We were told Headingley can be a great place to bowl under cloud cover. It was. We were told Headingley can be a tremendously fast-scoring ground if the batsmen can get in and the bowlers lose their line. It was. We were told David Warner needed to be more proactive to score runs and get into the series. He did. We saw at Lord's that Marnus Labuschagne had what it takes for Test cricket. He still does. And we knew Australia's batting line-up without Steven Smith would be decidedly brittle. Yes it is.
If all these major themes ran more or less to expectations on day one at Leeds, Australia's survival to the end of a truncated day, having been sent in, allowed them the conditional satisfaction of not having lost the Test on day one. They had been committed to batting and England to bowling no matter what happened at the toss, which was intriguing given the conditions.
Undoubtedly, the captain Tim Paine and the coach Justin Langer reasoned that the second of back-to-back Tests meant fresh bowlers were worth the gamble of getting runs on the board, even if Stuart Broad, Jofra Archer, Chris Woakes and Ben Stokes had plenty of advantages to begin with.
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The few members of the Australia side who had experienced the key matches of the 2015 Ashes series, namely Warner, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon and Pat Cummins, knew that there was every chance they could be shot out in the blink of an eye here. At Trent Bridge the team led by Michael Clarke lasted just 18.3 overs, not without knowing to a good degree what they were going to be up against. As Chris Rogers put it in Bucking The Trend:
"At Edgbaston I'd been going back to Broad and I felt that contributed to my two dismissals, so for Trent Bridge I decided to concentrate on getting forward to try to smother his swing and seam, a bit like covering a spinner's turn on a helpful pitch," he wrote. "Second ball I moved forward to do just that, and thought I had it covered. To my horror, I didn't hear the gentle thud of ball onto a defensive bat, but a sharper snick to Cook. I left the crease thinking 'What the hell happened there?' That sensation would run through the rest of the team.
"There was plenty of analysis afterwards saying we were pushing too hard at the ball, but I can honestly say as someone who'd played a lot in England, I was trying to smother away movement I knew to be there. As Broad had got me lbw with a similar ball at Birmingham, I knew I couldn't just let these balls go. Sitting back in the dressing room and watching the carnage that followed, it genuinely felt like there was a wicket every ball. I had my head down, but I could hear appeal, after appeal, after appeal.
"It was extraordinary. If anyone needs reminding, we were out for 60. What's more, we all knew it meant the end of the series, and a few careers, in the most humiliating circumstances possible."
That day, as subsequent investigations concluded, saw an inordinately large number of deliveries take catchable edges. In other words, England bowled well but had all the good fortune, Australia batted in mediocre fashion but had none of it.
"Warner was able to push through the early moments of his outside edge being singed and his ego being punctured, importantly taking almost every opportunity to score"
Certainly Warner, who watched his first ball from Mark Wood drift down leg side before inside edging behind a near unplayable nip-backer from his second to be out of the picture almost as early as Rogers, had no opportunity to impose himself that day, and enjoyed a far more liberal supply of luck as he sought to break a sequence of seven Test innings without passing 50. Eleven times in his first 26 balls Warner was beaten, as Broad gained the swing and seam away from around the wicket that had so confounded Rogers four years ago.
But he was able to push through those early moments of his outside edge being singed and his ego being punctured, importantly taking almost every opportunity to score. At the other end Marcus Harris and Usman Khawaja did not last long, but Labuschagne got himself in as skilfully and comfortably as he had managed at Lord's, showing once again that his prolific run of scoring for Glamorgan was indeed a useful indicator of his readiness for the Ashes, Division Two county cricket or not.
Critically, Warner and Labuschagne were able to jump on the early waywardness of Woakes and Stokes, neither of whom looked immediately limber for the task of a second Test in four days. Though the ball still swung and seamed, runs accrued as freely as at any time in this series so far, helped by a pair of fives for Warner, one via his bat in the manner that favoured Stokes amid the drama of the World Cup final's conclusion.
Together they put on 110 in a mere 23 overs, priceless runs made even more so by what was to follow. There was a widespread feeling at the ground and elsewhere that Joe Root lingered too long before reverting to Archer and Broad - particularly the latter's angle around the wicket to Warner. But then Root's thinking was also influenced by the short turnaround between matches, and when Archer did return and cranked up his pace into the 89mph range to find Warner's edge, the captain reacted as much with frustration as celebration.
As if to signal the game's entry into a third distinct phase, the Headingley crowd roused itself and England enjoyed some measure of counterbalance to the good fortune they had felt was missing earlier. Broad, pitching a fraction fuller and straighter, found lavish movement to beat and bowl Travis Head, then Archer was the recipient of a bowled dismissal when Matthew Wade saw the ball rebound off thigh pad to disturb the leg bail.
So 110 for 0 in 23 overs had become 3 for 3 in 15 balls, and Australia struggled for the sort of Smith-inspired lower-order stands of Edgbaston thereafter. Labuschagne fought as best he could, but lost Paine to an lbw that looked more marginal than ball-tracking was ultimately to show, then Cummins to an "edge" that appeared to take place before the ball passed the bat. In this closing passage was another lesson of Headingley: tight bowling and pressure can make innocuous balls dangerous, as proven when Stokes pinned Lauschagne lbw with a full toss.
In the conditions, Australia could possibly have been rolled for 60, the 88 they cobbled here against Pakistan in 2010, or the 102 England made in 2009. But they had been intent on batting anyway, taking on a commission that only Warner and Labuschagne managed to take up. We knew an Ashes Test without Steven Smith would bring the teams even closer together. It has.