David Warner and Marnus Labuschagne frustrate England at Headingley
David Warner and Marnus Labuschagne survived some sticky moments to see Australia to 120 for two on a rain-affected first day of the third Ashes Test at Headingley.
Bad weather and poor light contributed to a stop-start day after England captain Joe Root opted to bat first in Leeds, with Warner particularly fortunate to survive after starting his innings by groping hopelessly at Stuart Broad’s first two bursts.
Having already bagged four single-figure scores in the series he shrugged off his early struggles to reach his half-century in 79 balls during the evening session, with Labuschagne 37 not out in support after 28 overs.
Australia showed three changes from the side that drew at Lord’s – concussion victim Steve Smith out for Labuschagne, James Pattinson in for Peter Siddle and Marcus Harris installed ahead of mis-firing Cameron Bancroft at opener.
The same murky skies that delayed the start also persuaded Root to install the tourists but when play belatedly began at 12.10pm only four overs were possible before lunch, Jofra Archer striking at the very last moment.
Harris was not subjected to any of the blood-curdling, bone-crunching bouncers that Archer routinely unleashed on debut last week and was instead unpicked by some cerebral seam bowling.
Having challenged the stumps at a gentler fast-medium pace and found a little swing, he got one to lift just outside off, clipping the edge of an inevitable defensive prod.
Harris walked off in disappointment, with the umpires signalling the rest of the players to follow as rain returned.
Eventually returning after two fine maidens, Broad settled into another wonderful spell at the Kirkstall Lane End and soon had Warner lunging and scrambling.
In the end he claimed a richly-deserved breakthrough when his immaculate line wavered, Usman Khawaja nicking one to Jonny Bairstow as it slid towards his pads. England successfully referred a not-out decision to bring Labuschagne to the crease.
Archer summoned his first bouncer of a stop-and-start day at 2.38pm, not quite straight enough to have the new man hopping, but cleanly beat him twice and went perilously close to bowling him following a bold leave.
Only one more mini-session, comprising 19 balls and a dubious decision to depart for bad light, was managed before an early tea at 54 for two.
Thereafter Australia took control. England’s lengths were off, their good balls less frequent and their fielding intermittently sloppy.
Change bowlers Chris Woakes and Ben Stokes were looser, offering width which Warner greedily tucked into.
He was also helped by two sets of overthrows, both skipping to the boundary to bring him a pair of fives, and he reached fifty with a loose shot over backward point.
Nevertheless, he and Labuschagne had successfully doubled their side’s score and were soon celebrating a century stand that left England in a troubling position.