A gripping duel between Steve Smith and Jofra Archer dominated day four of the second Test, which is set up for a tense conclusion at Lord’s today.
England resume 96-4 for a lead of 104, but it was the tussle between the Australian batsman and England pace man which dominated the sports headlines in this morning’s papers.
Smith was on 80 and progressing toward a third straight century when a rising delivery by Archer, making his Test debut, struck the Australian on the side of the neck and floored him.
Smith, who had earlier been smashed on the left forearm by Archer in an adrenaline-fueled tussle in the middle session, was led from the field after receiving treatment but returned 40 minutes later after passing concussion tests. He was dismissed lbw by Chris Woakes for 92 and looked understandably shaken.
The Smith-Archer clash showcased the sport at its most visceral but it was also extremely worrying when Smith tumbled face-first to the ground, flicking off his helmet before rolling over and facing the sky.
Smith was persuaded, somewhat reluctantly, to pause his innings but was back after 54 balls. Whether he should have been encouraged to stay away from the crease is open to debate.
Australia paceman Pat Cummins wasted no time after the changeover, removing Jason Roy (2) and Joe Root (0) in successive balls in his third over. Roy has scored just 45 in five innings as an opener, while Root nicked behind for his first golden duck in 153 test innings.
Peter Siddle kept the pressure on by picking off two more of the top four, Joe Denly caught and bowled for 26 and Rory Burns edging behind for 29.
England might have crumbled had any of three edges by Ben Stokes in a single over by Nathan Lyon been held, with the allrounder also benefiting from one of two lbw appeals that should have been reviewed.
Stokes was 8 not out, with Jos Buttler unbeaten on 4.
The draw might still be the most likely result, with rain having wiped out the entire first day and two sessions on Friday.