Connor Sully and Todd Murphy, take a bow!
It was just another day at the office for the Australian team — a remarkably similar day.
The openers crumbled, the rebuilding by the middle order took place, a massive collapse and the unavoidable yet a miserable ending. However, few expected an Australia bereft of Steve Smith to bask in glory, especially in conditions as conducive to bowling in Headingley on the first day.
On one side, the tourists had positives drawn out of it. David Warner found the runs. As much streaky almost every run had been, the little dynamite’s purposeful mindset gave Australia a big boost. Then there was Marnus Labuschagne – who stepped up to fill some gigantic shoes and thrived in it.
The two performed a rescue act that had kept England on their knees for the first time in the day. However, Australia found little resistance from that commanding position. The most depressing aspect of that downfall was that none of it seemed surprising.
The visualisation was that Australia were sleepwalking to a heavy defeat.
The second day arrived on the horizon, leaving the visitors with a difficult task of stopping England. Sunshine engulfed Headingley. The surface had runs written all over it.
And there wasn’t a better occasion for Australia to show what their bowling attack was capable of. Spearheaded by Josh Hazlewood, Australia produced a sensational bowling performance – one that may have swung the urn their way. All three bowlers – Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and James Pattinson had never played together previously in a Test but ran riot at Leeds.
All three had the same objective but separate notion of achieving it. The immaculate swing and the precision of Hazlewood, forcing the edges from Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root. Pat Cummins’ pace and hostility to bounce out Rory Burns, Jofra Archer and Chris Woakes with his vicious bouncers.
The duo got ably supported by James Pattinson, whose aggression bode well enough to pick two scalps. The trio remains at par with the trio of Mitch Starc, Hazlewood and Cummins in the current match.
Nevertheless, the job was only half-done. The brittle Aussie batting line-up stood every chance to squander the upper hand their bowlers gathered for them. Unquestionably, it is a contest between the best seamers in the world today.
And Joe Root’s men, despite their disastrous outing with the bat, undeniably were going to leave no stone unturned to turn the game into its head.
However, Labuschagne crafted another masterclass of a knock to keep Australia within sights of retaining the urn. Tim Paine’s Australia have shown time and again since Edgbaston that they can force their way out of any dire situation. They have also found unlikely heroes to dig them out of a hole and win games out of nowhere.
From the looks of the current situation, the visitors seem firm favourites to go 2-0 up in the series. However, the hosts, with plenty of time still left in the game, may hang in there to rewrite their own piece of history. Test cricket, as insidious as it is, hands lifelines to the players to forge the improbable.