Ashes: Jofra Archer steals the spotlight to give England the upper hand on Day 1 of Headingley Test
Fast bowler claims figures of 6-45 to dismiss Australia for 179, giving the hosts a solid foundation to produce a series-levelling victory
Jofra Archer’s Ashes takeover continued as he took five wickets on the opening day of the third Test.
The fast bowler had already been credited with changing the dynamic of a series by felling Steve Smith in a uniquely high-speed spell in the previous match.
That view will only have been consolidated by his continued excellence at the start of the Headingley Test.
England remain 1-0 down in the series. And there is still much cricket to be played in the third match of five.
But their spirits are soaring on the back of their new find. Archer’s figures of 6-45 backed up Joe Root’s decision to send Australia in after winning the toss under leaden skies in England’s north.
By the end of a troubling day, the tourists had reached 179 from the 52.1 overs that had been bowled.
Both sides were missing greats of the modern game for their starting XIs. Yet each coped well enough in their absences.
For Australia, Marnus Labuschagne continues to make light of the mammoth task he has in filling in for Smith, who was sat out of this Test because of the concussion he suffered against Archer at Lord’s on Saturday.
Forecasting where Labuschagne’s career might go from here would be folly. But there are certainly a few superficial parallels between him and the man he has replaced.
When Labuschagne debuted for Australia in the UAE against Pakistan last winter, it was as much for his leg-spin bowling as for his middle order batting. Much like the early Smith.
And while Smith was the dominant batting star in the one-and-a-half Ashes Tests he has played so far, it is actually Labuschagne who has scored more first-class runs than anyone else in England so far this summer.
Few will have been so hard earned as those 74 runs he made against England’s revived pace attack on a taxing first day at Headingley.
Weather conditions meant interruptions were frequent. When the players were on the field, the ball swung prodigiously. Yet Labuschagne was rarely out of sync.
As he and David Warner carved out a third-wicket stand worth 111, it appeared as though Australia were wrestling the game away from England. The hosts looked rattled.
It was at that point when England might have been wondering wistfully quite what might have happened had James Anderson been fit to play.
Their veteran bowling star has been absent since bowling just four overs at the start of the opening game of this series.
The Headingley morning would have been ideal for him, as he might have been thinking as he watched on from the home team dressing room.
Either side of the Warner-Labuschagne alliance, England will have been happy enough with their work.
Warner himself was remarkably fortunate to make it through the morning session in which he played and missed a number of times – including to four balls in succession during one Stuart Broad over.
Broad, in partnership with Archer, had been in the ascendant with the new-ball. He accounted for Usman Khawaja, the Australia No 3 who was caught behind by Jonny Bairstow – the eighth time he has been dismissed by England’s wicketkeeper in successive Ashes innings.
Chris Woakes struck later, too, as he dislodged Australia’s run-shy captain Tim Paine.
But both the senior bowlers in the home attack were really just side stories to England’s new big show, Archer.
The tearaway 24-year-old was able to wave the ball to the crowd in celebration of his fifth wicket late in the final session, as he had Pat Cummins caught behind.
Safe to say, the maiden five-wicket haul of his Test career will likely be the first of many.
Updated: August 22, 2019 10:49 PM