Ashes: In difficult conditions in Leeds, Australia maintains its advantage over England

Disarming bursts of short balls most of the day, Head was almost invisible, showing little aggression but content to pull the ball toward the foot-filled field in anticipation of an aerial error. England often set up a sort of reverse umbrella pitch, all nine fielders on the ropes, lest Head decide to counterattack. He fought back until Mitchell Stark’s out left him with no options.

Head mashed the flawless Walks with a pair of quadruples, one hit for a point and the other for a middle wicket. In the next over he hit Mark Wood square leg and then scored a six and four for Woakes. He skillfully alternated his strokes, and when he had one partner left, he went into frantic mode and slapped a pair of sixes into the fast Mark Wood, bringing Australia to a competitive score.

By then, the uneven ball couldn’t provide the proper movement to trouble Hed. However, with all the mobility of the ball pitched upward, Alex Carey and Mitchell Marsh were the victims not of swinging, but of a bounce out of nowhere.

Both batsmen struck out when they tried to leave the ball at length, but the ball ricocheted off the underside of the gloves, from Marsh to the goalkeeper, and from Carey to the stump. But the wickets were equally indebted to both the bounce and the swing, which terrified them throughout the short session.

The ball before Cary’s dismissal swung late after he had lifted his shoulders and just flew past offside.

But he had to change direction quickly to grab the ball, which the mistaken keeper did, stretching all the way out. Head, while not completely in control, was able to calmly kick the ball deep for single shots or defend himself by jumping and bouncing, blocking clumsy shots toward the middleground. Despite his seeming vulnerability, he hardly looked flustered when neutralizing a short ball. How England will regret this.

Before tormenting Carey, Woakes conjured up a routine ball that held the line after swinging past the runaway Marsh. It’s scary to even think that he hadn’t played a test in 16 months, because he played like he’d never been away: no rusty shoulders, no clumsy strides, smooth and silky like a vintage car, always the perfect length, challenging the off-stump and forcing the defense. Normally his splendid work goes unnoticed, but in this test Woakes played more than a minor role, while Stokes and Woods got a dazzling speedь.

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