The Ashes: England battle hard on rain-affected opening day of Sydney Test

[05-01-2022 10:34 AM]

Ammon News - England's bowlers battled hard to leave the fourth Ashes Test evenly poised after a rain-affected opening day at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG).

After opting to bat under grey skies and on a green pitch, Australia closed on 126-3 with just 46.5 overs possible.

The start was delayed by half an hour before two interruptions in the morning session and a two-hour delay either side of the tea interval.

The returning Stuart Broad had David Warner caught at second slip by Zak Crawley for 30, while James Anderson had Marcus Harris caught by Joe Root for 38.

Marnus Labuschagne then nicked Mark Wood behind for 28 as England reaped the rewards of their tight, economical bowling.

Play is scheduled to resume at 23:00 GMT on Wednesday night, with Steve Smith unbeaten on six and Usman Khawaja, playing his first Test since 2019, four not out.

England currently trail 3-0 in the five-Test series, and have already lost the Ashes.

Further rain and thundery showers are forecast on days two and four which may make a result difficult and increase England's chances of avoiding a series clean sweep.

Meanwhile, Australia batter Travis Head, who is missing this Test after testing positive for Covid-19, has returned one negative test and two more negative results will see him rejoin the squad on Friday.

It is generally more difficult for batters during on-off days of Test cricket, but for large periods Australia were rarely troubled.

The wicket of Warner came with an element of surprise, with the left-hander barely threatened apart from an edge off Stokes - that went just past Crawley, through a vacant third slip - when he was on 21.

The outside edge was only challenged on the odd occasion, while very few deliveries would have hit the stumps with England generally bowling too short or wide early on.

The pitch seemed easier to bat on for large periods of the final session, and that combined with the ball going softer due to the damp outfield resulted in England looking like being blunted.

However Root's side managed to keep the run-rate relatively low, and that allowed Anderson to draw Harris - who was ragged, but starting to look more settled - into a tentative prod, before Wood dismissed Labuschagne for the second successive Test.

England's heavy series defeat and potential post-Ashes reset had led to retirement talk around pace bowler Broad but, between Tests, he spoke passionately in his Daily Mail column about his desire to continue representing his country.

The 35-year-old came into the side for Ollie Robinson, who is nursing a shoulder niggle, in England's sole change to the team which lost by an innings in the third Test in Melbourne.

Broad was their standout bowler on a stop-start day in Sydney, culminating in yet another dismissal of Warner.

The Australia opener was dragged forward by a slightly fuller delivery and, as was so often the case in 2019 in England when Broad dismissed Warner seven times, a little bit of seam movement away enticed the left-hander into an edge.

England fast bowler Mark Wood: "It was a tough day, stop-start. To put the two wickets on at the end changes the perception. If we can start well tomorrow we're right in the game.

"The build-up has been carnage. No coaches, different staff. It's focussed us, brought us together and we're trying to show as much fight as we can."

Australia batter David Warner: "That's Sydney weather for you. It rains pretty much every Test we play here. We were surprised with how much play we got.

"We were always going to bat. There are quite a lot of cracks underneath the surface. We wanted to be the ones bowling last."

Former England bowler Steven Finn on Test Match Special: "As soon as Marcus Harris was out you saw Joe Root going to Mark Wood and saying 'I need a quick burst from you' and it worked.

"It was a rare day in this series where what England did worked."


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