London: England hit back on an action-packed second day at Lord’s, ending 138 runs behind with six wickets still in hand.
Runs flowed on a fascinating day as England piled on the 278 runs despite a string of surprise dismissals, with Australia sweating on the fitness of Nathan Lyon after he was forced off the field of play with an injury.
Steve Smith made history earlier in the day as he brought up his 32nd Test century, reaching that number in fewer innings than any player in Test history.
But England, armed with the second new ball, picked up the five remaining wickets for just 77 runs as they restricted Australia’s first-inning total to just 416.
And in response, each of England’s top three reached at least 40 as they made a strong start to the reply, while Joe Root edged past Allan Border to go tenth in the all-time Test run-scorers list.
Zak Crawley and Ben Duckett’s 91-run opening partnership was England’s highest in an Ashes Test since 2010/11, but came to an end when Crawley charged Nathan Lyon and was stumped for 48.
But that was Lyon’s only wicket of the day as he was forced to leave the field of play having bowled 13 overs.
Shortly after finishing a spell, the spinner was asked to chase a ball to the rope and pulled up with what seemed to be a calf injury.
He did not reappear on the field of play in the day and Australia subsequently released a statement saying that Lyon will face further assessment.
Ollie Pope, able to bat despite his shoulder problem, put on a tidy 42 to leave England in a superb position on 188/1 and with Australia a bowler light.
But the introduction of Cameron Green to the attack and a switch to consistent short-pitched bowling prompted an extraordinary hour of play during the evening session.
Pope was first to fall, holing out off Green to backward square. And the excellent Ben Duckett fell into the same trap, departing just two runs short of a century. The frustrated opener was furious with himself for missing out on the milestone, but it didn’t stop England taking on the short ball.
Joe Root survived when he was dismissed by a Green no-ball at the start of his stay, but his frenetic 10-run effort came to a close not long after when Steve Smith was adjudged to have cleanly caught a catch off Mitchell Starc.
It was Ben Stokes who calmed things down and slowed the scoring rate, opting against taking on the short-pitched barrage and finishing the day unbeaten on 17* from 57 deliveries.
And Harry Brook followed his captain’s example after a rapid start, ending not out on 45* from 51.
Australia had resumed on 339/5 after a day one that they had largely dominated, but lost Alex Carey early in proceedings as Stuart Broad got the new ball to seam into the back pad, with Carey given out for 22 on review.
And Australia’s tail didn’t wag anything like as much as they would have hoped, with only Pat Cummins (22*) reaching double figures out of the final four.
James Anderson finally picked up the wicket he deserved for his toil on day one, drawing Mitchell Starc (6) into an edge through to Jonny Bairstow.
And, after Smith’s knock came to an end, Ollie Robinson finished off the tail as he accounted for both Nathan Lyon (7) and Josh Hazlewood (4).
Australia will be looking for a similarly fast start when the third day’s play resumes on Friday, with England 278/4 and 138 runs behind.