Australia 179 and 171 for 6 (Labuschagne 53*, Stokes 2-33) lead England 67 (Denly 12, Hazlewood 5-30) by 283 runs
A dire capitulation with the bat left England’s Ashes hopes hanging by a thread after another thrilling day in this engrossing series.
Credit went to Australia’s strike bowlers – led by Josh Hazlewood’s devastating five-wicket haul – for putting Australia in position to win the third Test at Headingley and take a 2-0 lead in the series, which would allow them to retain the urn, with three days still to go in the match. But England did not help themselves one bit, bundled out for just 67 – their lowest Ashes total since 1948 – with rash shots an all-too-common feature.
Sixteen wickets fell on a day when Joe Denly was England’s top-scorer with just 12, Jason Roy’s struggle to establish himself as a Test opener faltered again and Joe Root made consecutive ducks for the first time in his career as questions resurfaced about his batting position.
In all honesty, just about everyone in an England helmet looked out of position and out of their depth as Hazlewood struck early en route to claiming 5 for 30, well supported by Pat Cummins and James Pattinson, who chimed in with three and two wickets respectively.
Replying to Australia’s seemingly below-par 179, England were in all sorts of bother at 10 for 2 after Hazlewood had Roy and Root both caught in the slips by David Warner – who had not only rediscovered some form with the bat, striking 61 the previous day, but also in the field, overcoming a rash of dropped chances earlier in the series to hold four on the second day at Headingley – the most ever in an innings by an Australia fielder in an overseas Ashes Test.
Roy was out driving at a Hazlewood delivery which was wide of off stump and moved ever so slightly to draw the edge, while Root – batting one place higher than his preferred No. 4 – hung his bat out to a good ball which had a hint of movement off the seam. When Rory Burns gloved a Cummins bouncer to Tim Paine behind the stumps, England were 20 for 3 and from there the procession of cheap wickets continued.
Ben Stokes flashed a drive at a wide one to slip, before Denly’s tortured 49-ball stay was ended via another outside edge. Denly was the only batsman to make it into double-figures, as Bairstow fell to a brilliant Warner grab, Chris Woakes gloved behind from the first ball after lunch and Jos Buttler chipped Hazlewood straight to cover.
During the evening, as England attempted to claw their way back into the game, Stokes toiled for a mammoth 15.2 overs, with only four balls breaking up his spell before he was called back into action when Jofra Archer suffered leg cramps. Stokes’ efforts delivered two wickets for England, alongside two for Stuart Broad, as Australia finished in a strong position, Marnus Labuschagne passing fifty for the third time in as many innings and still unbeaten at the close.
With three days yet to build their lead and then bowl England out, Australia were in the best position they could have hoped for after grafting in difficult batting conditions on the opening day for their total of 179.
Their prospects didn’t look so great when Warner was out lbw for a duck, dismissed for the fourth time by Broad in six innings this series. Marcus Harris followed soon after and, when Usman Khawaja was out to a loose shot off Woakes, they were 52 for 3, leading by just 164.
But Travis Head and Labuschagne dug in and it was a long time before Stokes, brought into the attack in the second over after tea, made the breakthrough. Stokes tried with all his might to make things happen for England, delivering a maiden first up and suffering a dropped catch – Labuschagne juggled and spilled by Root in his second over.
Stokes hit 89mph bowling to Labuschagne, then dismissed Head in his next over, sneaking through a yorker via the batsman’s inside edge. Matthew Wade treated an 88mph Stokes delivery with disdain, flicking it through midwicket for four before Stokes responded by peppering Wade with a series of short balls.
Stokes bowled eight overs straight before he was replaced by Archer but, four balls into the over, Stokes had to finish it when Archer was struck down by cramp. Archer eventually returned to the field, to the delight of the crowd, whose watermelon beach ball he had saved from the clutches of a security guard earlier. But Stokes bowled on and eventully struck again in his 13th full over with the wicket of Wade, caught behind off the glove. That prompted Stokes to collapse on the ground, an exhaused grin on his face as his team-mates gathered round to congratulate him.
Broad had Paine out amid some confusion over whether it was lbw or a caught, prompting the batsman into a hopeful review. DRS confirmed an edge, to Paine’s obvious displeasure, but Labuschagne remained until the close to leave his side in decent shape.