England in driving seat as Jofra Archer rips through Australia

The Ashes: English bowler takes six wickets in just his second Test match appearance

England bowler Jofra Archer celebrates after dismissing Pat Cummins to claim his first five-wicket haul during day one of the third Ashes Test against Australia. Photo: Stu Forster/Getty Images

Third Test day one, Headingly: Australia 179 all out (M Labuschagne 74, D Warner 61, T Paine 11; J Archer 6-45, S Broad 2-32, B Stokes 1-45, C Woakes, 1-51).

Half a day’s play was enough to have us salivating over this Test. At the end of it Australia were hanging on grimly, most especially against the irrepressible Jofra Archer, who quickly confirmed that he is no one-Test wonder. Joe Root keeps throwing him the ball and he keeps bowling fast. On Thursday he was England’s most exercised bowler once again and their most feared; he finished with six for 45 from his 17.1 overs.

Eventually, after a few mid-afternoon headaches, Root was beaming like a child who has just been given his best-ever Christmas present. At some point England’s captain may have to consider some of his other playthings out on the field but for the moment he keeps turning to Archer, who is not visibly shrinking yet. He really is a serious bowler, who has transformed the series in the space of six days.

Australia’s final total was a modest 179 yet in gloomy Headingley conditions, where batsmen look up at the clouds nervously, it could have been worse but for another gutsy effort from their No 4, who has been tormenting England in every match. In this case it was the admirable Marnus Labuschagne who kept Australia afloat, with some assistance from David Warner. The rest disappeared rapidly.

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They might have lost the match in the first two hours of play. The sky was slate-grey when Australia were invited to bat, the ball was wine-dark and in the first few overs it was forever jagging past the outside edge of groping bats; Warner looked as if he had been invited to have a go at mahjong or Eton fives or some other game that he had never played before as Stuart Broad beat his outside edge every other ball.

Amid the infuriating onset of drizzle two wickets were lost. Marcus Harris, replacing Cameron Bancroft at the top of the order, seemed to have drawn a short straw. A lifter from Archer took the edge of his bat to give Jonny Bairstow his first victim of the day. After another interruption Usman Khawaja was taken down the legside off Broad, bizarrely the eighth time in a row that the left-hander had been caught by Bairstow in Ashes cricket.

Warner looks dejected after being dismissed by Archer. Photo: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

The expectation now was that Bairstow would be in business for the rest of the day. There was extravagant movement early on but those expectations were dangerous. England may have anticipated a clatter of wickets but when this failed to happen they became frustrated and ill-disciplined. Root kept his slip cordon well-populated but the catches never came as Warner and Labuschagne eagerly exploited the gaps – and an increasing number of wayward deliveries.

Soon Warner was no longer playing an alien game and he had a bit of luck along the way. Apart from hitting thin air early on there were a couple of fives via overthrows off the unfortunate and increasingly grumpy Chris Woakes. One batch came as the ball ricocheted off Warner’s bat as he stretched for safety. Warner immediately held up his hand in apology as etiquette requires but England could hardly bleat about the unfairness of it all. The next five came from an errant throw, a symptom that the fielding side were out of control. At one point Labuschagne stole a second to Archer at long-leg and Woakes, the amiable gentleman of the side, remonstrated angrily with the new boy. It was like hearing the vicar swear. This pair added 100 runs in only 21 overs and England were rocking, out of control.

Then Archer was on target again. He found a brutish delivery for Warner that was edged to Bairstow. Root at first slip punched the air more in relief than celebration. Now Broad intervened. He has become especially threatening to left-handers from around the wicket, on Thursday beating the outside edge with the frequency of an off-spinner on a turning wicket but against Travis Head there was now the consolation of a trimmer: a full-length delivery that left the batsman to just clip the top of off-stump.

For Matthew Wade that Edgbaston century must seem a long time ago. In the next over he was unluckily bowled by Archer. The ball struck his thigh pad and then hit his gloves before trickling back on to his stumps with just enough force to remove the bails. In the World Cup those heavy electrified bails might have stayed on the stumps. So England had three wickets for three runs inside three overs.

Labuschagne was the only obstacle now as Australia contrived to lose their last eight wickets for 43 runs. Tim Paine was lbw to Woakes after a review and then Archer returned to remove the Australian pace bowlers with James Pattinson caught at slip and Pat Cummins taken by Bairstow.

Labuschagne’s dismissal to Ben Stokes for 74 was freakish. Somehow he missed a full toss that struck him on the knee roll but his was a fine effort, which guarantees that when Steve Smith returns someone else will give way. Archer was then summoned for one last spell by Root. One ball sufficed to have Nathan Lyon lbw. Now the England top order owe their latest bowling sensation a complete day of rest. – Guardian