Headingley Ashes verdict: Mark Wood takes five before Australia hit back
“I could bowl quicker in me mac.”
Fred did once actually say that about Darren Gough, the Yorkshire managing director of cricket, who took it about as well as when a national newspaper famously described him as “the son of a Barnsley rat-catcher”, a reference to his father’s role as a pest control officer.
But even Fred might have doffed his cap to Wood on the first day here, the England pace bowler firing up the speed gun to almost 100 mph and, in the process, a sell-out crowd at the third Ashes Test.
Wood’s blistering speed - he was clocked at 96.5 mph during his first burst - was exhilarating, generating the sort of captivating theatre that might not get Prime Ministers feuding, but which keeps spectators glued to the edge of their seats.
As plumes of pipe smoke were no doubt puffed approvingly in paradise by FST, Wood took 5-34 as Australia were dismissed for 263, England responding with 68-3.
On a mostly cloudy day interspersed with bursts of watery sunshine, one grey enough for the floodlights to be employed from lunchtime onwards, Australia recovered from 85-4 to 240-4 only to lose their last six wickets for 23 runs, Wood finishing the innings with a brutal burst of 4-5 in 16 balls.
Mitchell Marsh, the 31-year-old all-rounder playing his first Test for almost four years, scored a run-a-ball 118 with four sixes and 17 fours after replacing Cameron Green, who had a minor hamstring strain; it was the sort of superlative display that made one wonder where Marsh had been in the intervening period.
Marsh, whose dismissal came on the stroke of tea, and who scored 113 in the afternoon session, struck the ball with blistering ferocity as though extra runs were awarded for muscle. He was dropped on 12 - egregiously so by Joe Root at first slip off Chris Woakes, one of four chances spilled by England: two by Root and two by Jonny Bairstow, his Yorkshire team-mate.
It allowed Marsh to add 155 in 28 overs with Travis Head, the former Yorkshire batsman, whose 39 was the second top-score and who was badly spilled on nine by Bairstow down the leg-side off Wood.
Bairstow also grassed an extremely tough opportunity diving to his left when Ollie Robinson found Steve Smith’s inside edge, Root’s second faux pas arriving when he dropped Alex Carey high at first slip off Woakes.
After all the hype and hullabaloo of Lord’s, and the perfectly legitimate stumping of Bairstow, the crowd, it should be noted, appeared well-behaved for the most part, the anticipated booing of the Australians a good deal more playful than poisonous.
Granted, there was a chorus of “Stand up if you hate Carey” in the West Stand after tea, once the alcohol had properly begun to kick in, along with hoots and hollers at various stages, but nothing that crossed the imaginary line which, as we all know, belongs to Australia.
The cricket itself was sufficiently compelling, as it invariably is here, and during Ashes Tests especially, to demand absolute attention, from the moment that David Warner on-drove the game’s first ball from Stuart Broad to the boundary in front of the pavilion to the moment when stumps were drawn at 6.30, the match intriguingly poised.
Warner’s first scoring shot was also his last, Broad removing him four balls later when his nemesis pushed firmly to second slip, Zak Crawley doing the rest as he moved smartly to his left.
Wood, bowling with The Trueman Enclosure more or less at his back, did not concede a run until the penultimate ball of his fourth over, which Usman Khawaja cut for two, but the next shaped back to flatten Khawaja’s leg stump, drawing gasps from the crowd and a speed gun reading that was 24.6 mph above the motorway speed limit.
Woakes, one of three changes to the side from Lord’s as Wood and Moeen Ali came back at the expense of the rested James Anderson and Josh Tongue, had Marnus Labuschagne caught at first slip by Root, and then Broad returned to take the no less important wicket of Smith, this time caught behind off an inside edge five minutes before lunch.
Smith reviewed, then soon wished he hadn’t.
Marsh lit up the muggy afternoon, pulling sixes off Woakes and Wood and lofting Moeen over the long-off boundary, reaching his third Test hundred - all against England - from 102 balls, the second-fastest by a visiting Australian after Victor Trumper’s 95-ball effort at Old Trafford in 1902.
After pulling Woakes into the West Stand for his fourth six, Marsh edged Woakes to second slip to spark a sorry collapse.
Woakes had Head edging to first slip and then Wood brought one back to bowl Mitchell Starc, pinned Pat Cummins on the back foot, then had Carey carving to cover before inducing debutant Todd Murphy to drag on.
Wood led the players off to a rapturous ovation, cheers not boos now ringing round the ground.
England’s reply was soon in distress at a Richie Benaud-esque 22-2.
Ben Duckett cut Cummins to a diving Carey, then Harry Brook edged Cummins to second slip.
Marsh had Crawley edging to first, but Root and Bairstow held firm.