“There’s a lot of rough outside the left-hander’s off-stump for the left-arm spinner Leachy [Jack Leach], and I’m sure it’s going to keep turning as the game goes on.
“It’s really dry and I think if we can bat for as long as possible and get a big lead we can put some pressure on them second innings.” Curran felt England had bowled well to dismiss Australia for just 225, 69 runs shy of England. “As a group it was pretty good,” Curran added. “Hopefully the sun will be shining again tomorrow and we can get some nice runs on the board.”
Surrey swing bowler Curran is relishing finally making an appearance – at his home ground, no less – after being in the squad for the four previous Tests.
“Being in all the squads has helped me keep up the level of intensity,” Curran said. “I’ve not had many county games and it’s been quite hard going from the Test squad to T20.
“But leading up to this game I thought I was going to be involved and I upped my overs.”
‘If we can bat for as long as possible and get a big lead we can put some pressure on them in the second innings’
Australia batsman Marnus Labuschagne said Australia still wanted to win the series outright despite their relatively poor performance.
“The intensity definitely has not dropped,” he said. “It’s hard to say that when our play on the field maybe reflects that. But we came to win the Ashes and we really want to do that. We don’t want to just retain the Ashes.”
THE OVAL — Chris Woakes may have taken the prized wicket of Steve Smith on an eventful second day of this Fifth Ashes Test, yet that cannot mask the overall performance of a bowler who looks like he is entering the final furlong of his England career.
Yet perhaps the selectors were right all along to discard Woakes – though not in also overlooking Sam Curran at Old Trafford – given the way he shaped up. Out of rhythm and sending down far too many loose balls, Woakes looked badly out of sorts on a day where he sent down 10 overs for the cost of 51 runs. The delivery that did for Smith was unremarkable – a straight ball the latter-day Don Bradman clone remarkably missed. Woakes got lucky. Like someone who wins the jackpot on a Las Vegas slot machine on their first go after the previous player had put $500 into it, he cashed in on the fine work earlier in the session from Curran and Jofra Archer.
That pair are the future of this England Test team’s bowling attack, Archer’s second six-wicket haul of the series and Curran’s superb spell that put him on a hat-trick in the evening session lighting up this match. Woakes, with his terrible overseas record and chronic injury to his right knee, appears very much yesterday’s man.
One of the chief complaints about England’s attack on the last Ashes tour in 2017-18 was that the quartet of right-arm medium-fast bowlers in Woakes, Anderson, Broad and Overton was way too one-dimensional.
Woakes can be a brilliant bowler when the ball swings. But unless you’re in England or New Zealand, that rarely happens. That’s why his overseas bowling average is a staggering 61.77 and at home it’s 23.18.
Woakes is clearly physically struggling and not at the top of his game. And as good a servant as he has been over the years, now should be the time to cut the cord and look to others to move this Test team forward.
Archer gives England hope
Chief among them will be Archer and Curran. Quite how the selectors have overlooked Curran – a player who turned his debut series against India last summer – until now is anybody’s guess.
There also needs to be caution over Archer because as brilliant as his six wickets were, that he bowled 23.5 overs in a day to get them raises further fears over his workload.
This after all, is the 24-year-old’s first summer of international cricket and having already been forced to play through a side strain during the World Cup, England risk burning out their brightest talent.
The ends may justify the means in this particular Test if England go on to win. But as Woakes would no doubt testify, international cricket can be a slog so to write cheques your body can’t cash, especially at the start of your career, is a dangerous game.
Of course Australia could come out on day two and make a pig’s ear of it. Buttler might convert his second Test century. Steve Smith might forget where he is and slump to a 50. Then again events might unfold in accordance with what has come before leaving England again in the midden looking at another pasting.
The mistakes piled up by England’s batsmen during the first four Tests continued at The Oval, skipper Joe Root as culpable as any in attitude if not in the manner of his exit. In defence of his realm and his captaincy Root demanded that England learn quickly, that they absorb the lessons of a largely dispiriting summer in which they have been comfortably second best. His target is to be up and at ’em by the time the Ashes resume in Australia next winter. How about something a little more prosaic? How about winning the next match?
It is unlikely to be this one despite England making the best start to a contest this series. Australian captain Tim Paine, falling for the false promise of easy plunder under a grey lid, ignored cricket’s win-toss-bat-first convention to insert the opposition. Only three captains have won a Test match at this ground by inverting best practice. The move was described as a monster risk by ex England captain Michael Vaughan. Had he forgotten already the pattern of the series?
Familiar England woe unfolds
The first wicket fell at 27, Joe Denly edging Hazelwood to first slip. Denly could have gone earlier, nevertheless the partnership was the highest by any opening pair in this series, 15 better than the average of 11.9. England progressed to 103-1 before Burns and Stokes self-destructed with top-edged pull shots when well set and the sun warming their backs.
One way or another fate had identified Root as the man to gather the England effort together, to guide the team to a total worthy of a cracking wicket in friendly conditions. He passed Sir Len Hutton in the English pantheon and 7,000 Test runs to sit 12th in the all-time list and though he posted a 50 for the 45th time in his career, the real story for a batsmen considered to be among the world’s top four is number in the centuries column. With only 16 from 158 knocks, and none this series, it is beginning to look less like a top four than a top three and a half.
World no.1 Steve Smith has as many tons as fifties, 26, in 122 innings. India’s Virat Kohli has 25 centuries and 22 fifties from 135 innings, and in 130 walks to the crease New Zealand’s Kane Williams has returned 20 tons and 30 fifties. Root, with an average of 48.09, is the only one of the four to average fewer than 50.
In one rum passage either side of lunch Root hung his chin out like a pub heavyweight with a death wish, inviting the finest new ball attack in world cricket to knock him cold. They went close, Pat Cummins seeing routine catches dropped in consecutive overs, as well as passing both edges of the bat, and Steve Smith decking a sharp chance off Peter Siddle in the first over after lunch.
If Cummins wasn’t whispering “karma” to himself when Siddle decked a dolly at fine leg when Root was on 24, he was when he bent back Root’s timbers shortly after tea with a snorter that came back sharply. Root had harvested 57. Better than it might have been but nowhere near what England required. Sometimes a bowler can be just too good. In Cummins’s case more often than not. Root was his 26th wicket in the series, the only bowler to pass 20 until Josh Hazelwood clipped Jofra Archer’s wings for the eighth wicket.
With the score on 226 there seemed little point in hanging about. That was Buttler’s reasoning anyway. Down went the pedal, the crowd went nuts and England added 45 at a run a minute to close on 271-8. Australia will resume with a new cherry, a night’s sleep behind them and England pretty much where they want them despite Buttler’s muscular flourish.
When there’s a bowler that appears to have your measure in a series, it’s a difficult place to be as a top-order batter. I had it with both Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel at different stages in my career with Australia and it can feel like a thankless task when things get as tough as they have for David Warner in this series.
When I was batting at my best, I walked out to the crease relaxed and calm. It felt almost like an extension of normal life. I just watched the ball and stayed focus and the runs would come.
When someone gives you a repeated problem to which you seemingly have no answer, that’s where you’re forced to work that bit harder to work out a way to get runs.
‘Stay true to himself’
It forces you to question your technique and even your suitability to play at that level. I’m not sure if it’s harder to go through that early in your career or when you’ve got something behind you as David has, but it’s never welcome.
In that situation, batsmen start trying anything and everything to break the shackles and get free of feeling so venerable at the crease. We’ve seen David try to be aggressive at times in this series but we’ve also seen him try and soak up that pressure from Broad, all to no avail.
Thought processes get skewed and twisted out of shape and when you add in the additional media scrutiny on you in a series like this, it can be hard to get away from that hopeless feeling.
Despite that, no one is immune to that pressure and the anxiety that comes with a run of form like this. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of wondering ‘how am I going to get out?’ instead of ‘how am I going to make my runs?’
The one thing I think David has to do is stay true to his method. He’s developed a great technique since first coming into the side which enables him to both attack and defend extremely effectively. He hasn’t just lost that overnight, but he needs to survive the first couple of overs just to have a chance to get that one shot away that might get him going again.
I think back to my early career with Western Australia where I endured the biggest rut of my professional career. After a couple of years in the side, I spent time analysing the players in the Australian Test team at the time and decided that if I was going to make it as a Test Cricketer, I had to be more aggressive.
I changed by entire game plan in order to try and mould myself into this aggressive imitation of what I thought the selectors wanted, to the detriment of my game and my results personally. The internal doubt caused by that battle of identities saw me dropped from my state team and sparked one of the more difficult times of my life.
Questioning myself and my future, I decided I need to go back to what felt comfortable and natural to me. David must do the same at The Oval. The pressure players put on themselves often outweighs the pressure coming outside your own little bubble.
Again, I’ve been reminded of the 2009 Ashes where there were a lot of people who thought I should be dropped. You never like to hear that as a player, but at the same time it’s part of playing the game at that level.
I walked out in my next innings and thought to myself “You know what? Stuff it. If this is my last Test Match for Australia I’m just going to enjoy myself and soak this up”.
That in itself was a huge mental release – not heaping that extra weight of expectation on myself and just being present. Much harder than it sounds, as we’re seeing with David.
Time to rescue score
If I was him, I’d look back to the success he’s had since returning to the game after his year hiatus. He lit up the IPL and had a very strong World Cup over here in white ball cricket. In cricketing terms, that’s not that long ago.
As much as the colour of the ball and the conditions are different, he has to trust in the ability and inner strength which has carried him this far. Stuart Broad and the England quicks have bowled brilliantly to him, but he still has one more chance.
