Australia closed on 171-6 on Friday, with stand-in batsman Marnus Labuschagne again impressing with a patient 53 not out, meaning the English will likely have to score more than 300 to win a test they cannot afford to lose.
England trails 1-0 in the five-match series and cannot regain the urn if it falls 2-0 behind with two tests remaining. On a chastening day for the host, England posted its second-lowest test total against Australia since 1904 — beating only a score of 52 in 1948 — and its 12th lowest in test history. It is the fourth time since the start of 2018 that England has scored less than 100 in an innings.
By scoring 12, Joe Denly became England's lowest top-scorer in a test innings ever. Making things worse was the sight of Jofra Archer, the team's new pace-bowling sensation, hobbling off in the final session after breaking down midway through an over. He bowled 17.1 overs on Thursday when he returned figures of 6-43, and surely cannot have expected to be returning to bowl again halfway through Friday.
Yet that is what materialized after a now-familiar collapse, this time in just 27.5 overs. Josh Hazlewood led the Australian attack with figures of 5-30, with fellow pacemen Pat Cummins (3-23) and James Pattinson (2-9) taking the rest of the wickets on a day when England's batting flaws were exposed once again. David Warner in the slips took an Australia-record four catches.
Jason Roy (9) again fell cheaply —that's now only 49 runs in five innings for the limited-overs specialist in this series — before captain Joe Root went for a second-ball duck, having had a golden duck in the drawn second test at Lord's last week.
Ben Stokes would then rue his decision to chase after a very wide one from Pattinson, only to nick it behind. England reached lunch on 54-6, and lost its last four wickets in the first 23 balls of the second session — including Chris Woakes off the first ball after the resumption.
England needed to bowl out Australia quickly to stand a realistic chance of a win and did manage to reduce the tourists to 52-3, with Warner the first batsman to depart for 2 off the eighth ball of the innings.
However, Labuschagne, the replacement for Steve Smith in this test, was showing a willingness to leave the ball outside off-stump unlike many batsmen in this match, and simply plodded along. His unbeaten 53 came off 139 balls.
He was dropped by Root in the slips on 14, overturned an umpire's decision to give him out to an edge behind on 24, then saw replays show he nicked behind to Stokes, only for the allrounder to be adjudged to have bowled a no-ball.
Labuschagne reached his half-century in the next-to-last over of the day to back up his 74 from the first innings and 59 from the second innings at Lord's, when he replaced the concussed Smith. Labuschagne's 111-run stand with Warner on Thursday remains comfortably the biggest partnership from either side and might prove to be the defining period of the match.
Matthew Wade fell for 33 before stumps, giving Stokes a second wicket to show for his efforts, and captain Tim Paine also went second ball to Stuart Broad. Pattinson was 2 not out. Archer provided a bit of light relief before his injury scare — which later proved to be only cramp — when he ran 80 meters toward Headingley's Western Terrace after a steward confiscated an inflatable watermelon being thrown around by spectators.
Archer took it off the steward, and punched it back into the crowd. "Super, super Jof," came the chants from England fans.
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