Missed chances and rain delays leave England in precarious position in first Ashes Test

England 393-8 dec and 28-2, Australia 386: Two wickets in between rain breaks give the tourists hope as Ben Stokes’s men look to post imposing second innings total

Sonia Twigg
at Edgbaston
Sunday 18 June 2023 23:11 BST
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Opening batsman Zak Crawley is out for seven
Opening batsman Zak Crawley is out for seven (PA)

England’s desire to take the draw out of the equation may be about to face one of its toughest challenges yet after a rain-affected day with just 32.4 overs bowled on day three at Edgbaston.

The rain fell earlier than anticipated at 2.15pm, with England 26-0 after taking the final five wickets of the day before lunch.

England started the innings seven runs ahead, but in the briefest window between rain showers, Australia struck twice, putting the home side on the back foot.

Both openers Zak Crawley and Ben Duckett fell, as two wickets were lost for just two runs in 22 deliveries, to leave England 28 for two at the close of play.

Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes have said that there may be times when England have to absorb pressure, and before they had to return to the dressing room, it looked like that time had come.

It will be up to England, and the captain, to determine their approach for what has set up to be a critical fourth day, with a lead of just 35 runs and diminished time available to try and force a result.

While Stokes is likely to be subject to some questions over his decision to declare late on the first day, the fingers would be better pointed to England’s mistakes in the field.

Scott Boland celebrates the wicket of Zak Crawley as England’s openers were both dismissed during rain breaks (PA)

In the morning session on the second day, Ben Stokes’s side were firmly in control. Australia had been reduced to 67 for three, and both the key wickets of Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne had fallen.

While nothing can be taken away from Usman Khawaja’s masterful 141 from 321 deliveries, England may be forced to address their missed opportunities to make inroads into the Australian batting line up.

Jonny Bairstow missed a clear stumping chance to remove Cameron Green after just two balls in the afternoon of the second day, and made another costly error on the fourth ball of day three.

Alex Carey, who was on 52, was handed a reprieve when the England wicketkeeper spilled the ball after diving low, with Australia 312 for five. He survived again, when Stokes dropped what would have been a stunning catch at cover when on 53.

It wasn’t until Australia had 338 that James Anderson finally claimed the wicket of Carey, with a ball that nipped back through the gap between bat and pad and into the stumps.

James Anderson clean bowled Alex Carey after he was dropped by Jonny Bairstow on 52 (PA)

Despite the breakthrough, England did not maintain the level of pressure, with Pat Cummins hitting Moeen Ali for successive sixes as they piled on the runs throughout the first hour and a half of play.

Khawaja eventually fell into a cleverly planned trap. The field came in with three on the off and leg sides to take the catch, but he was bowled by an Ollie Robinson yorker.

It sets up an exciting day on Monday, with England needing to put on a substantial lead quickly to give themselves enough time to bowl Australia out.

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