Persistent rain kept players off the field for several hours
MANCHESTER: Steve Smith marked his Test return after suffering concussion by helping Australia recover from the early loss of their openers on the first day of the fourth Ashes Test at Old Trafford yesterday.
Australia were 98-2 off 26 overs at lunch after Stuart Broad’s double strike, which included David Warner’s exit for a duck, reduced them to 28-2. Marnus Labuschagne was 49 not out and on the verge of his fourth successive Test fifty since coming in as Smith’s concussion substitute.
Smith, felled by a 92 miles-per-hour (148 kph) Jofra Archer bouncer in the drawn second Test at Lord’s, was 28 not out after adding an unbroken 70 for the third wicket with Labuschagne.
Persistent rain during and after the scheduled 40-minute lunch break kept the players off the field for several hours, although the umpires were aiming for a 4:00 pm (1500 GMT) restart. Ashes-holders Australia are looking to bounce back from a stunning one-wicket defeat in the third Test at Headingley, where Ben Stokes’s 135 not out saw England square the five-match series at 1-1.
Australia captain Tim Paine took the bold decision to bat first after winning the toss, even though both top orders have struggled this Ashes. But just four balls into the innings Broad, again leading England’s attack in the absence of regular new-ball partner James Anderson, had Warner caught behind for nought as he tried to withdraw his bat — a carbon copy of one of the left-hander’s dismissals earlier this series.
It was the fifth time Broad had snared Warner this series. Marcus Harris had kept his place alongside Warner at the top of the order after Australia dropped the struggling Usman Khawaja but the left-hander fell for 13 when Broad trapped him lbw from around the wicket with a ball that nipped back.
Kumar Dharmasena eventually responded to Broad’s prolonged appeal by raising his finger, with his decision upheld on umpire’s call after Harris’s review, leaving Australia in trouble at 28-2.
Harris’s exit brought Smith to the crease for his first Test innings since Lord’s, a match where he made 92 despite being struck by Archer.
Smith, who had scored 144 and 142 in Australia’s 251-run win in the series opener at Edgbaston — his first Test since a 12-month ball-tampering ban — left his first ball, from Archer.
But Smith, top of the world Test batting rankings, got off the mark fifth ball by expertly driving Archer through extra-cover for four. All-rounder Stokes did cut one back sharply to Labuschagne but England’s review of Marais Erasmus’s not out lbw decision foundered on umpire’s call.
Smith was soon back in the old routine, pulling Stokes for four, with Labuschagne square-driving fast bowler Craig Overton, the only change to England’s side, for his eighth boundary. – AFP