Everything has changed now. The whole dynamic of this Ashes is different and that is because the remarkable Jofra Archer has transformed the biggest series of them all.
Yes, the second Test at Lord’s was drawn and, yes, Archer only took five Australian wickets in the match. But that tells nothing like the full thrilling story.
It ended in the Lord’s gloom just before 7.30pm, around the time England were winning the World Cup on another Super Sunday a month ago, with Australia desperately hanging on for the parity here that just about keeps their advantage in-tact.
But where England were under huge pressure and had questions to answer after being demolished at ‘Fortress Edgbaston’ now they have real hope. They are still one down with three to go and still have big concerns over their batting but, truly, there is all to play for.
England captain Joe Root looks forlorn as his side battled hard to dismiss their opponents
Bowler Stuart Broad couldn’t muster up one of his magical spells to bowl the Aussies out
England played an attacking field in the evening session, but found that time was against them
Star bowler Jofra Archer could not find a way through a resolute Aussie partnership
And that is because of the introduction of a newcomer who has achieved pretty much the impossible by making a bigger impact and impression here than he did at this same famous old ground in that tumultuous World Cup final.
We said before the game this was the most anticipated Test debut since Kevin Pietersen took his bow here in the first game of what became the greatest of all Ashes series in 2005. This one could end now in the same way at the Oval next month.
It was not just the scintillating pace and hostility that saw Archer force Steve Smith to withdraw with delayed concussion after one of the great fast bowling spells on Saturday and then hit his replacement Marcus Labuschagne in the head yesterday second ball.
It was also the tone Archer set that seemed to inspire England to their best batting of this Specsavers series before they gave Australia a real scare once Joe Root had forced them into an unexpected battle for survival without the best batsman in the world.
England began the day well with all-rounder Ben Stokes scoring a fine century
England started brightly as Archer got the wickets of David Warner and Usman Khawaja
Spinner Jack Leach dismissed Australia opener Cameron Bancroft early on
Substitute batsman Marnus Labuschagne dug in to keep England at bay with a half century
A last day that began with England still in danger of going two down and seeing any realistic hopes they had of regaining the Ashes disappear ended with England well on top and looking forward eagerly to a third Test that starts at Headingley on Thursday.
It was their day from the moment news broke that Smith was out of the final day after waking up with concussion symptoms, making Australia’s questionable decision to allow him to return to the crease on the fourth day in search of yet another hundred after suffering a sickening blow on the back of the neck from Archer look even more irresponsible.
Smith insisted he still hoped to return on Thursday but surely cricket needs to take head injuries more seriously and he cannot be allowed by Australia to play in Leeds. And his likely absence could have the biggest impact of all on this series.
Then Ben Stokes first produced the solidity so lacking in so much of England’s batting before suddenly and quite brilliantly accelerating to reach his seventh Test century and allow Root to make a challenging declaration by setting Australia 267 in 48 overs.
First Stokes combined with Jos Buttler to guide England a long way towards safety, reaching 50 off 106 balls, and then he took the attack to Australia in an unbroken partnership of 97 with Jonny Bairstow that saw him race to three figures off only 160.
The odds on a final day when 10 more overs were lost to rain were still firmly on a draw but firstly Archer and his perfect foil in Jack Leach, impressing after replacing Moeen Ali, combined to put real pressure on Australia by taking six wickets between them.
Wicket keeper Jonny Bairstow looks on in despair as England struggle to pick up wickets
England knocked on the door but couldn’t capture the elusive wickets to level the series
Rory Burns fails to catch from Tim Paine as Jonny Bairstow watches on
The weather held out for England to have a go at cracking the Aussie order
None will have been more satisfying than that of David Warner, who is having a truly miserable time on his return to Test cricket after the sandpaper scandal. Warner had been dismissed cheaply three times out of three by Stuart Broad in this series but now Archer got in on the act by having him well caught by Rory Burns to the first ball he bowled at him.
Then the new superstar of world cricket followed it by sending back Usman Khawaja before providing a warm welcome for the first concussion substitute in Test history.
Labuschagne could never have imagined he would be spending his Sunday trying to save the Test for Australia, let alone being flawed second ball by another brutal Archer bouncer that thudded into his grille and sent him to the ground.
Yet he should take great credit not just for jumping straight back up like a boxer shocked to be felled in a heavyweight contest but also for showing great resolve and character in going on to a half century that did so much to save his team.
It took a low catch from Root at mid-wicket via a deflection off short leg when Labuschagne swept Leach to dismiss him but it was not without controversy.
Leach celebrates taking the wicket of veteran batsman Matthew Wade
Third umpire Joel Wilson, who had a nightmare in the middle at Edgbaston, made perhaps his best decision of the series in confirming what was surely a clean catch despite the usual problems of foreshortened TV images casting doubt where none really existed.
When captain Tim Paine, still struggling to justify his place in this Australian team, fell to a quite stunning left-handed diving catch by Joe Denly at mid-wicket off Archer with seven overs left England were still very much in the hunt for a quite brilliant win.
But once the umpires decided it was too dark for Archer to continue with four overs remaining the game was pretty much up and England were left to rue the bad drop by Jason Roy which saved Travis Head on 22 on his way to an unbeaten 42.
Only Roy will have concerns when England pick their squad for Headingley but England will not want to give up on him just yet and the best thing they could do is swap Roy in the order with Denly and give him a better chance at four.
But the one thing the selectors have got wrong with hindsight is not putting faith in Archer at Edgbaston when he insisted he was fully fit. Had he started the series the first Test could have been very different. As it is he still has time to win the Ashes for England.
A moment of jubilation as Joe Denly takes a stunning catch to dismiss Tim Paine
It wasn’t enough as England had to settle for a draw as the umpires called a halt to the game