I’m sure David’s teammates are right behind him. Losing the respect of your peers is often the scariest part of being in the sort of trough David is in, and you can only really get that monkey off your back with a big score. Not many better places to do that than at The Oval!
Roy’s fate was sealed by the shoulder injury to Ben Stokes that sees him selected for this final Test against Australia at The Oval as a specialist batsman. Stokes was put through his paces in the nets, bowling several deliveries but ultimately England decided the all-rounder was not fit enough to justify his place in the team as the fourth seamer.
It means a batsman had to make way for Sam Curran. The decision to ditch Roy was a no-brainer considering he was averaging 13.75 in the series. Starting out as an opener following a fine World Cup in the same position, Roy was moved down to No4 for the fourth Test in Manchester after consistently failing to deal with the new ball.
Despite a top-score of 31 in that match, it was not enough to save the Surrey batsman from being dropped at his home ground. “Jason has had an opportunity to come in and play Test cricket and it has not gone quite how he would have liked,” said captain Joe Root. “But I’m sure he will go away and work extremely hard and come again. That is what you expect of guys when they get left out. I’m sure he will have that attitude and want to try and prove a point and get himself back into the side.”
Long road back
Despite Root’s encouraging words, Roy faces a long road back and it appears likely his white-ball commitments mean he will never play enough red-ball cricket for Surrey to ever make a compelling case for a Test recall. Yet the ruthlessness England have shown in ditching Roy before the end of the series should provide a warning shot to several other players.
Craig Overton was also dropped for this final Test after being picked in favour of Chris Woakes for Manchester. That particular selection error has been corrected for this Test.
The decision to discard Roy also means everyone in the middle order moves up one position – so Stokes will bat at four, Jonny Bairstow five and Jos Buttler six.
While Stokes’ place is obviously safe, life appears less certain for both Bairstow and Buttler.
Warning shot for England
Indeed, other than opener Rory Burns, Root, Stokes, Jofra Archer and Stuart Broad, nobody’s place in this England Test team should be safe.
Buttler especially can count himself fortunate to remain given he has also performed poorly with the bat in this Ashes series, failing to score more than 41 and averaging just 16.25.
Bairstow needs runs at No5 in this Test and if he succeeds, it may well convince the selectors his Test future lies as a specialist batsman.
For Root and England, there is still a chance they can draw this series 2-2 with victory over the next five days. There hasn’t been a drawn Ashes since 1972 but there should be enough motivation within the England camp to try and buck that trend.
“You are playing for your country, that’s the fundamentals of it,” said Root. “However you motivate yourself whether it’s getting yourself on a winter tour or trying to get yourself a hundred or five-fer, I think it’s really important to harness that this week and take it forward.”
THE OVAL — James Anderson has criticised the flat pitches during this summer’s Ashes series, insisting they have played into Australia’s hands and prompting him to ask: “Why don’t we use home advantage?”
England’s all-time leading wicket-taker bowled just four overs of the opening Test in this summer’s Ashes after being struck down with a calf injury. Australia, who won the last series Down Under, have gone on to retain the urn after taking a 2-1 lead ahead of this week’s final Test at the Oval.
But Anderson, 37, insists that unlike the 2015 home Ashes, when England were assisted by green, seam-friendly surfaces and won 3-2, Joe Root’s team have been let down by the groundsmen this summer.
‘It doesn’t seem right’
Asked if he thought the pitches had given enough assistance to England during the series, Anderson replied: “Not really if we’re being brutally honest. I think they’ve probably suited Australia more than us. I would have liked to have seen a bit more grass but that’s the nature of the game here.
“When you’re selling out – like Lancashire selling out five days of Test cricket – it’s hard not to produce a flat deck but that’s one of the frustrations from a player’s point of view. We go to Australia and get pitches that suit them. They come over here and get pitches that suit them. It doesn’t seem quite right.
“We as a country or cricket team, cricket board, don’t use home advantage enough. As I said when you go to Australia, go to India, Sri Lanka, they prepare pitches that suit them. I feel like we could just be a little bit more biased towards our own team.”
After another amazing Test match, Australia can finally relax having crept over the line in another game that’s gone down to the last hour. How much of this can we take?
I thought prior to the fifth day that England pulling off another unlikely result was a real long shot, but they gave it a fair shake. Every player that came in on day five put a high price on their wicket, but ultimately they couldn’t compete with the class of the Australian bowling attack.
On balance, Australia deserve their win. Few would deny that they’ve played the better cricket overall over the course of the series. Tim Paine deserves a lot of credit for getting this team over the line in England for the first time since 2001, with some of the more recent tours having been tough rides for the Aussies.
It’s hard to look past the impact of one man when it comes to the difference between the two sides, as much as that doesn’t tell the whole story. Batsmen on both sides have struggled throughout the series, yet Steve Smith’s been on a different plane entirely.
Titanic contribution from Smith
Steve’s averaged 134 and looked increasingly determined and unflustered as the series has gone on. Marnus Labuschagne and Steve have been the standouts in that Aussie line-up, making an almost lone stand against England’s ever-impressive bowlers.
The comparisons between Smith and the likes of Ricky Ponting and Matthew Hayden are entirely fair. Steve has already cemented his place as a great of Australian cricket, but I must admit I have had fears for the longevity of his success in the past. I keep thinking to myself: “This bloke has to have a lull in form soon!” It just hasn’t come.
Like Ponting and Hayden, Steve does things his own way. I heard Ricky joking on TV about how much shadow batting Steve does in the field and in his hotel room – the guy lives for batting. It’s that dedication to his task and his art which enables him to keep on going and going. I loved batting and loved the game – but I wouldn’t put myself in the same bracket as those three.
England’s task has been made so much harder by Steve’s ability to manipulate the field. I don’t think they’ve bowled badly at him at all, but he’s dealt with their best balls so effectively they’ve had to move to other plans. He was ruffled up at Lord’s, but other than that he’s been unflappable.
His batting aside, it’s also been a landmark series for the Australian quicks. Our change bowlers have been able to create more sustained pressure in comparison to England’s. The home side have often looked a Stuart Broad or a Jimmy Anderson short, giving the batsmen that slight release of pressure that Australia simply haven’t afforded England.
The Aussies have been relentless with the ball, rotating their quicks throughout the series and building their plans around drying the England batsmen up. This is the best depth of quality Australia have enjoyed in terms of their fast bowlers in quite some time. To think that Josh Hazlewood didn’t play at Edgbaston and Mitchell Starc didn’t play for the first three Tests is pretty staggering.
With the age these guys are, this battery of fast bowlers looks likely to terrify a few more teams in the years to come. Where’s the respite? I look on as a spectator now and wonder where I’d be looking to score against these blokes.
In the context of this series, I can’t help but think that Anderson would have made a tangible difference to this series for the home side. Injuries happen, that’s cricket and it’s impossible for someone to stay fit for their entire career. If Anderson had played, however, would England have discovered Jofra Archer when they did? Would they have been brave enough to drop a senior bowler for Archer to come in?
England need to look after Archer
Jofra’s an infant when it comes to Test cricket, but he’s shown everyone why he’s a player worth investing in from England’s point of view. Much as Australia have had to do with Pat Cummins since his debut in 2011, England will need to look after Jofra to ensure he flourishes as Cummins is doing now.
Cummins’ success and that of some Australian quicks in general is far from being an accident.
Preparation for this tour has been so thorough from Australia’s perspective. I read one of Mitchell Johnson’s columns for i before coming over where he spoke about the learning curve between his first and second tours to England. You have to crack the lengths to bowl and work out how to apply pressure to batsmen for long periods of time over here, something the Aussie quicks have managed slightly better than England in this series.
They have strangled the life out of England’s aggressive middle order. There was so much focus on the likes of Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler and Moeen Ali prior to the series, and I feared the worst if those guys could get in against a tiring attack with the chance to score quickly.
Burns is a diamond in the rough
I’ve been disappointed that they haven’t been able to stand up more often for their team, with all three making a minimal impact on a series which was crying out for another English hero besides Ben Stokes. On the flip side, Rory Burns has been something of a surprise package for me. In a series where opening batsmen have endured a torrid time, he’s stood up to the scrutiny about his technique and the new ball barrage from Australia. He’s looked more and more assured in his own methods as the series has worn on and I think England have found a real diamond in the rough.
Burns looks like a player that England can invest in when it comes to the next few years of Test cricket. They desperately need to find some identity as a Test team, picking players with the character and desire to succeed in that format.
Being a successful team across all formats is incredibly tough in the modern era. England have put so much into their white-ball cricket, which has paid off for them in a big way. They can also take solace in the cyclical nature of the issues they face now. After 2006, Australia lost three of their truly great players just as I entered the fold which sparked a tough period for us.
Being one of the players tasked with rebuilding that team and pushing on in the game really fuelled my desire to improve myself as an individual. England will hope that the loss of the likes of Alastair Cook and the likelihood of losing James Anderson and Stuart Broad before too long will have the same kind of galvanising effect on their next generation.
Mike Hussey was speaking to freelance cricket journalist James Alder
So the same squad that failed in Manchester remains intact for the Oval. The only option England have is to shuffle the chairs on the deck of a ship listing badly.
It is the same for both sides, of course, but in world No 1 batsman Steve Smith and a full complement of world-class quicks, led by world No 1 Pat Cummins, at their disposal, Australia are simply better equipped to deal with the shift from white ball to red ball cricket.
The fundamental reason why the world champions in one form of the game have been flayed in the longer format stems from the behaviour of the ball combined with fielding restrictions that protect the batsman by effectively reducing the number of ways he might get out.
