Day three of first Ashes Test: England and Australia look to take control
England’s bowlers need to rally on day three of the first Ashes Test after a chanceless century from Usman Khawaja and three wasted opportunities left them with a fragile lead of 82 at Edgbaston.
Having sprung a surprise declaration at 393 for eight on the first evening, England saw the tourists respond with 311 for five as Khawaja made an imperious 126 not out.
He carried his bat from first ball to last on day two, shepherding his side from 67 for three to a much sturdier position at stumps. While they look well set with Khawaja and Alex Carey (52no) at the crease, England are just two wickets from opening up the tail.
Yet they will be ruing three chances that went begging, Jonny Bairstow missing a stumping against Cameron Green and a catch from Carey, while Stuart Broad bowled Khawaja on 112 off a no-ball.
With a first-innings lead likely to go a long way on a pitch that is beginning to take spin, both sides will be desperate to own the morning session.
A step too far for Broad
Overstepping the bowling crease has become an increasingly costly habit for fast bowlers since the line has been routinely monitored by the third umpire. Australia captain Pat Cummins overstepped six times in the World Test Championship final against India earlier this month, missing out on two wickets as a result, and Broad failed to heed the warning. He overstepped six times in 16 overs, most painfully when he speared the second new ball through Khawaja’s defences only to see the wicket scrubbed off. Ben Stokes, who has also lost wickets for the same reason in the past, was also called six times. England need to tighten up their footwork.
What they said
Khawaja, joined at his post-match press conference by daughter Aisha, was pleased to answer the doubters who suggested he could not bring his form to English conditions. He had a previous best of 54 and an average of less than 20 in this country, but blew those statistics out of the water with his classy century.
By contrast Australia managed only to stop England scoring from two of their overs on day one. As if to exemplify the sharp contrast in styles, Australia’s batters blocked out three successive maidens to start the day and took 24 balls to open their account for the day.
England’s secret weapon
Broad dismissing David Warner early on day two for the 15th time in his career felt par for the course and there was a sense of expectancy as the old rivals faced off. But Harry Brook being brought into the attack in the 15th over came right out of leftfield. A very occasional medium pacer, he had only bowled eight overs in international cricket before Stokes threw him into the fray unexpectedly. The decision to introduce a 65pmh part-timer in the first session and with Steve Smith at the crease raised more than a few eyebrows. It only cost England a single and he was back for two more in the evening as Stokes tried everything he could to derail Australia.
Tweet of the Day
England’s Twitter harking back to the response Moeen Ali sent after Stokes’ Ashes SOS. It was a mixed bag for Moeen, who snared Travis Head and produced this beauty to see off Cameron Green but England’s off-spinning all-rounder leaked 124 runs in his 29 overs.
Actor Stephen Fry and former Australia fast bowler Jeff Thomson were on hand to lend their support as Edgbaston turned blue for Bob Willis, who died in December 2019 from prostate cancer. His wife Lauren Clark set up the Bob Willis Fund to spread awareness and raise money for prostate cancer research.