Mitchell Marsh‘s run-a-ball 118 was the cornerstone of Australia’s 263 all out on the first day of the third Ashes Test at Headingley on Thursday after the tourists collapsed either side of his blistering century. England fast bowler Mark Wood took 5-34 as the hosts backed up captain Ben Stokes‘ decision to send Australia into bat on a green-tinged pitch after winning the toss. Australia skipper Pat Cummins then reduced England to 22-2 before all-rounder Marsh, playing his first Test in nearly four years, had Zak Crawley (33) well caught at first slip by David Warner in the latest example of the tourists’ superior fielding. At stumps, England were 68-3 — a deficit of 195 runs — with Joe Root 19 not out and Jonny Bairstow one not out on their Yorkshire home ground.
But it was also another day of missed opportunities for England as Root dropped a regulation first-slip catch off Chris Woakes when Marsh had made just 12.
Australia would have been 98-5 but for Root’s error and it was one England could ill-afford at 2-0 down in the five-match series.
Marsh made England pay with a superb hundred while sharing a stand of 155 with Travis Head, whose 39 was the second highest score of the innings.
But from 240-4, Australia lost their last six wickets for 23 runs as Durham quick Wood, in his first Test since playing away to Pakistan in December, ripped through the tail.
His wickets were badly needed by England, a bowler down after Ollie Robinson limped off shortly before tea with a back spasm.
“It is an amazing day,” Wood told Sky Sports. “It was a great feeling to take five wickets. It was the first time in front of my mum and dad so I’m delighted.”
He added: “We felt a couple of wickets away, but Mitch Marsh played fantastically well and was difficult to bowl at.”
Marsh, only selected after fellow all-rounder Cameron Green was ruled out with a hamstring strain following Australia’s 43-run win at Lord’s last week, took full advantage of Root’s drop in his first Test since he faced England at The Oval in 2019.
He drove and cut England’s quicks with authority before lofting Moeen Ali for six to go to 99.
A single off the spinner saw Marsh reach his hundred in just 102 balls including 15 fours and three sixes.
It was his third hundred in 33 Tests, all his centuries coming against England.
The 31-year-old was eventually out when he inside-edged Woakes off his thigh to Crawley at second slip.
Australia, 240-5 at tea, then collapsed in a hurry with Root catching Head off Woakes the ball after he had dropped Alex Carey.
The 33-year-old Wood took the fielders out of the equation by clean bowling Mitchell Starc and having Cummins plumb lbw for a second-ball duck.
Wood ended the innings by bowling Todd Murphy for the fourth five-wicket haul of the injury-prone paceman’s 29-Test career, but first in England.
The hangover from England’s controversial defeat at Lord’s continued, with Australia players booed by spectators still upset by the dismissal of Bairstow, given out stumped when he thought the ball was dead, in the second Test.
But the jeers turned to cheers as Stuart Broad removed Warner fifth ball for the 16th time in Tests, with the aid of a fine slip catch by Crawley.
Wood, showing what England had missed in his absence, then bowled the usually obdurate Usman Khawaja (13) with a 95 mph delivery that flattened the opener’s leg stump.
Steve Smith walked out in his 100th Test fresh from a hundred at Lord’s.
He had made just four when he inside-edged Robinson only for diving wicketkeeper Bairstow to drop a tough one-handed chance.
But Bairstow held a routine catch when Smith, on 22, got a thin nick off Broad, the senior bowler in an attack without the rested James Anderson.
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