Ashes 3rd Test, Day 1 – I Blame You For The Moonlit Sky

It was a day when nothing seemed to go quite according to plan. I booked a day off, knowing I had a load of things I needed to do, and thought to do the report justice I’d need to watch the early exchanges, and perhaps do all the other stuff later in the day. Of course, the plan should have been reversed. I saw one of the wickets to fall live all day – the first one – and missed the whole of the last session. So this report of the day is on catch-up. Also, most of you will have seen more of the play than I have. Still, I bought some nice shoes, and got to get pissed off at Warner making a 50.

First up, apologies for no Ashes Panel this week. On Sunday I came down with a naughty bout of manflu (I’ve lost a good chunk of weight this week due to it, so out of every negative comes a positive) and by the time I was in any shape to do things, it was too late. Thanks to the team for covering the preparation for this test. Yes, I saw the reactions to the pieces over the weekend, and will say what I always say – we are not a team of writers who agree, we welcome differences, we don’t take many editorial lines (politics is definitely one we don’t want) and yes, things can get tetchy. I’d be surprised if they didn’t. So play on people. More that keeps us together than tears us apart, as it were.

So to today. I’ve never much liked Headingley tests, dating back to when I was a kid. Whenever one was on, it was always the one that seemed to be badly rain affected, it had that pavilion that looked like a council office, and that electronic scoreboard was dreadful. It has those sightscreens with people popping up above white boards, like they were working in a call centre. Today took me back to those days. England won the toss and put Australia in. Harris came in for Bancroft, but did a decent impression of the opener by falling early. Archer bowling, perhaps within himself if the pace gun is to be believed, around the wicket inducing a thick edge to YJB leaving for 8…. and then they all followed off due to rain.

90 minutes later and the players returned – I was working from home a little during this time so didn’t really follow play – and within 20 or so minutes Broad got Khawaja to strangle himself… a flick off the bat, well in front of the pad, carried through comfortably to YJB, and it was 25 for 2. Khawaja becoming immediate bookies favourite to be replaced when Steve Smith returns, and Marnus better get used to number 3! Presumably, as he belted the damn cover off it, and didn’t walk, there will be mass condemnation as a “shit bloke” for Usman. And my tongue is only slightly in my cheek.

Through the rain and the bad light – oh my lord, they took them off for bad light when the floodlights were on, yet again – Warner and Marnus took Australia from peril to comfort. Warner fighting himself, dug in, took toll of what he could, and made his first half century of the series. Marnus looks fit for test cricket (although he has a face of a man who looks as though he’s about to shout “WHY ME!!!!) showing a good deal of courage and application. He’s booked himself in for the rest of the tour.

The Aussies reached 136 for 2 – and in a position of real strength, when Warner nicked a full one from Jofra Archer. In the following over Broad claimed the important scalp of Travis Head, who has been an understated piece of Aussie resistance in the preceding two games, by bowling him with a naughty little cutter – one of the greatest balls he’s ever bowled, according to the increasingly silly Nasser. Head’s duck was followed by a similar contribution from Matthew Wade. Wade could consider himself unlucky in a couple of regards – first the ball took that odd carom off the thigh pad that sends the ball back towards the stumps, rather than the natural line down the leg side….. and the ball hit the stumps with a gentle thud AND the bail fell off. If this were the World Cup, when an earthquake AND tsunami would not remove the bails, Wade would be continuing the resistance.

Paine and Labuschagne kept the England bowlers at bay, as the ball carried on moving, but it couldn’t last (I’ve taped the whole day’s play and watching key moment as I write this). Yes, there was an amusing moment when the captain copped one at half mast, which was shared widely on Twitter while I wandered around Bluewater, and which all club players can share in the agony of the moment. My worst wasn’t while I was batting – I got one four square in the bollocks from an off drive. I recovered, and the oppo paid as I made my then highest ever score in the second innings of the match, and hit my first two sixes. Tim Paine made 11. Woakes pinned him LBW to overturn Chris Gaffaney’s decision of not out. Chris has said to me on the Whatsapp that it didn’t look right. Oh dear, how sad, never mind (in the words of the late great Windsor Davies).

As the clock approached 7pm, Jofra got Pattinson to nick an 86mph delivery and Joe Root took a catch at 1st slip that appeared to come to him quicker than he thought. 173 for 6 at 7pm ended up being 179 all out by close as Jofra brushed up the tail in a manner we haven’t seen for a while. Pattinson was followed by Cummins who gave the thinnest of edges through to Bairstow (before the thin spike came up, Pat and Marnus were chortling away, but that soon disappeared, and Cummins looked gobsmacked), giving Archer his 5th.

Stokes then chipped in with the old fashioned full bunger swinging in to pin Labuschagne LBW for 74, a weird ending to a gutsy knock, and he looks nailed on to be the number 3 when Smith returns. The commentators said he appeared to be moaning about the bad light, and that he might have lost it in the gloom. I’m minded to quote Windsor again. Archer took his sixth to finish the innings with his first ball of the 53rd over, when Lyon was plumb LBW for 1. 179 all out, and Jofra Archer taking 6 for 45.

Some early statwatch results. 103rd time an England bowler has taken 6 wickets in an Ashes test, the third time 6 for 45 has been recorded by an England bowler (Johnny Briggs and Derek Underwood the other two) – the 54th equal best for England in all series v Australia. It was the joint third best figures at Headingley in Ashes match-ups (Underwood again, in 1972), and the best since Bob Willis in 1981. It was the best 1st innings figures by an England player against Australia at Leeds. Only Ian Botham, with 6 for 95 in the first innings against Australia in his wonder test, has taken 6 wickets in the 1st innings of the match at Headingley, for England, before today.

The game itself is advanced. Australia had the whip hand when taking 70 runs off the first eleven overs after tea, but England came back with favourable conditions towards the end of the day. There is much to discuss, but on a day when I couldn’t watch a lot, a lot happened.

Finally, alongside the “comments below” invitation, for the Day 2 play, let me give a round of applause to the BOC contributor – not me – who put this Tweet up.

Hope the link works.

To Day 2…..