Thus in the one-day format the game favours batting, or more accurately a particular kind of batting. The white Kookaburra ball is designed to deliver runs not take wickets. With a much smaller seam the ball does not have the same evil properties that make the red Duke’s ball such a menace. A batsman can trust the line and trajectory of the white ball and simply hit through it. The Duke’s is a missile with a much prouder seem that swings and seams.
So when Jason Roy and England’s other big hitters plant that front foot and throw their hands out in front of the body they connect more often than not with the white ball. And if they do catch the edge, the chances are there won’t be a fully formed slip cordon to pouch it since fielding sides are more concerned with protecting boundaries. Not so in the red ball game where the ball is much more likely to take the edge or pass through the cavernous gap between bat and pad and their are five blokes behind the wicket with buckets for hands.
Roy is one of many exemplars of the white- ball game caught in the same trap. Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow, pillars of England’s famed one-day middle order, are in the same category. Roy and Buttler are simply not conditioned or versed in stringing sessions together, of batting for long periods. They are repeatedly out in Test cricket to the expansive shots that reward them when facing a white ball.
The problem is exacerbated by learning on the job. Roy is claimed by an awful conceptual muddle. In trying so hard to assume the posture of a textbook Test batsman he is unable to bring enough of his instinctive game to the piece. It may be time in the middle away from the scrutiny of the television cameras will cure this, a period where his every tic and vice is not being picked apart by former pros made grumpy by English failings.
The Anderson problem
Ultimately England have never recovered the loss of James Anderson after just four overs of the first Test at Edgbaston. You have to imagine Steve Smith would not have found it quite so straightforward against a bowler with Anderson’s ability to hit the killer length and move the ball both ways.
Jofra Archer and Stuart Broad can’t bowl every ball. In Manchester, England were effectively two bowlers down with the selection of Jack Leach and Craig Overton, notwithstanding their contributions at the crease.
Take Steve Smith out of it, four of the leading five run scorers in this series are English.That anomaly tells us that neither team has a reliable batting unit. Smith has scored almost 700 runs in five innings. His lowest score is 82, and that was a wicket surrendered in a run chase.
OLD TRAFFORD — Despite the fight, England left Manchester defeated, with the Ashes gone and several players wondering what the future holds in terms of their Test careers.
Among those, Jason Roy would probably have been the most pensive having failed again to convince he has what it takes to succeed at Test level despite being moved down the order to No4 after a harrowing four-match baptism as an opener.
Winning often masks a multitude of sins – just look at the inaction from England’s selectors after they burgled the third Test of this series at Headingley last month.
Yet that’s nothing new. Ian Bell avoided the axe in the afterglow of England’s memorable 2005 Ashes win despite only averaging 17 with the bat in that series.
No hiding place
However, in the aftermath of defeat, there is no hiding place for those who are underperforming. And to deny Roy is doing that is to deny cold, hard reality.
As brilliant as the Surrey batsman is in one-day cricket, a format where he averages 42.79 and is among the best openers in the world, he has struggled to transfer that form across to Test cricket.
A different coloured ball that moves a lot more, a lack of fielding restrictions, pitches that aren’t routinely as flat as the M25 and deteriorate over five days all contribute to the far greater challenge of batting in Test cricket.
Roy has struggled, even if his demotion to the middle order did see him make his highest score of the series on the final day of this match. The fact that was 31 tells you all you need to know about his current form.
Defence lets him down
After four Tests – albeit against a fine attack – he is averaging 13.75 with the bat. To put that into context, that is less then every England player other than Stuart Broad averaged during last summer’s five-Test series against India. This really has been a dreadful series for Roy.
Yet the most worrying thing is that he looks ill-equipped technique-wise to deal with high-calibre Test bowling. More than anything it is his defence, that lets Roy down.
On the final day of this fourth Test he was bowled through the gate by the excellent Pat Cummins. It was the fifth time in 10 innings he has been bowled so far in his Test career – a 50 per cent hit rate. Way too high.
Something special needed
The good news for Roy is he will have home comforts for the final Test of the series at The Oval this week. At 29, it is surely now or never for a player who will be fighting for his very future as a Test cricketer in that match.
If he fails again, he is destined to join Australia’s Aaron Finch (27.80 average from five matches) and Alex Hales (27.28 from 11) as limited-overs titans who could not make it as Test batsmen.
It will take something special this week from Roy – average 18.70 after five Tests – to convince the doubters, and the selectors, he can succeed where that pair failed.
OLD TRAFFORD — Once more England’s fate is in the hands of Ben Stokes. Can he do it all again, repel the Australian steamroller to keep the Ashes alive?
Putting an upbeat spin on a day that was oh-so close to being positive, England are 98 shy of saving the follow-on with Stokes and Jonny Bairstow at the crease. The contest promised so much more when Rory Burns and Joe Root were to the fore, comfortably in charge of a Test match session for the first time since the first rubber at Edgbaston. And then, well, Josh Hazlewood happened.
The Mancunian climate tried its best for England, delaying exposure to Hazlewood for the whole of the erased morning session. With a fresh rock Hazlewood is essentially Steve Smith with a ball in his hand; that is, a cut above.
He got rid of nightwatchman Craig Overton with his third ball of the day. And then after England had planted a flag in the ground, he ended the defiance of Burns and Root in the space of eight balls before attending to Jason Roy.
Roy had just slammed Hazlewood into the point boundary for four. He might have been starting to feel like a Test match player, 22 to his name and sap rising. Be off with you. Hazlewood ripped his middle pole clean out of the ground next ball to leave Roy’s red-ball career mired in doubt.
One man dividend
If only England could face Mitchell Starc at both ends, a bowler who in this phase of his career is anathema to line and length. Quick? Yes. On the money? Oh dear.
While Hazlewood cranked the pressure, Starc was a one man dividend for Burns and Root, who drove and clipped him for easy runs in the first hour of play.
If you didn’t know better you might think an English poltergeist had entered the soul of Australian captain Tim Paine and instructed him to recall Starc to bring England back into this game. Burns passed 50 and Root brought up the England 100 during his second spell. The first over went for 12, the second for ten. It was almost possible to feel sympathy for the lad.
The skipper was stuck on the horns of a tricky dilemma, remove Starc and ruin his confidence or retain him and ruin his confidence. The change in dynamic was light relief for a crowd who had spent two days at the thick end of Australian dominance, and for an England team enjoying something like ascendency. The advice to Starc from Australia’s line and length exemplar Glenn McGrath was to do less and bowl in the right areas. It is a moot point whether he managed that with a delivery often described as a ten-out-of-ten ball to Root that landed in a delicate area. The blow had the England skipper bent double and the 12th man in hot pursuit of a replacement protector.
On resuming his feet Root took the opportunity to take a drink and possibly pain killers during what we might call a medical time-out. Starc appeared pleased to have left some kind of mark with the ball. England regrouped to reach tea without further loss on the back of a century partnership.
The rhythm continued on the resumption, England enjoying the late afternoon sunshine and the denizens in the 8,000-seat temporary stand ever more raucous. How they loved Root’s edge twixt keeper and first slip that went for four, the first false shot of his innings.
Less enjoyable, at least for Root, was the ball from Pat Cummins that speared him above the knee roll on his back leg. Australia appealed the refused lbw call unsuccessfully but had at least broken the spell. Root was significantly discomfited, requiring attention from the physio as he went to ground a couple of balls later.
Cummins was operating in heightened vandal mode now, as visceral as anything we had seen in the match. Over after over, seven on the spin straight after tea. His hostility and perseverance deserved a wicket. It would come but not to him, Hazlewood collecting on his behalf three wickets in the space of 40 minutes to return the Australian boot to the English throat once more.
OLD TRAFFORD — Some numbers for you; 56, 38, 25, 11, 5 and 7, the scores compiled by Steve Smith in the Test series he contested prior to this in South Africa. That was in March last year before being claimed by the sandpaper trial. He averaged 23.6.
Who was that man? Where is that player? He was mortal then. Already this year in just four innings either side of a concussion he has scored more Test runs than any other batsman in the world, 589. OK he was caught off a no-ball here while on 118, but hey, it is not his fault that slow moving vehicle Jack Leach can’t plant his feet legally at walking pace.
Though Smith is self-evidently in a category of one, this kind of domination can be hard to watch. Rather like Manchester City cracking four against AN Other every week, the inevitability of the world’s number one batsman compiling a 26th Test ton, this one of the daddy variety, was from the English perspective something of spectacle killer and an unmistakable drain on hope.
The bloke is just too good. Discrepancies in talent and quality this big lead to a lack of competitive gristle. Smith’s 211 was his 11th century against England, his third this series and took him past 2,500 Ashes runs, more than Ricky Ponting and Tubby Taylor.
He is now more than halfway to the 5,028 Ashes total amassed by the Don. Though Bradman and England’s Jack Hobbs also scored 500 in an Ashes series, the former five times, only Smith has done it three times consecutively.
It is not so much the improvised brilliance that overwhelms but the simple stuff, the way he leans on the bat for a single either side of the wicket, breaking the spirit of the bowler who strayed a millimetre off line. Another feature of his relentless accumulation is the quick single, which takes another bite out of the fielding’s side morale. In a game of small margins, a contest of tiny victories as well as wickets and runs, little things like that get right under the skin.
The Australian goal was clearly to bat England out of the Ashes. Ben Stokes’s heroics at Headingley apart there is little in the England portfolio to suggest that Australia will have to return to the crease a second time. This was old school, attritional Test cricket, aided by four dropped catches, two of them absolute dollies in the second session by Jason Roy and sub Sam Curran, as swell as the Leach no-ball fiasco.
