England failed to follow up on their pre-match bluster, delivering a lacklustre first session performance in bowler-friendly conditions after winning the toss and electing to field at Lord’s.

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Under gloomy skies and confronted by a pitch with an even covering of fresh grass, Ben Stokes won the toss and decided to bowl first. It should have been a good toss to win. These were conditions reminiscent of those at recent famous Ashes mornings – Trent Bridge and Edgbaston in 2015, Headingley in 2019. England couldn’t have asked for an environment more suited to new-ball bowling.

In the end, regardless of what happens in the rest of the Test, this was an opportunity squandered. Stuart Broad and James Anderson both started steadily enough, but while there was the odd play-and-miss, David Warner and Usman Khawaja were not constantly under threat.

Even when England did create chances, they were not alert enough to take them. The most obvious missed opportunity was Ollie Pope’s drop of David Warner on 20. Warner was on the front foot all morning, twice trying to launch an England seamer into the Mound Stand. He eventually reached the interval unbeaten on 53, just his second half-century in England since the start of the 2019 Ashes.

Ollie Robinson, who had an eventful few days between Test matches, was the bowler most noticeably short on rhythm. According to CricViz, his average pace in the morning session was as low as 78.9mph/127.okph, a full four miles per hour slower than his average speed in his first Test appearance of the 2022 international summer where he averaged 82.9mph/133.4kph in the Manchester Test against South Africa last year. He has time to improve on that number, and he is proof that pace isn’t everything, but since his 2022 recall leading up to this summer, he had averaged at least 80mph in every Test he played. He has failed to do so on either occasion in the 2022 Ashes.

England left that first session with one breakthrough though, courtesy of Ashes debutant Josh Tongue whose in-swinger lured Khawaja into leaving a ball that crashed hard into his off stump. Tongue, though initially expensive, was England’s most threatening bowler also accounting for the aggressive Warner shortly after the interval.

If conditions improve later in the day, or remain similarly gloomy when England bat themselves, that first morning may well be looked back on as not just a missed opportunity, but the missed opportunity for England to draw level in the series.