“Over the last two days, I was really mindful of making sure I was making the right decisions,” Head said of Seven. “Moving on the right balls, attacking the right balls, defending the right ones and being hard to get off the last two days. I felt like I entered this test feeling ready to go.
“I was relaxed and knew that if I got into good positions it was going to be lousy in the stages and trying to put the pressure back on the bowlers. I think Marnus did an exceptional job at that time. We just took a flyer.
That thought was widely held in Head’s innings at Hobart, where he sent Ollie Robinson through the square-leg second ball. Then he quickly identified Mark Wood and Chris Woakes as an opportunity to play the aggressor before they settled in as change bowlers after Stuart Broad and Robinson.
From 3-12, Head and Labuschagne ensured the Australians quickly rolled back the scoreboard to push Joe Root back into a more defensive posture. While Labuschagne fell into bizarre footwork when Broad shoved one into his pads, Head was helped by Robinson’s alarming pace and verve after lunch, later attributed to a stiff back.
Similarly, Cameron Green’s entry into the middle brought his most positive start to the series. Not coincidentally, this followed his first score from the Ashes, in Sydney’s second leg. Moving his feet smoothly and looking to score, Green didn’t just sit in Head’s wake, but connected himself with plenty of meaty shots.
Green’s innings went up to 74, arguably the best of his fledgling international career. He showed the nightmare he will be for bowlers by using his size to either turn long balls into maneuverable balls or straddle the rebound for back foot forced shots playable by the precious few.
Together they added to a rich recent history of Australian sides feasting on England in the middle five, six and seven slots. Shaun and Mitch Marsh, Steve Smith, Brad Haddin, Mike Hussey, Michael Clarke, Adam Gilchrist , Steve Waugh, Ian Healy and Doug Walters have all rocked Ashes contests from these positions.
And in an Ashes series where every throw has offered bowlers something, if not all as extravagant as Hobart, the most prolific performer for the hosts hasn’t been an individual player but rather a single batting position.
Shared by Head and Khawaja, the No.5 had 587 points in Australia at 97.83 across five Tests with one run remaining.
Their tally ensured that even when England managed to break through with the new ball, they were not only held back, but placed on the receiving end of numerous counter-punches.