Not for the first time this series Smith got himself out seemingly unable or unwilling to concentrate for one second longer. He had been at the crease all day having walked to the wicket on Wednesday morning with the score on 28-2. That Joe Root was the bowler tells you how exhausted was the well of English ideas. With the clock approaching 5:40pm Smith obliged with a reverse sweep to backward point where Joe Denly gobbled the catch.
Cricket bites back
This was the third Ashes double century of Smith’s career. Two have ended reverse-sweeping Root. Following his exit Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon plundered a woefully ineffective England attack, the former smacking 54 off 58 balls, including a six off Jofra Archer, the latter 26 off as many deliveries to take Australia to 497-8. Archer ended up wicketless, shipping 97 runs off 27 overs. Test cricket bites back.
Asked to bat for 40 minutes England reached 22 for the loss of Joe Denly. It was a sharp take caught at the second attempt by Matthew Wade at short leg. How galling that after Australia had clattered the best part of 500 runs courtesy of England’s Teflon hands, they should snaffle a wicket by pouching a half chance.
The players left the field with the floodlights illuminating the stadium and the sun setting not only on the temporary stand at the Stretford End but on England’s hopes of winning this match. We have been here before, of course. Let’s hope England’s top order weigh in before Ben Stokes is asked to don his cape for a second time in as many Tests.
Craig Overton has revealed the cheeky sledge to Marnus Labuschagne that followed his first home Test wicket – a dismissal England hope will spark their revival in this fourth Ashes Test.
The 25-year-old Somerset seamer made the only breakthrough for Joe Root’s team during a stop-start second half of the day in Manchester, his wicket of Labuschagne seeing Australia reach a premature close on 170 for three.
Labuschagne, who made 67, was eventually bowled by Overton, who was playing his first Test in England having played three away from home in Australia and New Zealand during the winter of 2017-18.
And the fact it was his inswinger that did for Labuschagne made the wicket – his eighth in Tests overall – all the sweeter on a windy day at Old Trafford.
‘Make sure you keep an eye on it’
“The over before Marnus cut me for four thinking it was the inswinger, but I told him it wasn’t,” Overton said. “Then I bowled him the inswinger and it came out nice, worked out quite well. It wasn’t a send off or anything when I got him out, it was just saying: ‘That one was the inswinger, make sure you keep an eye on it.’
“It was a frustrating day for us, conditions didn’t really suit running into bowl but we stuck at it pretty well. We felt like we can come back tomorrow with a positive attitude and try to make a difference, get someone to stand up and be the man to get conditions back in our favour.”
Ben Stokes, whose brilliant unbeaten 135 in the previous Test at Headingley helped England to a miraculous win that levelled the series, has been the man for the hosts in this series so far.
But Steve Smith, the Australia batsman finishing the day unbeaten on 60, has been the defining figure for the tourists and an eighth successive 50-plus Ashes score is threatening to take this Test away from England.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “We all tended to struggle with the wind, I wouldn’t look too much into it. He’ll be raring to go and coming again tomorrow, firing in and bowling as quick as he can. Hopefully taking a few wickets as well.”
As for the overall match situation, Overton admitted: “We’re probably slightly behind but we felt the conditions weren’t quite with us today, with the wind etc. We come back in the morning, get a couple of early ones and we’ll be right back in the game.”
The moment Jofra Archer struck Steve Smith on the fourth day of the Lord’s Test always felt key in this series and so it has proved. The only problem for England is it now looks like a passage of play that has paved the way for Australia to retain the Ashes.
Smith’s eventual diagnosis of concussion following that 92 mph blow on the neck from Archer led to Marnus Labuschagne being parachuted in Australia’s brittle batting line-up.
Indeed, Labuschagne has not looked back since becoming international cricket’s first concussion substitute, starting off with 59 at Lord’s and then following up with scores of 74, 80 at Headingley and 67 on day one in Manchester. The South African-born batsman now has an average of 70 in a series he wasn’t even expected to play in when it began. His move from four to three upon Smith’s return to the team at Old Trafford has also been seamless and the 116-run stand the pair shared for Australia’s third wicket did much to kill any momentum England had hoped to take into this Test from their dramatic win at Headingley.
England bowlers at a loss
With Usman Khawaja dropped to make way for Smith’s return, Australia have stumbled on a combination at numbers three and four that has added to steel to an otherwise shaky batting order. It may be a combination that helps them over the line in this series, especially as England’s bowling attack looked so anaemic as a collective on the first day of this Test.
Aside from Stuart Broad’s excellent opening spell, England largely bowled poorly, despite the mitigating factor of the high winds that must have made finding rhythm difficult. Most worrying was the performance of Archer, who appears to be flagging towards the tail end of a momentous first summer as an international player.
Archer was noticeably down on pace in the previous Test in Leeds but that appeared more because he was bowling to the conditions – and his first-innings six-wicket haul backed up that school of thought.
At Old Trafford, though, he was even slower, a top speed of 89mph far from sluggish but still way down on the spell-binding 90mph-plus spell during his duel with Smith at Lord’s.
Workload catching up with Archer?
The excitement over Archer after that Test was understandable. But so too is the fact he is now appearing to run out of gas. The 24-year-old bowler has carried a monumental workload this summer, his heroics in the World Cup – a tournament he was nursed through with a side strain – and in his opening two Tests in this series surely now finally catching up with him.
The anticipation of his duel with Smith in Manchester was high. The reality, though, was rather underwhelming, even if Archer did initially crank up his pace at the very beginning.
For the greater part of the day Old Trafford looked like a windswept cricketing outpost in autumn. Hold on a minute, it is a windswept cricketing outpost in autumn. The presence of stewards standing like sentries out in the middle, their transparent pacamacs billowing in the gale, mocked the scheduling of an Ashes Test north of Watford north of August.
The rump end of a weather front whipping in off the Atlantic at least offered scope for humour. “It’s going to be sweltering today, 30 degrees,” Sky pundit David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd informed colleague Shane Warne at the start of play. “Aye, 15 degrees in the morning and 15 in the afternoon.” Warne laughed. How could he not? “Robbie Williams’ old man let me have that one for free,” Bumble let slip during lunch. Should the meteorology continue to intrude negatively, there might be scope to return to that association.
Deep into the afternoon when play eventually resumed after a three-hour hiatus we had a period when an ironic beach ball blew across the square, followed by a crisp packet, and then reluctant bails repeatedly falling from the stumps each forced a break in play. In the end umpire Kumar Dharmasena lost patience and stuffed the bails in his pocket, befuddling some England players in the field who were clearly not abreast of the rules that allow play to continue. A few overs later the bails returned weighted by screws drilled into the ends. These were among the highlights at Ice Station Old Trafford.
Broad strikes again
Play did at least start on time, and in those early exchanges lived up to the billing with a wicket in the first over. Since Stuart Broad opened the bowling you can probably guess the identity of the fallen. Yes, that man David Warner for the fifth time in seven innings, drawn into a nothing flick at a ball that seemed violently away. Broad followed its line with arms akimbo as he ran towards the celebrating slip cordon.
At 1-1 the moment called out to Jofra Archer to really shake ’em up. The wind was not so much at his back as across him. The result was curiously underwhelming, mind you he was bowling in a jumper. His first over went through the mph speed trap at 81, 78, 83, 80, 84 and 84, plus fractions thereof, at an average of 82, 1mph slower than Broad. At this pace Australia found Archer a straightforward proposition.
It was left to Broad to make the most of the new nut, accounting for Marcus Harris via umpire’s call with the last ball of his fourth over, a delivery that slammed into the left-hander’s pads from around the wicket. This, of course, brought Steve Smith to the wicket to partner Marnus Labuschagne. His first ball since Lord’s would be against the man who put him out of that contest and the last at Leeds.
Archer’s first ball at Smith was 5mph quicker than his average at 87mph. His second was a bouncer. Though way too short, the temperature had risen markedly if not anywhere near the values of Lord’s and Leeds. The first ball of Archer’s fifth and final over of his opening spell, also at Smith, was the quickest of the morning, 88mph and flashed off the blade for four through point. His fourth ball his 89mph but did not threaten a wicket. Two balls skipper Joe Root had seen enough. This would not be an Archer day.
Smith digs in
Stokes was the man to replace him, entering the fray to a rousing cheer that reflected his Headingley heroics. Stokes quickly evinced from Smith the increasingly bizarre defensive dances, which include the reverse pivot to present his back to the bowler and the bat-over-the-shoulder move as if casting a fishing line into water. Via these weird rituals does Smith lock himself into optimal engagement. He never looked like getting out on the way to an unbeaten 60.
Labuschagne appeared equally untroubled until misjudging a ball from Craig Overton that came back at him to clip the top of his off stump. This is, of course, textbook territory for the bowler, who in this case forced the error by switching the shiny side of the ball to the inside. And didn’t Overton just love it when his plan came together. Australia’s day though, the weather forcing a premature end at 170-3.
Jetlagged and a bit dazed, I’ve only just arrived in the UK having watched the series so far from my home in Perth. The timings are perfect for me and my son to stay up and watch the games, but I think my TV is still recovering from everything I threw at it during that last day at Headingley.
Watching that game, there was such a strong feeling of inevitability about it. The crowd were growing in both noise and confidence as the ever-important rub of the green started to favour the home team. There’s been palpable anger in Australia about the final acts of that game, with the umpiring decision surrounding the Ben Stokes LBW at the very heart of the ill-feeling but also that Australia had plenty of chances but couldn’t take any of them, plus a botched review.
However, what an incredible end to a Test match! You’ve got to love it. I did a radio interview back home before that last day and the host of the show seemed sure Australia had both the game and the series in the bag. I couldn’t quite get on board with that, given the quality of the players England had still to come in. Turns out I was right to be sceptical.
