Ashes 2019: Smith, Head give Australia slender lead after bowlers restrict England

Australia holds a 34-run second-innings lead ahead of day four of the first Ashes Test against England.

Steve Smith and Travis Head had managed to take Australia into a slender lead before bad light forced a premature end to Day 3 of the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston, Birmingham.   -  Getty Images

Natural light deteriorated rapidly to force a premature end to day three of the first Ashes Test, with Australia holding a slender second-innings lead of 34 runs when the umpires decided to take the players off the field. Steve Smith, the centurion from Australia's first innings, was batting on 46, with Travis Head unbeaten on 21. The pair added 49 runs for the fourth wicket to stabilise the innings.

This, after England was bowled out for 374, giving it a 90-run lead, thanks largely to the 65-run partnership between Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes for the ninth wicket. The pair rescued the England innings after it had been reduced to 300 for eight, with Rory Burns, Moeen Ali and Jonny Bairstow falling in the space of 11 balls to Nathan Lyon and Peter Siddle.

Australia itself was struggling at 75 for three when Usman Khawaja, who was playing a stroke-filled innings, was dismissed for 40 just when his partnership with Smith began to flourish after the early wickets of David Warner and Cameron Bancroft.

Broad dismissed Warner to put England in a dominant position early in Australia's second innings. In a match already full of overturned decisions, England needed to review West Indian umpire Joel Wilson’s original not out call when Warner feathered a catch behind to wicketkeeper Bairstow on eight to give Broad his 450th Test wicket.

As it happened

Cameron Bancroft also fell cheaply for the second time in the match, his indecisive footwork costing him his wicket against Moeen Ali. Bancroft misjudged a flatter, back-of-length delivery from Moeen Ali and couldn't adjust well enough to save himself. Trying to defend, he got an inside edge onto his front pad before the ball ballooned up in the air for Jos Buttler at forward short leg.

Warner, one of three Australians together with Bancroft and former captain Smith, making a return to Test cricket following lengthy bans for their involvement in a ball-tampering scandal in South Africa last year, walked off to raucous chants of “Same old Aussies, always cheating” from England fans.

It was an important blow for Broad, who took 5-86 in Australia’s first innings of 284 which featured Smith’s superb 144, as new-ball partner James Anderson was off the field with the calf injury he picked up on the first morning.

Earlier, England resumed on 267-4, 17 runs adrift, with Burns, who would have been out for 21 if Australia had reviewed after a rejected Lyon lbw appeal, 125 not out and vice-captain Stokes 38 not out.

Stokes was out for exactly 50 when a loose shot off Cummins was caught behind by Australia captain and wicketkeeper Tim Paine to end a stand of 88 with Burns.

New batsman Bairstow gave England the lead with a four off Pattinson while Burns -- who only managed three runs in Saturday’s first hour -- drove Peter Siddle to the cover boundary.

But Lyon finally ended the left-hander’s marathon innings when a delivery spun sharply and took the outside edge to have the centurion caught behind.

Burns faced 312 balls, with 17 fours. By contrast, new batsman Moeen Ali lasted just five balls before he inexplicably shouldered arms to Lyon and was clean bowled for a duck -- the eighth time the spinner had dismissed him in 10 Ashes innings.

And when Bairstow was caught in the slips off Siddle, England was reduced to 300-8. The host now led by just 16 runs, with Woakes and Broad then each on nought.

The pair added 65 runs for the ninth wicket, with Woakes making 37 not out and Broad playing a patient innings of 29 before being bounced out by Cummins.

The New South Wales pacer led Australia’s attack with 3-84 in 33 overs on an increasingly placid pitch, with off-spinner Nathan Lyon taking 3-112 in 43.5 overs.