Australia’s Scott Boland appeals unsuccessfully for the wicket of England’s Joe Root during Day 3 of the first Ashes Test match between England and Australia at Edgbaston, Birmingham, on June 18, 2023. | Image Credit: Reuters
England’s batters faced ominous clouds above and hostile Australian bowlers below as the latest twist in a dramatic Ashes opener at Edgbaston saw the hosts reduced to 28-2 at stumps in their rain-hit second innings on Sunday for a total lead of 35.
A pitch inspection at 6 pm local time led to play being called off for the day with only 10.3 overs bowled so far in the England innings. Monday’s forecast is for mostly no rain but Tuesday afternoon there could be heavy rain and thunderstorms.
Play was first interrupted in the early afternoon session with England at 26-0 and buoyed from dismissing Australia for 386 before lunch which gave Ben Stokes’ team a narrow first-innings lead of seven runs. Usman Khawaja was out for a superb 141 as Australia closed on England’s 393-8 declared.
When play resumed after 75 minutes, England lost both their openers in a disastrous mini-session of just four overs under floodlights. The rain was heavier this time and the players left the field again — faster than when they had arrived — with England increasing its score by just two runs for the cost of two wickets. In a ray of sunshine for England, it survived a potential appeal by deciding for a catch against its leading batsman Joe Root.
Australian captain Pat Cummins, who scored a six-run 38 at No. 8 in sunshine, took 1-9 in 5.3 overs as the weather worsened in the afternoon. Scott Boland got 1-1 in two overs.
Ben Duckett (19) bowled Cummins to Cameron Green, who again showed his brilliance in the field by diving low to his left at gully. The dismissal survived a review despite the replay initially mocking the home fans.
Three balls later Zak Crawley (7) was caught by wicketkeeper Alex Carey at Boland.
Enter Root, Australia’s leading man in the first innings with his 29th test century, who skipped onto the pitch despite increasing gloom and doom on what was a mostly non-threatening wicket.
Root survived an early appeal against Cummins for the latter. After two balls, heavy rain sent the teams off again. Ollie Pope and Root are both at 0. Even under England’s aggressive “Bazball” style of cricket, neither batter is likely to want to return on Sunday.
England made a run at Australia’s tail early after the visitors resumed 311-5.
England seamers Stuart Broad (3-68) and Ollie Robinson (3-55) bounced around the lower order. At 338-5, Australia looked to be leading in the first-innings but Robinson claimed the key wicket of Usman Khawaja and only Cummins offered more resistance.
England dominated the morning session to set up a one-innings shootout in a thrilling first test that continues to live up to the hype and both sides’ hopes of serving as a showcase for cricket’s longest format.
Khawaja, who hit his maiden Test century in England on Saturday, was bowled after advancing on Robinson and then failing to stop the yorker from hitting the ball on his off stump. A useful partnership for the seventh wicket ended on 34, with Cummins providing 27 of those runs. At that stage Australia were 21 runs behind.
Robinson later defended his celebration of Khawaja’s wicket with taunting words that seemed aimed at the batter.
“This is the Ashes, this is professional sport. If you can’t, what can you do? When you’re in the heat of the moment and passionate about the Ashes that can happen,” Robinson said. “We’ve all seen (former Australia captain) Ricky Ponting and other Aussies do that to us just because the shoes was on the other hand, it was not well received. It was my first home Ashes and taking a big wicket at that time was special for me.”
James Anderson (1-53) produced a breakthrough for England in the fifth over of the morning session, bowling Carey for a 99-ball 66. It was Anderson’s 1,100th first-class wicket and 686th in test cricket. Carey was dropped by his English counterpart Jonny Bairstow to Anderson in the same session.
Cummins came to the crease at the start of the tourists’ tail but again showed he can really bat, smashing Moeen Ali (2-147) for six and then another in the same over, sending a dampener inside The veteran allrounder’s 36-year birthday saw him leave the field with a finger injury and receive a fine for using hand spray the previous day. Ali, who came out of Test retirement for the injured Jack Leach, dropped two full tosses and eventually left the field.
Australia reduced the deficit to 16 when Nathan Lyon latched onto a short delivery from Robinson to give Duckett a low catch near the boundary. The No. 10 Scott Boland offered a tame close-range catch to Ollie Pope at silly point after another rising delivery from Broad.
Cummins, who hit three of Australia’s nine sixes, was the last out, again to a short delivery from Robinson and caught by Stokes.