By Stephen Giles
- England 281: Root 63, Moeen 59, Lyon 3-36
- Australia 136 & 168-7: Warner 77, Finn 5-45
- Australia are 23 runs ahead with 3 wickets remaining
BIRMINGHAM, UK – England are on the verge of victory inside three days at Edgbaston after a wonderful bowling display from Steven Finn saw him rip through the Australian top order on another gripping day of Test match cricket.
Playing his first Test in two years, Finn decimated the Australian top order with figures of 5-45.
A vibrant 77 from the bat of David Warner and Peter Nevill’s battling post-tea 37 not out spared Australia’s blushes of an embarrassing two-day defeat, yet Michael Clarke’s side are still staring down the barrel of a defeat, closing on 168-7 – a lead of just 23 runs.
England resumed on 133-3 and added to that total in Birmingham courtesy of Joe Root’s fluent 63 and Mooen Ali’s sparkling 59, as the hosts posted 281 all out and with it earned themselves a rather handy 145 run lead.
But the day began in the worst possible manner for the hosts as a rampant Mitchell Johnson threatened to bring Australia back into the game as he took two wickets in his first over – and second of the day – through bowling of the highest order and left England on 145-5 and in need of a repair job.
Both deliveries were similar: short, snappy and vicious. The end result followed the same pattern. First to go was Jonny Bairstow (5) with Ben Stokes (0) following the very next ball. Both cautiously tried to take on Johnson, both failed and only succeeded in gloving the ball behind to wicket keeper Nevill, who caught gratefully.
It was bowling of the highest order from Johnson, who moved onto 300 and 301 Test wickets in suitable fashion.
Joe Root nonchalantly strengthened the innings, continuing his fine stroke play but once he went after a poor Mitchell Starc delivery and was caught in the slips, England soon lost Jos Buttler lbw for 9 – despite reviews showing it not to have been out – regardless, England were 190-7 and Australia looked to have clawed themselves back into the game.
However, a possibly hugely significant innings between Ali and Stuart Broad (31) allayed any fears as Edgbaston saw them slaughter the Aussie bowling with a brave 87 runs bludgeoned off only 119 balls. If England, as expected finish the job tomorrow, they will look back on this partnership as the foundation of a possible famous Ashes victory.
Australia, in response began in lax fashion. Broad made the crucial early breakthrough by dismissing Chris Rogers (6) to claim his 299th Test wicket but it was Finn who proved the difference, tempting Steve Smith (8) into playing an awful stroke and then dismantling Michael Clarke (3) and Adam Voges (0) with successive balls.
The only sour note of the day was the departure of James Anderson who went off the pitch clutching his side and is now likely to miss the next Test match in Nottingham next week.
That deflated England somewhat but it didn’t deter Finn from taking the wicket of Mitchell Johnson and earned him his fifth five-for in his Test career, before Nevill and Starc just about held on to the close.
A fabulous day from England, but you sense tougher times may lie ahead.
Day three continues tomorrow starting at 11:00am BST. Follow the action with Britwatch Live Scores