Jofra Archer vs Steve Smith battle at Lord's will go down as an instant classic
'To face that barrage from Archer, get hit, not once but twice, and then come back for more was worthy of respect.'
Last Updated: 18/08/19 2:00pm
You couldn't take your eyes off it.
After the best part of two days fell foul of the weather, there was a danger that the second Ashes Test would drift towards a dull draw.
The match may still end in a stalemate but there was nothing dull about the hour or so of cricket after lunch on day four at Lord's as Jofra Archer produced a blistering, brutal and utterly enthralling spell of fast bowling.
Watching the ball whistle past the batsman's nose at 90mph-plus, thud into the gloves or fly off the edge of the bat would surely have been enough to grip the sell-out crowd, no matter which unfortunate soul was stood holding the bat.
That it was the previously immovable, unorthodox but eminently unflappable Steve Smith hopping around the crease made it as compelling a passage of play as this famous ground has seen for many a year.
"I don't think you'll get many better Test match sessions," said Nasser Hussain. "It had everything, a world-class player - arguably the greatest batsman in Test cricket at the moment - in Steve Smith.
"He was looking so comfortable, until one bowler came on, Jofra Archer. The hype even before the game, Archer to Smith, you often felt it was overdone. But it wasn't.
"Fast bowling, no-one really enjoys playing it - some just play it better than others - and that was serious pace. It was such an enjoyable session. Unbelievable."
Thrown an increasingly soft ball, 66 overs old, for the second over after lunch, Archer was tasked with breaking a stubborn sixth-wicket stand between Smith and Tim Paine and duly did so with the final ball of his first over as the Aussie skipper popped the ball up to short leg.
It would prove to be the only wicket of his eight-over burst and yet when it is replayed in years to come, it is not wholly unrealistic to think it might not make the edit.
Bowlers may trade in wickets but on this occasion, even the wicket of the Australian captain was just the warm-up act for what was to follow.
While so many fast bowlers come hurtling in from just shy of the sightscreens, Archer comes off a comparatively short run and glides towards the crease. For all that opposition batsmen will be aware of his pace, it is perhaps little surprise that they appear a little taken aback by the force at which the ball is flung in their direction given the graceful approach.
And the deliveries with which he pinned Smith were sent down with more force than most. The former Australia captain had to have his wits about him throughout Archer's spell, but it was only when he copped a bouncer bang on the forearm from the last ball of the 71st over that he began to lose a degree of control.
Smith did his best initially to follow the old adage of showing no weakness, no indication of pain to your opponent. But there was no disguising it. That one hurt.
After that, with his discomfort clear for all to see, all the control he had shown quickly started to slip away as Archer produced the quickest over since CricViz records began, to ram home his advantage as the crowd roared their approval.
A top-edged hook over the wicketkeeper was followed by another unconvincing pull shot and the over was finished by the quickest ball of the lot - 96.1mph, back of a length and jumping up to thwack Smith on the gloves before dropping just short of Jos Buttler at bat-pad.
Archer was on top but Smith was displaying all of his fighting qualities, refusing to back down as ball after ball hissed towards him, and when he flicked the first ball of the 77th over wide of backward square leg for four, he may even have thought he had got through the worst of it. Archer could only keep going for so long, after all.
As it was, the battle came to an abrupt end the very next ball. Smith's many idiosyncrasies had been becoming more and more rushed and this time, a brutish bouncer from Archer left him with nowhere to go. It was just too quick and too accurate and before he could even think of ducking or swaying out of the way, Smith was on the ground.
A hush fell over Lord's as the players gathered to make sure Smith, having taken a sickening blow just below his left ear, was OK and the medical staff of both Australia and England rushed out to the middle.
Fortunately, Smith was up on his feet again before too long but his duel with Archer was over. The team doctor, despite Smith's clear frustrations at the decision, led him off the field.
Smith returned after the fall of the next wicket after being cleared of concussion and the reception he received spoke volumes. Having been booed throughout the series, he was cheered and applauded by most on his way back to the middle.
To face that barrage from Archer, get hit, not once but twice, and then come back for more was worthy of respect. Australia must hope that returning soon will be the unflappable Smith, rather than the frenzied version who emerged from the pavilion second time around, as there is still a second innings and another three Tests to come after that.
As for Archer, it is hard to believe he is playing in his first Test match given the way he worked over the world's premier red-ball batsman. Justin Langer's question over how he would hold up bowling his fourth or fifth spell answered emphatically - only five spells by England bowlers have been registered as quicker.
For those who saw it, it is a spell that will live long in the memory. Jofra Archer has arrived in Test cricket and if he can do that to Steve Smith, the rest of the world have good reason to be worried.
Watch day five of the second Test between England and Australia at Lord's from 10am on Sky Sports The Ashes.