This series has been incredibly well followed back in Australia in general, which is great to see given where the Test match game is at. The questions are now centring around how Australia bounce back after England’s unlikely win. Everyone watching that game would have felt that, once England were 70-odd runs adrift with one wicket left, it had to be our game.
From Australia’s point of view, they’ll have been utterly distraught that they couldn’t take that final step. I can’t explain how crushing it is to get within one wicket of the game and the series being done and dusted and not taking that opportunity. No matter how strong you are as an individual and as a group of players, losses like that need to be mourned. It’s a natural process. Test cricket is such a long game, even if you love it as much as I did! You go through stages in games of feeling great and positive about your chances, but you’re also aware when your luck as a team seems to have changed.
Tim Paine and the management will be working hard to make sure the Aussies don’t allow any negativity to creep into the guys’ minds, keeping the chat as positive as possible.
‘We’ve been on top for pretty much the whole of this series, haven’t we?’ That sort of thing. You have to remind the players how good and how much better they’ve been than England for vast swathes of the series so far. It’s about retaining some perspective. England have had one of their greatest Test wins in history, but that doesn’t automatically make them a great team.
Morale can evaporate
We have Steve Smith to come back in and hopefully a stronger Australian batting unit altogether with the excellent Marnus Labuschagne retaining his spot as well. Our bowlers have had the wood over England’s batsmen on every surface so far, consistently causing problems for their best players. That’s unlikely to change because of one innings, albeit an absolutely brilliant one from Ben Stokes.
Having said that, I’ve seen first-hand how big an effect snatching an unlikely win or even a draw can have on a team’s morale. Two examples spring to my mind from my personal Ashes battles, Adelaide in the 2006-07 series back home and Cardiff in 2009.
Adelaide was our Headingley, really. We conceded a first-innings deficit to England who amassed a huge 551-6 declared on a typically beautiful Adelaide batting trac. Everyone thought it would be a draw but we somehow found a way to win, getting close to England in our first innings before they then fell away in the second dig, eventually rolling over for 129.
I was lucky enough to be there to hit the winning runs on what was an amazing evening in the South Australian sun as we chased down England’s total.
After that win, we felt invincible. As a team, we knew that no matter how dire a situation was, we had it in us to turn it around and get back into a winning position. For England on that tour, that was it. They felt the opposite way – ‘we’re not even safe when we stick 550 up on the board against this lot!’
Contrast that with Cardiff in 2009. We had England on the rack having belted 674-6 declared, with yours truly about the only bloke not to get a hundred! England then fell to be nine down and still behind us, with Jimmy Anderson and Monty Panesar at the crease.
It was the first game of the series. A real chance to lay the demons of 2005 to rest and make a statement. Yet, we just couldn’t get them out. Monty was trying to run himself out, but both he and Jimmy played with real bravery to get England out of jail that day. We were left deflated and dejected with four games to go. Not a great start.
Have Aussies let their chance slip?
I wanted to give those two examples to emphasise how tough it is for players to retain their perspective following a game as special as the one we’ve just seen at Headingley. Momentum in sport is hugely important, and Stokes may have single-handedly stoked the fire in the bellies of England’s batsmen. They’ll want to feel what he will have experienced on that last day.
Conversely, the question remains whether they can repel this Aussie attack that has kept coming after them on this tour. Yet, Australia arguably have the tougher job in terms of trying to forget that last game and not feeling like they’ve let their chance slip.
I’m still backing Australia to get their noses in front here in Manchester. They’ve played the better cricket and just look more likely to play well consistently. However, you never can tell how a team will react to a defeat like that. Time to find out.
Mike Hussey was speaking to freelance cricket journalist James Alder
Australia captain Tim Paine has refuted claims from England’s Jofra Archer that his team choked at Headingley but did admit Ben Stokes has given him sleepless nights ahead of the fourth Test that starts in Manchester on Wednesday.
Paine conceded he made mistakes in the field in the closing stages of the third Test in Leeds, when Stokes hit a brilliant unbeaten 135 to guide England to an improbable win that levelled the series at 1-1 with two to play.
The conclusion to that match saw many accuse the Australians of choking, with Archer insisting he thought the tourists would be mentally shot for the rest of the series after “panicking” at Headingley.
‘Jofra’s entitled to his opinion’
But Paine, whose mediocre batting so far in the series has put his own place under severe pressure, hit back at claims of choking, saying: “Jofra’s entitled to his opinion, he’s had plenty of those that’s for sure. But we made some mistakes, it happens, we’ve addressed it as a team, we’ve spoken about it honestly. I was certainly one of those people who made mistakes, it happens in cricket, we’ve moved on and we’re here ready for a great Test match.”
Asked specifically if he had a problem with Archer, the fast bowler who has 13 wickets in his first three Tests, Paine, who averages just 12.83 in this series, said: “Not at all. Just that, as I said, I was told a few things when I was down in Derby [for Australia’s tour match last week] – I haven’t actually seen the quotes –but, yeah, talk is talk and we are here to play this Test match. What’s happened in the past has happened and Jofra is entitled to his opinion. As I said, it doesn’t faze us one way or another.”
‘Stokes has made me lose sleep’
Yet one thing that does faze the Australians is Stokes, whose Headingley heroics have kept Paine up at night over the past week. “I haven’t lost a hell of a lot of sleep thinking about my captaincy,” he said. “But I have lost a bit of sleep thinking how we’re going to get him [Stokes] out, that’s for sure.
“He’s a class player and he’s really confident at the moment. He’s going well. We’ve got some plans for him but we’ve just got to execute them a bit better. As I said post Test match, I think Nathan Lyon has actually bowled really well to him. He’s created a number of chances each time he’s bowled to him.”
Joe Root has cited Craig Overton’s character and the extra bounce his 6’4 frame can generate at Old Trafford as the primary reasons for the decision to include him in England’s team for the fourth Test.
England had hoped to welcome back James Anderson, their all-time leading wicket-taker, in Manchester. Instead, with Anderson, 37, ruled out for the rest of the series with a calf injury, it is the underwhelming figure of Overton who has come into the XI in place of Chris Woakes for this must-win contest.
The Somerset bowler played the last of his three Tests against New Zealand in Auckland 18 months ago. He had started his career in the 2017-18 Ashes series in Australia, making his debut at Adelaide and claiming Steve Smith as his first wicket.
Yet Overton’s stats – seven Test wickets at 42.28 – make for ordinary reading and the decision to call upon a player who has lost 100 per cent of his England Tests so far is baffling.
‘A different option’
Sam Curran, the left-arm seamer who lit up his debut series against India last summer with bat and ball, must be in a terrible run of form having been overlooked this time.
Root, though, is comfortable with Overton’s inclusion. “The extra bounce of a taller bowler gives us a different option on a ground that does perform slightly differently,” he said. “It will balance our attack really well in these conditions.
“He’s a competitor. You saw him come into Ashes cricket on debut and looked very much at home and got himself in a battle. I expect him to do that again this week. He’s got good control, good skills, moves the ball off the straight and I expect him to cause some issues for the Australian batters.”
‘It’s not gone how we’d have liked’
Root also defended the decision to swap Jason Roy and Joe Denly around in the batting order, with the former moving down to No4 and the latter promoted to open alongside Rory Burns in Manchester despite scoring a welcome fifty from four in the second innings of England’s win in the third Test at Headingley.
“It’s not gone exactly how we’d have liked and Jason hasn’t scored the runs he would have liked,” admitted Root. “As before, we’re trying to find a formula at the top of the order that works for us. Jason is a high-quality player, we all know that, and he might be better suited at four.
“He was extremely excited to get the chance to open the batting but I think he might be better suited for the middle order on the evidence we have seen over the last three games. We have seen him play enough international cricket to know what he can do when he gets himself in so hopefully batting lower down allows him to do that.
“Joe has played some good cricket throughout the summer, he has got himself in and he was very good in that second innings [at Headingley]. It’s a great opportunity for him to get us off to a good start with Rory.”
Stuart Broad says he expects to play alongside James Anderson for England again this winter despite the latest injury that has ruled his bowling partner out of the Ashes and raised fears that, at the age of 37, he could retire.
Anderson’s troublesome right calf, an injury that flared up four overs into the first match of the series at Edgbaston, will see him miss the final two Tests against Australia at Old Trafford and The Oval.
With the series locked at 1-1 ahead of the start of the fourth Test in Manchester on Wednesday, Anderson’s injury is a blow to England’s chances of regaining the Ashes and Broad admitted: “I had in my mind the idea that it was almost written in the stars he would be back and open the bowling at the James Anderson End [at Old Trafford] and bowl us to victory. But that’s not going to happen.”
Yet Broad is certain he will play alongside England’s all-time leading wicket-taker again this winter, when Joe Root’s team contest series in New Zealand, South Africa and Sri Lanka.
“He’s got a lot of cricket left in him,” said Broad. “He’s having a bit of a break now to give the calf a bit of time because he’s tried everything. I’ve seen him running, bowling, doing absolutely everything he should to play an Ashes Test and then the calf doesn’t pull up well enough. I think he’s realistic.
“At 37 your body takes longer to heal. He’s got a period of time now that he can let it rest. I know, well I don’t know for certain, but from the conversations I’ve had, he’s looking at the winter and getting fit and wanting to be part of that.”
This Ashes is the first series that counts towards the new World Test Championship, with every future series – bar England’s two Tests in New Zealand in November – counting towards the standings. The top two will then contest the inaugural final, expected to be at Lord’s, in the summer of 2021. Broad thinks that’s a target Anderson has in mind.
