At Edgbaston, Steven Smith seemed like the man that would take Australia to a 5-0 whitewash in Ashes 2019. At Lord's, England, armed with a freak in Jofra Archer, watched as Smith put on another exhibition.
Everything from a single to a ball well left was animated from the Australian batsman. He nudged, drove, left, pulled, flicked and cut. Stepping out to loft Jack Leach over mid-on, Smith reached his half-century.
By then, England had realised that the Ashes was surely slipping their grasp. Not Jofra Archer. The West Indian-born England seamer decided to test Smith's hook and pull, and ability to handle the searing pace. The debutant produced one of the most outstanding spells of fast bowling in the history of Test cricket to shake Australia's Superman.
From the 66th to the 81st over, Archer bowled non-stop and sent the pace gun on a ride. After deceiving Smith with a 76mph knuckleball that nearly landed an edge, Archer pushed his pace into and well past the 90mph mark.
He shortened his length and tested Smith with extreme pace. The Australian took Archer on and for the first time in the series looked visibly shaken. He wasn't middling the deliveries and in the end, a short ball from Archer hit Smith on the unprotected area on the side of his neck.
Smith fell flat as the players from either side gathered around him. The unprotected area - Smith wore no stem guard - on the side and behind the neck are dangerous spots when a cricket ball strikes. Imagine this happening at Archer's pace and you get a gist of Smith's plight. He walked off retired hurt after consultation to a standing ovation from the crowd for 80.
With the Phil Hughes incident on the back of everybody's mind, such instances are viewed carefully in cricket these days. The series also see a concussion substitute available in case Smith couldn't take further part in the match.
Archer's spell was the seventh fastest by an England bowler since 2005. He clocked an average speed of 89.8 mph during the spell that spanned eight overs. The last time a faster spell was recorded since 2010 was by Steven Smith at Dunedin against New Zealand.
In his spell, Archer hit the 90mph or 144kmph mark for 16 successive deliveries. In what would almost certainly be remembered as the spell of the series, Archer was incredible and barely let Smith off the hook. The blow to Smith's head shook Archer as well and as he walked off, it seemed like England had finally managed to see his back, albeit in a manner no one would have wanted.
But being the freak that Smith is, he was walking out at the fall of the next wicket. Clearly dazed, Smith managed two boundaries before appearing all at sea against Chris Woakes. He left a ball on middle stump to be trapped in front for 92, a knock and a battle that few would forget in their entire lifetime.
Featured image courtesy: AFP / Ian Kington