Stuart Broad’s double strike and a captain’s contribution from Ben Stokes saw England seize control on the second morning of the first Ashes Test, before Usman Khawaja led Australia’s fightback at Edgbaston.
England were on the hunt for wickets after Stokes’ surprise declaration at 393 for eight on Friday evening and claimed three in a stirring opening session.
Broad raised the roof when he dismissed old rival David Warner and world number one batter Marnus Labuschagne with successive deliveries, with Stokes defying injury concerns over his left knee to trap dangerman Steve Smith lbw.
But Khawaja batted with care and control for more than four hours as his 84 not out took the tourists to 188 for four at tea.
Moeen Ali, bowling with a red ball for the first time since reversing his Test retirement, had Travis Head caught for an attacking 50 and should have had Cameron Green for a duck.
The all-rounder charged his second ball and was beaten all ends up but Jonny Bairstow, who had taken a fine diving catch off Labuschagne, fluffed the stumping.
Australia began by blocking out three maidens in a row, one more than England allowed in their entire innings on day one, in further evidence of the growing culture clash between the sides.
It took just over half-an-hour for England to make their move and it was Broad, preferred to Mark Wood for his experience and big game mentality, who made it happen.
Warner, who was tortured by Broad in the 2019 series, attempted to pound him through the vacant cover region but only succeeded in losing his balance and dragged down his stumps. It was the 15th time Warner had been dismissed by Broad, a stranglehold that the seamer refuses to let go.
Next up was Labuschagne, who spent longer trying to move a policeman standing beside the sight-screen than he did in the thick of the action.
Broad spoke earlier in the season about developing an outswinger designed with Labuschagne in mind and his plan worked a treat as his next ball shaped away, took the outside edge and was superbly taken by Bairstow tumbling low in front of first slip.
Stokes had earlier pulled his latest unconventional gambit when he deployed the very occasional medium pace of Harry Brook for a solitary over at Smith. That did not break Smith’s famed concentration and it seemed as though he and Khawaja were both in it for the long haul.
Stokes eventually decided to take matters into his own hands, ending speculation over whether or not he would be fit to bowl by entering the fray from the Pavilion End. Showing no obvious signs of discomfort from his troublesome left knee he struck gold with the last ball of his second over.
Skidding the ball through and beating Smith’s indeterminate defensive prod, he flung both arms into the air and implored Marais Erasmus to raise his finger. After pondering for several seconds the umpire obliged sparking joyous celebrations, which resumed after he unsuccessfully called for DRS.
Smith has been a constant thorn in England’s side for several years and, after scoring twin centuries at this ground in the corresponding Test four years ago, departed for a slow-going 16 represented a major win.
Australia decided to lift the tempo in the afternoon session, scoring 110 runs for the loss of one wicket. The man to go was Head, who bristled with intent as he attempted to put the pressure back on England.
Both he and Khawaja attacked Moeen, who sustained multiple blows over the top as Stokes refused to send his fielders back.
Moeen was given licence to keep attacking and got his reward when Head flicked uppishly to midwicket and was caught by Zak Crawley.
Had Bairstow taken the ball cleanly when new man Green had a rush of blood immediately after arriving in the middle, England would have been in a dominant position.
But Khawaja, who hit Moeen for four fours and two sixes, kept his side in the hunt as he guided Green in a stand of 40.