“It’s quite exciting with this World Test Championship,” he said. “It doesn’t feel like the Ashes series is the new cycle anymore, it feels like that World Test Championship Final is the new cycle. I know a few of the older players are looking more towards that than an Ashes series.”
Lyon missed the opportunity to win the game – and seal an unassailable 2-0 series lead – for Australia by one run when he cracked under the pressure with Jack Leach yards out of his ground following an ill-advised foray up the pitch.
Ben Stokes, who hit an unbeaten 135, went on to seal a memorable one-wicket win in the next over.
Archer also confessed he thought he had cost his side the game when he was the eighth England player to be dismissed with 73 still needed to win. He said: “All I can say is that that last game was special. When Lyon fumbled the run-out, you could hear a heartbeat in the dressing room. There were so many emotions flying around. When the scores were level, it was just a big cheer. At least we knew the series was not over!”
Coping with Ashes tension
Asked how the players in the dressing-room coped with the tension, he revealed: “We believed we should be in the same spot we had watched the whole game in. I couldn’t look out through the window. I was inside watching it on the TV with [Joe] Denly and JRoy [Jason Roy]. All three of us watched it on the TV the day before, so it was back in the same spot. I went out to the window and someone said ‘get back, get back’. I was, like, ‘OK, as you were’.”
Of his dismissal, when he was caught on the boundary by Travis Head attempting to heave Lyon for six, Archer said: “I thought I had messed the series up so I was very relieved we are still alive and fighting.”
Root’s side looked dead and buried in Leeds after they were dismissed for 67 on day two, but their Ashes hopes were revived by the heroics of Ben Stokes, who scored a sublime unbeaten 135 to help seal an England-record run chase and a one-wicket victory to level the series at 1-1 ahead of the final two Tests.
Archer said: “That’s the thing, never get complacent. To be fair 359 runs is a lot of runs. The crowd started to get on their backs as well, I think they panicked a bit.
“At the end of the day before they probably thought they were going to roll us if they got a few quick early wickets but they didn’t go through us and I’m glad we showed some resistance because the series isn’t over and in the upcoming games I don’t think they’ll declare now. If they do have a chance I don’t think they’ll be too attacking. If they draw the series they still get to retain the Ashes so we’ll just see how the next Test goes.”
‘They still couldn’t bowl us out’
Asked if he thought Australia, who would have retained the Ashes if they had won in Leeds, would be demoralised heading into next week’s fourth Test at Old Trafford, Archer said: “Yeah. They were in the field a long time. They got to the second new ball and still couldn’t bowl us out. All of those mental facts should sit with them next game.
“The next game is all that’s important. We kept it alive, and hopefully we can win the next one, because I think they’ll be happy if the rest of the games are drawn, so let’s just give them one last upset – we upset them in the World Cup [semi-final], let’s try to do it again.”
As for the on-field battle, Archer, who took six wickets when England bowled Australia out for 179 in the first innings, revealed the sledging from Tim Paine’s team when he was batting during on the final day left a lot to be desired.
Lyon’s ‘terrible chat’
Archer, who made 15 before holing out off the bowling of Nathan Lyon, said: “It was terrible chat. Nothing to worry about. It made me laugh. I think it was either Paine or [Matthew] Wade when it was going off [checking his dismissal]. Someone said ‘that is a great shot, Jof’. If it did go for six it would have been. All I can say is we got over the line. It doesn’t matter how many wickets we won by. It doesn’t matter how we got there. The point was that we did.”
Archer struck Smith with a fearsome bouncer during the Lord’s Test, the impact eventually ruling the Australian out of the match at Headingley with concussion.
The battle between Smith and Archer was the highlight of that second Test and the duel between the pair was spiced up by Smith’s comments yesterday, when he said: “There’s been a bit of talk that he’s got the wood over me, but he hasn’t actually got me out. He hit me on the head on a wicket that was a bit up and down at Lord’s. He actually didn’t get me out.”
‘There will be ample time to get Smith out’
However, Archer, who admitted before the series that Smith avoided facing him in the nets when they were team-mates at Rajasthan Royals in this year’s Indian Premier League, has hit back.
“Well, I can’t get him out if he wasn’t there,” he said. “But there’ll be more than ample time to get him out. At the end of the day I’m not saying I won’t get him out but if we don’t get him out there’s 10 other people we can get out and if he’s stranded on 40 that’s not helping his team too much to be honest. I’m not here to get caught up in a contest with one man. I want to win the Ashes.”
The Ashes would have been gone for England had Stokes not bailed out his team-mates at Headingley and Archer, who also played a starring role during England’s World Cup win last month, admitted: “Yes, he did give us a second life in this series. Everyone would like to win the World Cup and the Ashes as well so there’s no reason why we shouldn’t go and do it now.”
Specsavers are the official Test partner of the England cricket team. Jofra was speaking to i ahead of the fourth Specsavers Ashes Test match
But the Headingley heroics of Ben Stokes, who scored an unbeaten 135 during the chase, papered over the cracks of a first-innings display that saw England bowled out for 67.
That means changes are almost certain in Manchester next week and i understands the prospect of Pope being drafted into the side at No 6 will be discussed when the selectors get together later this week.
The 21-year-old batsman, who scored an unbeaten double hundred for Surrey in the County Championship last week, would come into the team at No 6, with Jos Buttler, averaging 9.16 during this Ashes series, the most likely to make way.
Middle order reshuffle
Buttler has looked exhausted of late having played a key role across all formats for England over the past year, including a starring role in last month’s World Cup final triumph against New Zealand at Lord’s.
Taking him out of the firing line now will be considered, although England would be loathe to jettison a key figure in the dressing-room and a man who was vice-captain of the Test team up until last month, when he lost the job to Stokes.
Yet the reality of an Ashes series that is deadlocked heading into the final two Tests means there will be little room for sentiment among the selectors.
Pope averages almost 60 in first-class and cricket played two Tests against India last summer at No 4. Although he only had a top score of 28 in those matches, Pope was batted out of position and England believe he would prosper if he was given a chance lower down the order, where he bats for Surrey.
England will also discuss the possibility of Jason Roy and Joe Denly swapping positions, with the former’s failure as an opener in his first four Tests necessitating a drop down the order and the latter having already opened for England in Test cricket.
On Monday morning I found myself questioning what I’d seen and whether I’d ever be likely to see anything like it again, in the same way many of you did, I suspect. Was that real? It just can’t have been.
At 11am, a Test match ground was absolutely packed. You don’t usually see that until midday at the earliest, but this was different. England were so far out, yet the paying public had arrived in their droves to cheer every edge and every block. Boy, were they rewarded for sticking with their team.
Believe it or not, I have two Pommie mates back in Australia I was sending voicenotes of the crowd noise to. I just couldn’t believe the noise as England edged closer. That final 45 minutes of play felt like three hours up in the commentary box.
Sunday was as good an advert for the game – and for Test cricket specifically – that you could ever hope to see. England had no right. Australia had dominated and simply fought harder than England appeared to be able to and had wrestled themselves into what had to be an insurmountable position – 350-plus runs ahead.
Ben Stokes had other ideas. Who could have predicted that violent onslaught when he was sat with a strike rate of four runs per 100 balls overnight, having already faced 50 balls?
Solid defence, freakish determination
He’s shown that, even with every conceivable shot in the book at your disposal, you can only bat for long periods of time with a solid defence. Add freakish determination into the mix and you have a seriously special, once-in-a-generation cricketer on your hands.
This is a bloke who had dragged his team back into the game, bowling 24 overs practically without a break in 30C heat on day three. Take it from me, that’s exhausting. He’ll have been aching all over but was able to go in and soak up the initial barrage from Australia and come back to do it all again on day four.
I remember Ben’s first Test match at Adelaide back in 2013. We had England over the coals that summer – they were falling apart. Yet, this chippy lad was getting stuck into me! He showed me in that game that he had ability but also the will to fight for his team. Everything he said was respectful, but I knew then that he’d be a scrapper for England in the future.
He scored his 100th run from my bowling at Perth in that same series. A hundred on a rapid Waca pitch with huge cracks and a bowling attack at the peak of its powers. He’d announced himself.
Ben’s knock deserves to go down as one of the greatest our game has ever seen. The odds stacked so hopelessly in Australia’s favour, there was just no conceivable way England could do it unless someone played the innings of their lives.
Wilson will be pretty embarrassed
Despite Ben doing that, the reaction here in the UK doesn’t exactly reflect how it’s been taken back home. As much as I try to distance myself from the controversies inside games now I’m no longer playing, it was hard to stomach how the game ended.
Joel Wilson has had an incredibly poor series and I’m sure the umpire will feel pretty embarrassed at his decision not to give Stokes out from the bowling of Nathan Lyon. It was just so out! But as we saw with Tim Paine’s decision to send Jack Leach’s lbw upstairs, wasting Australia’s final review, pressure can addle the mind. Players become desperate and emotion can take over. The situation clearly got the better of the umpire in that situation too.
However, this is the sport. Sometimes you’re on the right side of these things, sometimes you’re not. Lyon was utterly distraught having missed the vital run-out chance against Leach and having had his appeal against Stokes turned down.
Garry, as he’s known in the Aussie team, has just gone past Dennis Lillee in Australia’s list of Test wicket-takers, putting him third behind Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne.
Can Australia battle back?
Australia and Lyon have to find a way to battle back before Old Trafford now. Steve Smith will come back into a batting line-up that’s now unearthed Marnus Labuschagne as a player of true Test quality.
They have to re-establish their faith in themselves and put this down to one freakish innings from one freakish player paving over some glaring cracks in England’s batting line-up.
