Lightning came to the rescue for England on Friday night, with a brilliant spell from rookie paceman Michael Neser leaving them sore, sorry, on the ropes and staring down a 0-2 start to the Ashes on day two.
Australia declared their mammoth first-innings total on 9-437 with Marnus Labuschagne riding his luck to a maiden Ashes century and stand-in skipper Steve Smith falling seven runs short of the 28th of his career, joining David Warner (95) in the 90s.
In reply, Joe Root’s men were 2-17 at stumps on day two, still trailing by 456 runs, after a tough 50-minute period under lights saw the loss of both openers before rain and lightning caused an early finish.
Captain Root (5no) and Dawid Malan (1no) have a big job to do when play resumes early, at 11.41am WA time, on day three to turn the match – and the series – around.
Mitchell Starc struck 13th delivery of England’s innings, getting rid of Rory Burns (4) for the second time in the series.
Debutant seamer Neser then claimed Haseeb Hameed (6) second ball of his Test career, well caught by Starc at silly mid-on, with the team’s reaction one of the feel-good moments of the summer.
At the other end, England took almost four overs just to score off West Aussie speedster Jhye Richardson who was excellent in his first appearance in nearly three years.
Earlier, Labuschagne was dropped on 95 and 103 and got another reprieve on 102 when seamer Ollie Robinson had him caught behind, only for the decision to be overturned because of a front-foot no-ball.
The Queenslander took 287 balls to reach triple figures, the slowest of his six Test tons and the 25th slowest by an Australian.
Australian great Ricky Ponting described the 27-year-old, whose Test average of 62.48 is second only to Sir Don Bradman (99.94) after jumping ahead of Adam Voges (61.87) and Smith (61.65), as “what this Australian Test team have been yearning for”.
“He just loves batting, becoming a run-making machine,” Ponting said during Channel 7’s Ashes coverage.
“What this Australian Test team have been yearning for – someone at number three with a rock solid technique that can come in and take control of games like he has right from the start of his Test career.”
It was party time at the end of the innings with lower-order hitters Starc (39no off 39) and Neser (35 off 24) belting the tired opposition attack all over the ground on their way to a quickfire 58-run stand in 51 balls.
Smith, who took the reins last-minute after Pat Cummins’ coronavirus scare, deserved a century but was trapped in front LBW by James Anderson on 93 before burning a review.
It came as Cummins was cleared of COVID and allowed by fly home to his wife and new-born child in Sydney on a private jet.
WA allrounder Cam Green’s batting woes continued, bowled cheaply for the second time in as many innings.
Green (two) was knocked over by a beauty from Ben Stokes fourth ball, following on from a golden duck shouldering arms to fellow quick Ollie Robinson in Brisbane.
After gloveman Alex Carey (51) reached his maiden Test half-century late in the middle session, only Green and opener Marcus Harris have failed to reached 50 in Australia’s top-seven this series.
Ponting said Green’s recent dismissals exposed a technical flaw and suggested a fix.
“The fix for mine for him is maybe just to make his stance a lot more neutral, so don’t start so open,” Ponting said on Channel 7’s Ashes coverage.
“Start on middle stump but start with a square stance, then by the time he makes that back and across movement, his front foot won’t have to travel as far to cover that off stump.”