Australia’s tailenders put up some late resistance to leave England frustrated on day one of the fourth Ashes test at Old Trafford, with the tourists on 299-8 at the close of play on Wednesday.
With Australia leading 2-1 in the five-match series, England must win in Manchester to stop its old foes from retaining the Ashes, and with the weather forecast not looking favourable for the weekend, a quick success may be required.
As has been the case for much of this series, the momentum swung this way and that on Wednesday with Steve Smith, Marnus Labuschagne, Travis Head and Mitchell Marsh all looking set for a big score before England stemmed their progress.
With Australia, seven wickets down with one and a half hours of the day to go, England was hoping to get some runs on the board themselves before the close, but only one more wicket fell to ensure the tourists will return to bat on Thursday.
Stuart Broad took two Australian wickets to move onto 600 in test cricket, with home favourite James Anderson, on his return to the England side, left frustrated, like the rest of his team.
“Anything with a three in front of it is alright,” Labuschagne said. “Given how many guys got themselves in we are slightly disappointed, with nobody getting a big score.
“I think the ball will be more in their (England’s) court. I feel like with that in mind and with them needing to win this test match to stay alive they’ll definitely show more intent at times.
“They don’t need to do it every ball, but I think with the amount of rain that is forecasted for later, that might be a way they go.”
ANDERSON FAILS TO DELIVER
All eyes were on veteran local hero Anderson as he came in for Ollie Robinson, on a ground where a stand is named after him, but it was another of England’s old guard, Broad, who opened the bowling.
The 37-year-old removed Usman Khawaja, the leading run scorer in the series, in the fifth over for wicket 599 and Chris Woakes struck to dismiss David Warner after he had played well to get to 32.
England had been frustrated by Smith, with the former Australia skipper looking set for a big score before a combative Mark Wood spell proved his undoing as he fell for 41 just after lunch.
Labuschagne passed 50 for the first time this series only for Moeen Ali to trap him lbw after adding one more run, with Travis Head quickly following him back to the pavilion, giving Broad his landmark wicket.
Mitchell Marsh, who hit a remarkable century in his first test match in four years at Headingley two weeks ago, quickly reached his half century only for that pendulum to swing once more as Woakes took two wickets in the same over.
The Warwickshire all-rounder first pinned Cameron Green lbw and then found Marsh’s edge, with wicket keeper Jonny Bairstow, who has had a difficult series with the gloves, taking a superb one-handed catch.
Woakes has now taken Marsh’s wicket in all three of his innings since coming back into the Australia side and after Alex Carey had taken his time to reach 20, the 34-year-old had his fourth victim.
Mitchell Starc stood firm, however, unbeaten on 23 from 70 balls, and will return on Thursday alongside his skipper Pat Cummins, hoping to delay the start of England’s first innings that bit longer.
“I think 600 has got a nice ring to it,” Broad said. “Getting the 600th wicket from the James Anderson End as well. There is something pretty special about that.
“It’s been a bit of a trademark of this team of bowling first and trying to set up wins. Ultimately the aim will be to get the first innings lead and set up a chase. There seems to be a bit (of rain) around at the weekend but you never quite know if it stays true or not.”
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