Jofra Archer continued the brilliant start to his Test career by taking 6-45 and sparking Australia’s collapse from 136-2 to 179 all out on a stop-start opening day of the crucial third match of the Ashes series on Thursday.
Archer, English cricket’s newest superstar, didn’t reproduce the hostility and express pace he showed on his Test debut at Lord’s in the drawn second test last week, but took advantage of benign conditions for seam and swing bowling to run through Australia’s creaky batting lineup.
Fill-in batsman Marnus Labuschagne delivered a fine impersonation of the absent Steve Smith, who was missed because of delayed-onset concussion, by scoring 74 and opener David Warner struck 61 to finally get among the runs in this Ashes after four single-figure returns. The pair put on 111 for the third wicket, a stand that saved Australia from slumping to a humiliating score at cloudy Headingley.
Only one other player - captain Tim Paine (11) - reached double figures as Smith’s absence proved telling. With 378 runs from three innings, Smith has been a thorn in England’s side but he missed out because of the effects of being struck on the neck by a delivery from Archer on Saturday.
Archer caused a different kind of damage five days on, wrapping up the innings by trapping Nathan Lyon lbw for 1 off what proved to be the last ball of the day. That completed Australia’s implosion, the tourists losing their last eight wickets for 43 runs.
“It’s been really good so far, from the moment I’ve put the badge on,” said Archer, who was fast-tracked into the England team ahead of the Cricket World Cup he helped his adopted country win last month.
“It’s been my happiest days of cricket so far and hopefully plenty more ahead.”
Archer took 2-59 off 29 overs in the first innings at Lord’s and then 3-32 off 15 overs in the second. He missed the first test, won by Australia at Edgbaston, because of injury.
“He’s got pace and skill,” Warner said. “I look at him like Dale Steyn, searching for swing and movement early on but then ramping up their speed later. That is world-class bowling and England have a great prospect.”
About three hours of play was lost to rain, while the teams also went off for bad light midway through the afternoon - prompting boos from spectators because the floodlights were on - on a changeable day of weather in northern England.
Were it not for a wayward spell by England change bowlers Chris Woakes and Ben Stokes immediately after tea, allowing Warner and Labuschagne to quickly rack up some runs, Australia could easily have been dismissed for less than 100.
England’s pacemen got huge amounts of swing on the ball, with Marcus Harris (8) - brought in for Cameron Bancroft - and Usman Khawaja (8) falling cheaply and early after catches behind off deliveries by Archer and Stuart Broad (2-32), respectively.
Warner somehow survived, despite being worked over by Broad especially, and accelerated after the teams returned to the field after taking an early tea because of bad light.
“It was very challenging in that first half hour. I probably played and missed 35 times,” Warner said.
Archer came back into the attack and in the second over of his third spell, he found the edge of Warner’s bat and Bairstow took a third straight catch.
Travis Head was bowled for a duck off a beauty from Broad that seamed past the outside edge and clipped the top of off-stump. And when Matthew Wade (0) deflected a delivery from Archer off the thigh pad, onto his glove and into the base of the stump to just about dislodge the bail, Australia had lost three wickets for three runs in 15 balls.
Paine departed after England reviewed a not-out lbw decision and Archer cleaned up the tail.
Labuschagne didn’t make it to the end of the innings, getting out poorly by missing a full toss from Stokes and being hit on the pad in front of middle stump. He hit 10 fours in a 129-ball knock of which Smith would have been proud.
On Friday, England will have a changed lineup with Stokes coming in at No. 5, Bairstow up to No. 6 and Jos Buttler dropping to No. 7.
“With the weather forecast, it might dry up the wicket so every run is crucial,” Warner said. “We’d like to dismiss them for under 200 if possible.”