HEADINGLEY: Six wickets to Jofra Archer has England on top after another intriguing day in this Ashes series as Australia were bowled out for 179 on the opening day of the third Test at Headingley.
There was good sense in Joe Root’s decision. The clouds were low, the forecast was shoddy – this looked likely to be the only bowling day of the match. The forecast on later days, when England will bat, is good. Without Steve Smith, Australia’s batting order looked callow and ripe for the taking.
But there was also a good case for batting, which is what Tim Paine wanted to do. The pitch is not full of demons, has decent carry and moved throughout the day, and was dry enough when the game started for Nathan Lyon to be very excited by what he has seen. Get through that tough first day, and the game could have opened up before Australia who, do not forget, need just one more win to take the Ashes home for the first time since 2001.
Root was only given a stop-start opening day to make the most of his decision, but he has Jofra Archer in his arsenal now. Archer took his first five-wicket haul in Tests to bowl Australia out for 179 on the stroke of stumps. This was a different Archer to the one who bombed Australia at Lord’s, with his pace down, he looked to move the ball and got plenty of reward.
England will know things could have been so much better but for a poor hour after a rain delayed tea in which David Warner and Smith’s replacement Marnus Labuschagne, who were both terrific for their half-centuries, hurt them with a stand of 111. England started well and were unlucky, then were awful, before Archer roared back to make up for it by finishing the day in sensational fashion. They were flattered by the scoreline but 1-0 behind they will not mind one jot.
When play eventually began 70 minutes late – and 65 minutes after Root won that toss – just four overs were possible. But that was long enough to have Marcus Harris, in for Cameron Bancroft, caught behind with a pearler. By then rain was falling and with the wicket came a delay.
Stuart Broad had been all over Warner in that spell, and continued to be upon the resumption. The wicket of Usman Khawaja, strangled down the legside off one of Broad’s worst balls of the day, was his reward – but only on review. Across two delays, there were no reviews before that tea break, which came partly because of rain, partly because of bad light.
The evening session began with Root removing his gully for Chris Woakes. Warner instantly edged the ball through that area at catchable height, and from there the runs flowed: 79 of them in an hour, to be exact. Woakes and Ben Stokes were poor, and both Warner and Labuschagne capitalised on their lack of discipline. It was no great exaggeration to say the Ashes were slipping away from England.
So Root turned back to Archer and Broad after drinks and reaped more spectacularly returns – a wicket in each of the next three overs and a collapse of eight for 43. Warner was caught behind off an Archer beauty, then Travis Head bowled playing down the wrong line to a Broad nipper. To top it off for Australia, Archer – who was just two quick – was bowled off the thigh-pad and glove by Archer. Tim Paine stuck around with Labuschagne, who battled on and reached his second fifty of the series, but was pinned lbw by the returning Woakes, before Archer did for the tail.
James Pattinson was caught at first slip, then Pat Cummins at slip, before, Stokes got Labuschagne with his third filthy full toss of the day. It was hardly deserved, and Labuschagne left to a standing ovation for a terrific 74. It was nothing, though, like the ovation Archer got a few moments later, when Archer pinned Nathan Lyon lbw to finish with six for 45. England have a gem on their hands.