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A high-speed Test match that gave us what every sporting contest needs

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On a day that was played under the shadow of an injured batsman, it was fitting that the high-speed grand prix that was the second Test match ended under a safety flag.


As if no more cricket could be packed into three days, Australia’s white-knuckled ride towards a dead-heat was spared two last overs from Jofra Archer, perhaps decisively, when the umpires decided that the floodlights were generating insufficient light against some low clouds blotting out the last of the sun. Travis Head and Patrick Cummins ensured the draw, but England drive to Leeds with the greater momentum.

Any interim review of the match and series would say that we already have a classic on our hands. The modern benchmark, the 2005 Ashes, had an ensemble cast, whereas this one has been a star vehicle for Steve Smith and now Jofra Archer. But what emerged on Sunday, when Smith was missing, was a competitive evenness between these two teams that is producing day after day and session after session of the most tense and beguiling cricket.

With Smith taken out of the game on Sunday morning, the mood was unsettled and unprecedented. Marnus Labuschagne became Test cricket’s first substitute under the concussion rule. Inevitably, given the drama continually weaving itself around the contest, Labuschagne became the centre of attention, playing the innings of his career to underpin Australia’s resistance.

Marnus Labuschagne acknowledges the crowd after reaching 50.Credit:AP

That they were in this position was a story in itself. Smith’s absence had already upended the psychological balance between the teams. Ben Stokes led the English lower order through some midday........

© The Age