Marnus Labuschagne is on the verge of a maiden Ashes century as one of Australia’s most dramatic days of Test cricket ended in a position of dominance.
Labuschagne went to stumps on day one on 95 not out after scoring one run from his last 32 balls of the day as Australia finished 2-221.
It came after a 172-run stand with David Warner, who cast aside rib concerns and his 2019 Ashes horrors for a confident 95.
Steve Smith was unbeaten on 18 after taking back the captaincy when Pat Cummins had to withdraw and isolate as a close contact of a COVID-19 case.
For 10 overs at the start and the end of Thursday’s play it was all England, but the problem for the tourists was what happened in between.
And crucially, they failed to capitalise as Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad extracted swing with the new ball.
In the first hour of the game, Australia survived three reviews, had batsmen hit on the pads six times and had seven balls go close to the outside edge of the bat.
But only Marcus Harris fell for three, caught behind by Jos Buttler off Broad in the opener’s 13th straight dismissal below 50.
England then tried to bounce out Australia and its plans fell well short while often bowling with six men on the legside and no mid-on or mid-off.
At one stage against Warner, England had a fine leg, backward square and forward square all on the boundary as well as a fly slip.
Warner and Labuschagne played patiently, before taking the bowlers on more and more and regularly finding the gap.
It took Warner 20 balls to get off the mark as part of the slowest start to an innings in his Test career.
Warner’s first real show of intent was a cut shot that went to the rope from Chris Woakes, while he pulled another ball from Broad to the boundary later in a rare show of aggression.
And from there he was comfortable against both England quicks and with his ribs, showing no signs of concern until he cut a Ben Stokes half-tracker to cover and threw away a century.
Labuschagne rode his luck.
He should have been caught behind on 21, offered another chance on the same score and had a brief scare before dinner when he turned Joe Root just wide of leg slip.
He offered another simple chance to Buttler just before stumps on 95, only for Anderson’s work to go to waste when the wicketkeeper spilled a regulation chance.
But between those moments he drove stylishly and employed the pull shot with success later in his innings, as England’s short-ball plan became less and less effective.
Most worrying now for England will be facing a second day in the field with an old ball, giving Australia the chance to set up the match under lights on Friday.