their own medicine with the Baggy Greens banging in a barrage of bumpers to England in the hosts' first innings and picking up a number of wickets as batters including Ben Duckett and Harry Brook took the bait.

Here is what the Sky Sports Cricket pundits made of it...

Taylor: Bouncer tactics become monotonous

Former Australia captain Mark Taylor:

"Once this short-pitched bowling has been employed [in this Test], runs dry up and eventually batsmen make a mistake. It worked for Australia and then it has worked for England.

"The concern the game has is, if the pitches are slow like this one, and fairly good for batting, it will influence how the players play the game.

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The best of the action from day four at Lord's as England closed on 114-4 in a chase of 371 for victory

"As soon as the ball gets a bit old, and there's not the swing or the seam there, they're going to revert to bowling short - and that's not a great game to watch.

"You don't mind seeing it for a short period, but the last thing you would want is for it to become the norm and you see hours and hours of it. It gets a bit monotonous.

"I think we're going to see this kind of bowling from both sides throughout the series. It will put a lot of onus on umpires, if the batsman is not trying to score, to step in at some stage and call 'no ball' for intimidatory bowling - which is still in the laws of the game."

Ponting: Short-pitched bowling tactic underused

Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting:

"I think we'd better get used to seeing this for the rest of the series. With England's interest in taking it on in their first innings, they're going to get more of it. The Australians are going to get more of it as well.

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Watch all 12 wickets to fall at Lord's on Saturday, with a huge number coming from short balls

"I think it's an underused tactic in the game. I've said that for a long time. It's presenting wicket-taking opportunities and it's slowing the scoring down as well - any batsman is going to get worn down by it.

"We've seen New Zealand do this for four or five years, with one man, Neil Wagner, and have a look at his record in Test cricket [bowling average of 27.50]. Batsmen haven't found the right way to take it on, the right way to approach it yet."

Pietersen: Both teams got their tactics right

Former England captain Kevin Pietersen:

"It was supposedly 'brainless', 'dumb', 'stupid' playing Bazball like this, but does that mean it's 'brainless', 'dumb' and 'stupid' from Australia, too?

"Or is it just the wicket, and very difficult for the batters to face - because there isn't that true bounce? It looks tough.

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Australia captain Pat Cummins dismissed Joe Root and Harry Brook in the same sizzling over

"If you've got someone like Steve Smith, who is playing so beautifully and who is so in control of his own game, getting out to it you know it must be difficult. That's why I think both teams have got their tactics quite right."

Strauss: Tedious to watch but a legitimate tactic

Former England captain Sir Andrew Strauss:

"When you see this tactic employed so successfully, it makes you think 'why don't people do this all the time?' It's so hard to score against without taking a risk.

"We talk all the time in cricket about being able to attack and defend at the same time, and these tactics let you do that.

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Smith, Usman Khawaja and Travis Head were all bounced out by England during Saturday's opening session

"The choice for the batter is either to get out of the way of it, in which case the game goes nowhere, or at some point you've got to try and play a shot to it, in which case you're bringing in the risk of a dismissal.

"The battle lines have been drawn for the rest of the series. Any time there's any sort of partnership, you'd think both teams will go to these kinds of tactics.

"I must admit, I don't like watching it; it's somewhat tedious because it's all so predictable. But that doesn't mean it's not effective... and until either side shows an ability to play this without risk, it's a very legitimate tactic."

Watch day five of the second men's Ashes Test live on Sky Sports Cricket on Sunday. Coverage from Lord's gets under way at 10.15am, with the first ball at 11am.

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