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Cricket news - Archer's day out outpaces Australia in London

Jofra Archer picked his second six-wicket haul in Tests.

What questions there might have been about Jofra Archer's pace, his workload and hunger for Test cricket were answered here on Day 2 at the Oval.

A wicketless first innings at Manchester, with 97 runs conceded, got gums flapping that Archer was not worth of the praise bestowed to him at Lord's and Leeds. Now back in London, 20-plus centigrade heat on his back, new pill in hand, there were cases to correct. And how.

With 6 for 62, split between the beginning, middle and end of Australia's first innings of 225, the 24-year old showcased the pace of Lord's, the control of Leeds and none of the maelstrom of discontent of Manchester. His workload was high with 23.5 overs sent down from both ends, using the new and old ball and making both versions seem as potent. England, 9-0 at stumps, hold a valuable 78-run lead going into day three.

The sheer force of the bowler can be misconstrued as hype, and it is fair to say the talk among Archer as an international - certainly as a Test player - is more of what he could do than what he has. But even now, in the present, he has 22 wickets and an average of 17.27, complete with two five-wicket hauls. This one helped put a sheen on what was an otherwise lacklustre opening innings from England.

Jos Buttler and Jack Leach were sprightly in the opening throes of day two, but what promise there were of quick runs was quickly dashed. The overnight score of 271/8 was not bumped to something formidable by Buttler, who could only add six to his tally, nor nudged along by Leach who was the last man to fall albeit after finding 11 more. Pat Cummins (3 for 84) accounted for Buttler before Mitchell Marsh (5 for 46) disrupted Leach's stumps to claim a maiden Test five-wicket haul and only his second in first-class cricket.

Just 5.1 overs needed to polish off the hosts, Australia had their sights set on besting a sub-par 294. England were 170/3, remember.

That this scenario did not come to pass was not *just* down to Smith's fall. Typically, he was still able to drag the team score from 14 to 187, at which point he was the eighth batsman to fall. Instead, it was two bowlers motivated in different ways who sent the game back the way of the hosts.

Archer was the first to draw blood, accounting for all of the top three. The first two came quickly: the opening stand snuffed out for just five when David Warner was adjudged to have been caught behind on review. Archer's appeal was muted but there was enough enthusiasm from the cordon for Joe Root to call for a review. The pictures seemed inconclusive, suggesting space between bat and ball, but Ultra Edge detected a noise and that was enough for the on-field decision to be overturned.

There was no doubt for the next one when Marcus Harris squared up with edge exposed, offering a sharp low catch to Ben Stokes at second slip. The final of the opening set took a bit longer and, ultimately, exposed England to soft underbelly of this touring XI.

Yet again Marnus Labuschagne formed the strongest union with Smith. But after taking a blow on his right forearm from Archer, the right-hander's footwork was slightly off-kilter - enough to be pinned in front LBW for 48. He would be the only other full-time batsman not called Smith to make it past 20.

It was then turn for Sam Curran to show England what they had been missing. A travelling extra on this Ashes, a starting berth finally arrived in the fixture that matters little to the destination of the urn. Yet with the series still to be squared, the pocket-rocket all-round leftie made the old ball sing later in the afternoon to remove Matthew Wade and then pick up Tim Paine and Pat Cummins in successive deliveries: Paine's going across for an edge, Cummins' hooping into his front pad. At 166-7, a Edgbaston redux felt on the cards, when Smith went nuts and England ceded the ascendancy.

But there was none of that here, even if good-old fashioned English cynicism was abound when the Bradman-alike streaked an edge to Root at first slip who couldn't make the play. It would have been Smith gone for 66 with Australia 134 in arrears. Yet 14 runs later, off he went, misguiding a straight delivery - finally! - to fall to Chris Woakes for the third time in the series. Nevertheless, the statistical quirks were abound: with this 80, his lowest score of the series so far, he will average above 100 no matter what his final innings brings. That's 751 runs so far.

Archer then returned for the 63rd over to close out the innings, which might have been closer to 200 than it was. A late slash and dash from Nathan Lyon and Peter Siddle pushed the score as far as they could. Lyon was given a life on 22 when he hooked to Leach around the corner. The same fielder had pulled off a similar catch to give Archer the wicket of Marsh - his fourth - but was unable to provide him with the fifth.

Nevermind: Archer wrapped up the five with a devilish knuckle-ball that clattered into the base of off stump. For the sixth and final wicket, Rory Burns pulled off a miraculous catch at gully to cap off one of England's most consistent days in the field.

Burns was also at the centre of the incident that took the players off for stumps. An LBW decision given off Josh Hazlewood was sent upstairs and over-turned for pitching outside leg. Two balls before, Marcus Harris dropped a sitter in the cordon to give Joe Denly a life on nought.

The drop damaged Harris' hand and forced him off the field while Denly was breathing a sigh of relief at the non-striker's end. The 33-year old had arrived late at the ground this morning after the birth of his second child late on Thursday evening. He will hope his good fortune runs into Saturday, too.

Brief Scores: England 294 & 9/0 lead Australia 225 (Steve Smith 80, Marnus Labuschagne 48; Jofra Archer 6-62) by 78 runs.

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