No easy task, but while England and Stokes quite rightly bask in the glory of having won what is undoubtedly one of the greatest games in cricket’s rich history, Australia must regroup and ask themselves if they’re prepared to fight as hard as Stokes did for England.
An unbelievable day, and a monumental effort from Stokes. He looks to have found a way to channel his fighting qualities for the good of both himself and his team. The focus he showed and the dedication to his task was superhuman. Even those feeling hard done by have to recognise how good that innings was for our game. Well played England and well played Ben – but don’t rest on your laurels! I’ll be watching eagerly to see Australia’s Old Trafford fightback.
Mitchell Johnson has been acting as an exclusive Ashes columnist for i throughout the first three Tests of this series, but will now be replaced by one of Australia’s modern batting greats – Michael Hussey – for the final two Test matches.
How do you recover from the biggest choke in your nation’s cricketing history? That’s the question Australia’s distraught players will have to wrestle with over the coming days as they come to terms with their Headingley meltdown.
As brilliant as Ben Stokes’ virtuoso innings was, the cold, hard facts are that he wouldn’t have been able to pull off the greatest heist in cricketing history without a little help from the Australians.
Let’s be clear, Stokes’ unbeaten 135 was magnificent. It was probably the best innings of all time and a fitting denouement to arguably the greatest Test match.
For Australia, who had 73 runs to play with and just one wicket to get when Jack Leach came to the crease, it was a case of missed opportunities.
Had Marcus Harris not dropped Stokes on 117, had captain Tim Paine not burned his team’s last review on a dud lbw shout against Jack Leach and, crucially, had Nathan Lyon not fumbled the run-out chance that would have sealed a one-run win, Australia would have retained the Ashes already.
Putting a brave face on
England were dead and buried after they were routed for 67 in their first innings and Australia’s unassailable 2-0 lead in the series was as good as secured.
But, somehow, a combination of Stokes’ brilliance and the tourists’ loss of nerve means the teams go into the final two Tests level in the series at 1-1.
Paine attempted to put a brave face on the situation in the immediate aftermath of his team’s implosion, saying: “I wouldn’t say we were rattled. No doubt there was pressure. It was close, the crowd was loud, that was as hard as it gets.
“Sometimes people make mistakes and we made a couple today. We have time now to make sure we stick together, bounce back.”
Yet the words of coach Justin Langer told of a squad in a total state of shock. “You can only imagine how disappointed he is,” Langer said of Paine. “You’d probably be upset if he wasn’t feeling so deflated about it.
“We’re all feeling it. Oh my gosh, you’ve got no idea how much that hurts – you have no idea. We probably won’t talk much for a day or a night, and then when we get back into it. We’ll review it and make sure we get it better next time.”
Words can only go so far, though. The true impact of what happened at Headingley won’t be truly known until the end of the series. Yet history tells us Australia will have a tough job picking themselves up off the floor. Edgbaston 2005, the classic Test England went on to win by two runs, was the catalyst for Australia’s first Ashes series defeat in 18 years.
For the best comparison we should go back to the original Miracle of Headingley in 1981, when an Ian Botham-inspired England went on to win the Ashes after implausibly levelling the series at 1-1 having been asked to follow on.
Reflections by the Australian players involved in that match some years later probably give a better insight into how the current squad are feeling now than the words of either Paine or Langer.
Kim Hughes, Australia’s captain 38 years ago, has said of the experience: “I don’t know whether you ever get over a game like that. We went on to the next match at Edgbaston, lost a couple of early wickets and thought, ‘Here we go again’.
“If we had won that match, I’m convinced we would have won the next one. We could have taken the series 4-0. It would have been one of the most famous Ashes results in history. There was a movie called Sliding Doors, which asked what happens if you go through the other door. Little things can change history, and I can tell you it’s not a big difference.”
Opening batsman Graeme Wood admitted: “When I look back over my career, that is certainly the most disappointed I’ve ever been. We were 1-0 up, it was a great opportunity to win the Ashes, and for everything to turn around like that, well…”
Fast bowler Geoff Lawson added: “You would have to be comatose not to have been affected by that game.”
But the final word must go to Wood’s opening partner, John Dyson, who recalled: “I think it affected all of us, and what should have been a great summer turned into a nightmare.”
England won the 1981 series 3-1 and it will take some doing now for a shell-shocked Australia to avoid a similar fate this summer.
With England needing two to win to pull off their record Test run chase, Australia were left to rue wasting their last review the over before umpire Joel Wilson turned down Lyon’s appeal. HawkEye technology showed the ball crashing into the stumps.
But Stokes, whose unbeaten 135 secured England’s greatest-ever Test victory, said: “I have seen the DRS [decision review system] on my lbw shout, which obviously shows up with three reds, but DRS has got that completely wrong, as it flicked my front pad first and didn’t spin.
“It shows how crucial it is to make sure you use your reviews. When you get to a situation like that, you still need one. If they [Australia] had one, they would have used it and ended up winning. I still cannot believe it was three reds. I thought, as soon as it hit me, that it was sliding down leg because there was no spin.”
England are now level at 1-1 in the Ashes with two to play, starting with the fourth Test in Manchester next week.
And Australia coach Justin Langer admitted his team panicked when they wasted their last review on an lbw appeal from Pat Cummins against England’s No 11 batsman Jack Leach. “We’ve been really poor at it this whole series,” Langer said of his side’s use of DRS. “We’ve talked a lot about getting better at our reviews. Certainly we have control of that.
“We’ve got a way we go about it but sometimes you don’t quite get it right. The one off Pat Cummins was getting pretty desperate at the end and that often happens. That’s just how it works out.”
But the over before hitting the winning runs there was a huge appeal from Australia as he was hit on the pad while trying to sweep Nathan Lyon for four.
HawkEye technology showed the ball pitching in line with the stumps, hitting Stokes in front and then clattering into leg stump. If Wilson had lifted his finger Stokes would have been out and Australia would have retained the Ashes.
While Australia will no doubt be angered by Wilson’s decision they also have themselves to blame for throwing away their final review the over before when England’s No 11 Jack Leach was struck on the pad. Replays showed that particular Pat Cummins delivery clearly missing the stumps.
Lyon also missed a glorious opportunity to run Leach out but dropped the ball with the batsman yards out of his crease.
Nevertheless, the reaction Down Under has been one of anger.
“Ben Stokes was out, so his 3rd Test heroics should not have counted,” wrote sports editor of The Australian newspaper Wally Mason.
Channel Nine said Stokes’s match-winning innings was “tainted” with sports writer Tim Elbra calling for a change to the laws of the game.
“Why does an epic Ashes Test come down to Tim Paine’s ability, or lack thereof, as a de facto umpire,” Elbra wrote. “Why are players allowed to umpire at all, and why are flawed on-field officials retained as the primary authority, when the third umpire has every answer at his fingertips?”
“As much as I try to distance myself from the controversies inside games now I’m no longer playing, it was hard to stomach how the game ended,” Johnson wrote.
“Joel Wilson has had an incredibly poor series and I’m sure the umpire will feel pretty embarrassed at his decision not to give Stokes out from the bowling of Nathan Lyon. It was just so out!”
However, others have questioned the accuracy of the technology, with Stokes himself claiming the ball would have missed leg stump.
“I have seen the DRS [decision review system] on my lbw shout, which obviously shows up with three reds, but DRS has got that completely wrong, as it flicked my front pad first and didn’t spin,” Stokes said after the game.
“It shows how crucial it is to make sure you use your reviews. When you get to a situation like that, you still need one. If they [Australia] had one, they would have used it and ended up winning. I still cannot believe it was three reds. I thought, as soon as it hit me, that it was sliding down leg because there was no spin.”
To those who doubt Hawkeyes accuracy in the Stokes LBW this shows the technology DID detect the ball struck the front pad first pic.twitter.com/U7z5OdJFYX
Others have claimed the technology did not detect that the ball hit Stokes’s front pad and therefore the predicted flight of the ball – which appears to curve back towards the stumps – was incorrect.
How accurate is HawkEye?
HawkEye has been used for ball-tracking by broadcasters since 2001 and was approved for use in decision-making by the ICC in 2008.
The biggest controversy surrounding its use was in the 2011 World Cup final when India batsman Sachin Tendulkar was initially given out off the bowling of Pakistan spinner Saeed Ajmal but had the decision overturned after review.
While he looked out to the naked eye, technology showed the ball would have missed the stumps by some distance.
What added to the controversy in that case was that the estimated ball track appeared to curve dramatically after hitting Tendulkar’s pads.
HawkEye was forced into an explanation and showed with a series of graphics that because of gravity’s effect on the ball it can appear to curve from some angles. A bird’s eye view of the Tendulkar delivery showed that the line of the ball’s path was in fact perfectly straight.
Could this go some way to explaining the ball’s strange trajectory after hitting Stokes’s pad?
ihas contacted HawkEye for a response. The ICC refused to comment.
HEADINGLEY — For the poor souls who missed this epic Test, perhaps the greatest ever played, a word of advice. Watch the highlights on a loop – for the next 40 years.
It really was that good and there is one man to thank for a victory that saw England come back from the dead in this Ashes series – Ben Stokes. This wasn’t just a reprisal of Ian Botham’s heroics at this ground against Australia in 1981 – this was even better.
Stokes, the architect of his country’s barely-believable triumph in last month’s World Cup final against New Zealand at Lord’s, is a cricketer who makes people believe anything is possible.
And this is why.
On a crazy fourth day in Leeds the all-rounder bent this contest to his will and in one fell swoop, levelled up the series at 1-1 heading into the final two Tests. England successfully completed a record Test run chase of 359 to win by one wicket – the tightest margin of victory in an Ashes series since the two-run win at Edgbaston in 2005, previously the “Greatest Ever Test”.
