Jofra Archer took six wickets as England dismissed an Australia side without star batsman Steve Smith for just 179 on day one of the third Ashes Test at Headingley, Leeds on Thursday.
Joe Root won the toss and asked Australia to bat first under cloud cover. The new ball pair of Archer and Stuart Broad responded immediately to their captain’s call by exploiting the corridor of uncertainty and constantly challenging the outside edges of both Marcus Harris and David Warner’s bats.
Archer had created a lot of buzz on his debut in the second Test at Lord’s where he displayed a breathtaking show of ferocious fast bowling consisting of a fusillade of short balls at express pace. At Headingley, though, he turned up with a different strategy. The right-arm pacer focused on pitching the ball in the right areas. Archer pitched 44.2% of his deliveries on full length in comparison to only 18.3% at Lord’s. Moreover, the paceman did not touch the 150 kmph mark even once in the innings - a barrier he was crossing quite frequently on his debut.
Harris, who had been drafted in to open alongside Warner after Cameron Bancroft was dropped following 44 runs in four innings, was Archer’s first victim. A 140.5 kmph delivery from the Barbados-born pacer squared up the southpaw and had him caught behind by wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow. Moments later, with Australia 12-1 off four overs, rain stopped play.
When play resumed, Khawaja’s glance off Broad was caught by Bairstow. England, however, had to first review New Zealand umpire Chris Gaffaney’s original not out decision. England had now reduced Australia to 25 for two.
But David Warner (61) and Marnus Labuschagne (74) frustrated England with a third-wicket stand of 111. Warner kept playing and missing during a relentless spell of fast bowling from Broad and Archer. The Australian opener was beaten on 26.5% of the 94 deliveries he faced, a record number for him in a Test innings where he has scored at least 50 runs. But to his credit, Warner stepped up in the absence of Smith and once it was Chris Woakes and Ben Stokes’ turn to roll their arms over, he raced to his 30th Test fifty.
Archer, however, again turned the tide in England’s favour by having Warner caught behind off a 144.8 kmph delivery. It was the start of a batting collapse that saw Australia lose three wickets for as many runs and suddenly, the visitors found themselves 139 for five.
Travis Head was bowled for a duck by a peach from Stuart Broad and Matthew Wade, a century-maker in the first Test, also fell for nought when a rising Archer delivery deflected off his thigh pad via the glove and into the base of the stump, and thus, dislodged a bail.
Australia never recovered from the setbacks inflicted by Archer and Broad in their second burst in tandem. Tim Paine tried to keep the damage in check but could only manage 11. His solid-yet-unfulfilled knock was ended by Woakes who trapped him in front of the stumps in a recuperating second spell after an ordinary first one. 162 for six.
Without wasting time, Root introduced Archer to the Australian tailenders. The fast bowler responded by sending back James Pattinson and Pat Cummins to reach his maiden five-wicket haul in Test cricket.
From the other end, Stokes also managed a wicket for himself when the solid Labuschagne misjudged a full toss and was wrapped right in front of the stumps. Labuschagne’s gritty knock lasted 129 balls, the fifth longest innings by an Australian in this series.
Archer then removed Nathan Lyon in the next over to wrap up the Australian innings and a sensational day of play for himself which saw him pick six wickets for 45 runs.
With Australia leading the series 1-0, this is a crucial match for England. It is indispensable for the home side to win two games in the five-match series without conceding another game if they want to regain the Ashes and Archer’s spell at Headingley on Thursday can act as the boost the home side are desperately searching for.