Graeme Swann put England in control as 16 wickets fell at Lord’s on another crazy day in the 2013 Ashes.
Swann took five for 44 to help bowl Australia out for only 128 and establish a first-innings lead of 233.
England unsurprisingly chose not to enforce the follow-on, on a pitch already offering ample turn and bounce, only to lose three wickets for eight runs to Peter Siddle to close day two of this second Investec Test on a fretful 31 for three themselves.
Australia were compliant in their own collapse, from 42 for none, after Swann and Stuart Broad’s counter-attacking last-wicket stand of 48 had this morning already swung the match England’s way despite Ryan Harris’ five for 72.
It was especially hard on Harris, back for his first Test in more than 15 months after a succession of injuries, to be bowling again within four and a half hours. But it was to be Siddle (three for four) who did the damage as Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott both played on, and then a profligate Kevin Pietersen slapped a catch straight to point to go for his second single figure score of the match.
Even so, it was still hard to envisage a scenario by which England do not go 2-0 up with three to play at some point over the next three days – via a more comfortable winning margin than the 14 runs by which they prevailed in the epic opening Test at Trent Bridge.
The wicket of Shane Watson, to the final ball before lunch, prefaced a passage of play in which Australia squandered their two permitted DRS procedures and no batsman could halt the slide.
With 30 to his name, Australia’s top score, opener Watson got pad rather than bat in line with the ball after Cook had switched Tim Bresnan to the pavilion end.
Watson was also responsible for chancing, and losing, Australia’s first review; then, when Chris Rogers was also judged lbw – missing a box-high full-toss from Swann – he merely trudged off, to be greeted in the dressing-room by ‘Hawkeye’ footage showing the ball missing leg-stump.
Australia’s horror sequence of DRS misuse was concluded when Phil Hughes called for the process after Kumar Dharmasena gave him out caught-behind attempting to flash a drive off Bresnan. This time, there was insufficient evidence on video and enhanced audio replay for third umpire Tony Hill to overturn the decision.
Usman Khawaja had already survived when Jonathan Trott dropped a straightforward catch at slip off Swann, but he could not take advantage – mistiming an attempted big hit at the off-spinner to be caught at deep mid-off.
Turn, bounce and good reactions from short-leg Ian Bell then allowed Swann to have Steve Smith caught off his glove.
Australia captain Michael Clarke still stood in England’s way, but not for long before Broad had him lbw with a full-length inswinger.
Then, just to properly complete a session in which Australia had imploded, they threw in a self-inflicted run-out too. Ashton Agar and Brad Haddin dug in for eight overs but mustered only five runs together, before a mix-up over a single saw the teenager short of his ground as Matt Prior ferried the ball to the non-striker’s end from behind square on the leg-side.
Australia’s tail is notably capable, but there was to be no way back after tea. Siddle poked an edge to second slip off Anderson; Haddin was also caught at slip after aiming to hit Swann to leg, and the off-spinner – who moved into England’s all-time top ten Test wicket-takers – made up for dropping a routine caught-and-bowled chance to get number 11 Harris anyway, caught at deep mid-on.
Broad, Swann and Anderson had bolstered England’s patchy first innings, raising home spirits and denting Australia’s by grabbing an extra 72 runs for the final two wickets.
Harris made the shortest possible work of Bresnan, the first ball of the day shaping up the slope to take the edge for caught-behind.
Four wickets had fallen for 18 runs, but Anderson and Broad each struck the still errant James Pattinson for off-side boundaries.
Harris broke through again, one delivery after Anderson had edged low but at catchable height between wicketkeeper and slip, again finding the edge as Haddin did the rest this time.
Broad and Swann were not about to go quietly, however, climbing into a succession of boundaries – including three from England’s new number 11 in one over off Harris.
It was not until Pattinson returned for one last spell that he finally got his first wicket to close the innings, Broad edging behind on the back foot for Haddin’s fifth catch. DRS confirmed that the last act of a hectic first hour, which just about attuned senses for what was to follow. Swann said afterwards: “It was (a great day). Obviously losing a wicket first ball wasn’t ideal, but I think we bounced back well with the bat, and then to bowl Australia out for 130 or whatever, we’d have bitten anyone’s hand off at the start of the day if they’d offered us that.”
Regarding his key partnership with Broad, Swann said: “We talked about just getting as many as possible on this pitch. We thought it was a pitch that was much more of a 450 pitch, so we were a bit below par and talked about getting as many as possible.
“I thought I was too defensive at Trent Bridge, I was trying to bat like a proper batsman rather than a tail-end clubber, so today I just tried to club it a little bit.”
Swann admitted the Rogers delivery was not a delivery he was particularly proud of, saying: “It’s quite simply the worst ball I’ve bowed, it just slipped out of my hand.
It was truly awful cricket. I was a bit embarrassed, but I’m sure Chris Rogers was more embarrassed.”
Australia coach Darren Lehmann praised his side’s bowlers for the way they hit back late on as Cook, Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen all fell cheaply.
He said: “We didn’t bat well enough as a side, we know that. We need to bowl well and keep us in the game. I was impressed with the bowlers tonight after not having much rest.
“We’re gonna chase a large total but we’re gonna have to chase it.”