No team other than Don Bradman’s Invincibles of 1948, who successfully pursued 404, have chased down more at Headingley.
The manner of the defeat for the tourists was agonising. Having bowled England out for 67 on the second day, the retention of the Ashes at the earliest available opportunity was firmly in their grasp. But they blew it.
Nobody will feel the pain of defeat more than Nathan Lyon.
Drama to the very end
With England nine wickets down and still needing two to win in the penultimate over, Jack Leach set off on a suicidal run before he was turned back by Stokes. When the throw from Pat Cummins came in to Lyon Leach was close enough to his batting partner to smell his breath.
But Lyon fumbled and Leach scrambled back to find his ground.
With the next ball Lyon trapped Stokes lbw but umpire Joel Wilson was unmoved. Australia, who had blown their last review in the previous over attempting to get Leach lbw to Pat Cummins, had no recourse to technology, which showed the ball smashing into the stumps.
Leach then scrambled a single off Cummins three balls into the next over. Scores level. The third tied Test match in history? No chance.
All it took was one more delivery, Stokes flaying Cummins through the covers for four. The Miracle of Headingley Mark II was complete.
Test cricket at its very best
At the end England had completed their record Test chase – beating the 332-7 against Australia at Melbourne in 1928.
They had also contributed to one of the one most frantic and logic-defying finishes in the sport’s history for the second time in just over a month.
And just like that World Cup final, it was Stokes who was at the centre of the drama. Overnight, Stokes had made two from 50 balls as England closed the third day on 156 for three. Their chances of victory, given the match situation and Australia’s brilliant seam attack were almost non-existent.
However, Stokes is a player who defies logic, who makes people dare to dream and it is to his eternal credit that he realised those dreams on this dramatic day.
It all started for him in the fourth over of the day when, still on two, he had his helmet obliterated by a Josh Hazlewood short ball.
By lunch he had lost captain Joe Root when he was caught brilliantly by David Warner off Lyon. But a 79-run stand with Jonny Bairstow that had seen off the second new ball took England to 238-4 at lunch, 121 from victory.
Yet the loss of three wickets – Bairstow, Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes – for 16 after lunch seemed to have done for England.
By the time Jofra Archer’s cameo of 15 was brought to a close by a brainless slog, 73 were needed. The equation was the same when Broad departed. Enter Stokes, whose innings will forever be remembered for three shots –the switch-hitting of Lyon for six that brought the required runs down to 50, an audacious swoop off James Pattinson that brought it down to 40 and then the four off Hazlewood that brought up his eighth Test hundred.
At the landmark, so in the zone was Stokes that he didn’t even celebrate. He still had work to do. The way he completed it was glorious and has kept this Ashes series alive.
HEADINGLEY — “I’m babbling on, here. I don’t know what to say,” offered our hero to Michael Atherton in the post-match interview on Sky. Don’t worry Ben, neither do we, each and everyone of us is lost for words because there are no words that can do justice to what we saw, to account for an innings that might never be bettered in Test match cricket, or any form of this beguiling game for that matter.
We said the same thing 38 years ago, of course, and at this very ground when Sir Ian Botham transformed the cricketing landscape with an innings that defined the age. We could not imagine then that there might ever be anything to surpass Beefy’s finest hour, turning a lost Ashes cause into the most Homeric of victories. Well here it was, Headingley 2019, another preternatural display epic in scale, and one that the great man would admit was a celestial notch above his own.
In 1981 Botham hit the ball out of the park from a losing position, but he never thought he was building a platform for victory, no matter how spectacular his undefeated 149. Australia needed only 130 to win for goodness sakes after declaring on 401 in their first innings. John Dyson, who scored a ton first up, walked to the crease a second time thinking he could get the runs on his own. He had not reckoned with Bob Willis, obviously.
In this example Stokes was Botham and Willis combined. You might recall how, after bowling poorly in the first innings then gifting his wicket away, he ran in like a beast in the second, sending down 15 overs on the spin at an average speed quicker than that of Jofra Archer. With that indefatigable effort late on the second day Stokes was already engaged in some kind of terrible one v XI conflict as if he were the only one capable of righting the appalling horrors of England’s first innings palsy.
The best innings ever?
Stokes took three wickets, slowed the Australian scoring rate to a trickle and ultimately wrestled back the initiative sufficiently to make Sunday’s wondrous pageant possible. David Gower, a cricketer of princely dimension himself, declared Stokes’s knock to be the best he had seen in 40 years as a player and a commentator. Gower was on the paddock when Botham was ripping it up in ’81, and in the Sky studio at Headingley asking Botham to make sense of what he had just witnessed.
“Stokes is a remarkable man,” Botham said. “I’ve banged his drum for a long time. He is the special one, valuable to cricket full stop, not just to England. He should enjoy every single moment, take it in, that was a really remarkable performance… Maybe every so often you need something special. The whole country will be up for it now, every kid on every street corner.”
Botham might have gone further. This was not just England’s moment, or cricket’s. This was one for the whole of sport to savour, demonstrating the capacity of an ostensibly trivial past-time to say something profound about human kind. Thus was this the highest form of human expression in a sporting context. Like Leo Messi, Roger Federer or Tiger Woods, Stokes gives expression to genius and might rightly be regarded as accomplished in his field as Ludwig von Beethoven, Vladimir Nabokov, Leonardo da Vinci or Vincent van Gogh were in theirs. Tidy.
Making the near-impossible look easy
To perform as Stokes did, to treat a high-pressure environment as if he were playing French cricket with his kids on the beach, was beyond comprehension. Six weeks after his pivotal role in helping the mother country win the World Cup for the first time Stokes brought the Ashes back to life. No sane commentator thought England had a pulse after being bowled out for 67 in the first innings. None of right mind thought England had an earthly when a bespectacled no.11 joined Stokes at the wicket with 73 runs still needed for victory. Only Stokes, it seems, believed the impossible was on.
The match still had a day and a session to go. There was no necessity to go balls out. As Leach showed in falling just eight short of a maiden Test century at Lord’s, albeit against Ireland, he can block for, well, England. In theory Stokes could have farmed the strike and singled his way to heaven. That would have been the percentage route to take. Not without jeopardy but with the risks minimised.
The hell with that, said Stokes. And off he set on his destructive, one-man rout of Australia. The reverse sweep for six of Nathan Lyon, the maximums off Australia’s keynote bowler Josh Hazlewood, hitherto considered godlike, and other monstrous blows were the freakish executions of a player operating beyond rational prompts in a realm known only to a higher authority.
As Atherton discovered, it is best not to ask champions to explain their own actions. In a sense the man Atherton was addressing with a microphone was not the player scaling the biggest hill England have climbed to win a match batting second in their history. That would be a bloke who changes in a phone box and emerges with an ‘S’ on his chest. It is possible that Stokes might not recognise himself when he watches the highlights such was the otherworldly nature of what he achieved.
And to think, after 60-odd balls of his innings his personal ledger was no further advanced than two runs. Ordinarily successful run chases see the pressure shift from the batsmen to the bowlers as the target nears. Three quick wickets after lunch accounting for Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes ensured it was all on Stokes, the more so when Archer holed out trying to do a Stokes and Stuart Broad came and went in two balls to bring Leach to the middle.
That was it as far as the mortals among us were concerned. It is never it for Stokes. But then again, he isn’t mortal.
Though Australia laboured on that first day their batters never once looked like they were not grinding. England rarely looked like they were applying themselves appropriately. We hesitate to say spineless, though some will think it.
There is a lot of hand wringing about why this might be. Too much white-ball cricket, the gradual diminution of the county game, too little time spent learning the disciplines of long form batting, both technical and mental.
England could not muster the necessary focus, the application that defined the work of Alastair Cook, of Michael Atherton, of Geoffrey Boycott, for example.
There are also questions about the leadership of the team. The captain is losing form as well as matches. The coach, a one-day specialist, is on his way after this series. No-one seems to know how to solve the batting frailties. The answer thus far has been the Titanic option, shuffling the order as the ship sinks. The punters had barely resumed their seats after lunch and they were watching Australia batting again. Incredibly Jofra Archer upped the ante, reaching for the fast stuff. Only once did he bowl more than 90mph on day one. In this spell it was almost his stock ball.
‘Cheerless, brainless, hopeless’
Joe Root took mercy on him and removed him after just three overs. Root knew the game was up. No point flogging a thoroughbred.
How different it looked when the day dawned under a blue sky. England knocked six off the first over. The second ball of Josh Hazlewood’s second over flashed to the boundary, a back foot drive through the covers from Jason Roy. This was alpha Roy.
Three balls later he drove at a wide one on sixth stump and was gone, the catch taken sharply by David Warner at first slip, the first of four he would devour.
Root lasted only two balls, scoring consecutive Test ducks for the first time. Hazlewood squared him up with another telling delivery and the ball took the edge and flew to Warner. At the other end, meanwhile, Pat Cummins proved to be too good for Denly, who took 24 balls to get off the mark.
Rory Burns gloved an attempted hook off Cummins down the leg side to give Tim Paine a simple catch. There was an aching inevitability about the collapse that would follow.
Archer limped off with an hour to go, ruined by the weight of an impossible workload. Come back soon shouted the Western Terrace. It was only cramp and he did. Next time he might not. The warning is there.
In his absence Stokes ran in like a champion, bowling with admirable pace and hostility for 15 insane overs on the bounce. It was commendable if not enough to alter the course of history. Australia will resume on 171 for six, the lead 283, almost certainly enough to see this game done and the Ashes gone already.