Mark Wood’s five-wicket haul helps England bowl Australia out for 263 at Headingley – despite a defiant 118 from Mitchell Marsh – as tourists respond well to limit Ben Stokes’ side to 68-3 at stumps on a thrilling opening day of the third Test
- Mark Wood bowled superbly as England dismissed Australia for 263 on day one
- Australia responded well as the hosts finished the day on 68-3 with the bat
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This is why Ben Stokes wanted to throw extra pace at Australia and play the Ashes on ‘fast and flat’ pitches. He belatedly got the first here in the form of an electrifying display from Mark Wood and pretty much the second with the best surface of this series.
It was enough, with Wood producing some of the fastest sustained bowling Test cricket has ever seen, to give England a sensational start to a third game they must win if they are to have any chance of one of the great Ashes comebacks.
But there was huge frustration, too, because it could have been so much better for England had they not dropped another four catches and then lost three wickets in reply to Australia’s 263.
At the end of another thrilling, compelling day of Ashes cricket, England had reached 68 for three, 195 behind, and with local heroes Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow unbeaten and probably holding the key to gaining the victory here they need to keep this Ashes alive.
How Root owes his side a Test-defining knock because it was the former captain who was guilty of the most damaging spill of the day, dropping a dolly at slip when Mitch Marsh was on 12 before he went on to a swashbuckling century of his own.
Marsh, a late replacement for the injured Cameron Green, seemed to have rescued Australia from the depths of 85 for four on his first Test appearance for almost four years with a quite brilliant display of hitting to take the wind out of England’s sails.
But once Chris Woakes, himself returning to the Test arena for the first time since March last year, dismissed Marsh in slightly soft fashion on the brink of tea, inside edging onto his bat and ballooning the ball to slip, this was a day that belonged to Wood.
What a performance this was from this hugely popular character and what a crying shame he was not fully fit enough to play in the first two Tests after becoming the last truly fast man standing following injuries to Jofra Archer, Olly Stone and Jamie Overton.
From the moment Wood unleashed his first ball at the start of the seventh over after Ben Stokes had won his third successive toss he took the England bowling to another rarefied level in front of a highly-charged Headingley crowd.
By that time David Warner had fallen for the 16th Test time to Stuart Broad, fending off to second slip where Zak Crawley took a good catch, and England had found a pitch with pace, bounce and, crucially, carry after the moribund surfaces at Edgbaston and Lord’s.
There was plenty more pace when Wood was introduced for his first game since April and he found conventional swing, too, as the old adage of looking up at a cloudy sky rather than down at Headingley provided a clue to the movement through the air.
Not one of Wood’s first 12 deliveries was under 91 miles per hour and his ninth ball peaked at 96.5, fractionally under his high of 96.9 recorded in Pakistan last winter.
By the time Wood bowled Usman Khawaja with a beauty timed at 94.6 that not only flattened leg-stump but broke it at the end of his fourth over he had completed the fastest spell ever recorded at Headingley and one of the consistently fastest anywhere.
Whisper it in case, somewhere, the late great FS Trueman might be listening, but this famous old ground has never seen any bowling quite as fast as this.
It was far from the last major contribution from Wood. Marsh had taken England on at their own turbo-charged game by smashing a run a ball 118 and leaving England visibly deflated with the Ashes seemingly slipping out of their grasp.
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An eventful morning session had also seen Marnus Labuschagne dismissed by Woakes, Steve Smith being dismissed by Broad in his 100th Test inside edging and Jonny Bairstow dropping two catches, the first a difficult one to reprieve Smith but the second down the legside from Travis Head off Wood that he really should have taken. The debate about the merits of Bairstow having the gloves ahead of Ben Foakes rages on.
Marsh took advantage of another spell of costly lethargy from England but once he had gone Wood pounced again to blow away Australia’s resistance with a spell of four for five in 16 balls as six wickets fell in all for just 23 runs.
The Western Terrace, who had just indulged in sporadic booing after the controversial events at Lord’s, fully found their voice when Alex Carey and Pat Cummins came to the crease but neither were a match for Wood.
Root was again the guilty fielder when he dropped Carey on four off Woakes but then caught Head off the next ball before angrily throwing the ball on the floor in annoyance at himself.
Then it was the Wood show again, Mitchell Starc and Cummins falling in three balls and then Carey backing away and slicing to extra cover the ball after he had been struck a nasty blow on the helmet.
Wood’s first five-wicket haul in England and his second in successive Tests against Australia after finishing the last series with six wickets in Hobart was complete when Todd Murphy was also bowled. Cue a warm ovation from another packed house.
It was Cummins who made the first breakthroughs when England replied, Ben Duckett falling outside off-stump to a good catch by Carey and Harry Brook struggling at three before he too fell to the Australian captain.
Marsh completed his perfect day by exposing Crawley’s weakness outside off-stump but Root and Bairstow, with two dropped catches apiece to their name and a point to prove after the last day at Lord’s, still there.
It was a day that had almost everything and it is one that leaves this third Test in the balance after another absorbing demonstration of the very best Test cricket can offer.
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