Birmingham: Australia were left hoping for another major innings from Steve Smith as England took charge of the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston yesterday.
When bad light cut short the third day’s play, Australia were 124 for three in their second innings — a lead of just 34 runs.
Former captain Smith, who had made a superb 144 in the first innings of his first Test since completing a 12-month ban for his role in last year’s ball-tampering scandal in South Africa, was batting on 46. Travis Head was batting on 21, with the pair’s stand worth 49 runs.
Ashes-holders Australia, looking to win their first series away to England in 18 years, were struggling at 27 for two after openers David Warner and Cameron Bancroft — also returning to Test duty after the ball-tampering scandal — both fell in single figures.
In a match full of overturned decisions, England had to review umpire Joel Wilson’s original not out verdict when Warner feathered a catch behind to wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow on eight to give Stuart Broad his 450th Test wicket.
Warner walked off to raucous chants of “Same old Aussies, always cheating” from England fans. It was an important blow for Broad, who took five for 86 in Australia’s first innings of 284 as new-ball partner James Anderson was absent with a calf injury that meant England’s all-time leading Test wicket-taker only bowled four overs first time around.
Birmingham-born off-spinner Moeen Ali then had Bancroft lob a simple bat and pad catch to Jos Buttler at short leg.
Smith’s arrival at the crease prompted a huge chorus of boos from England fans who earlier in the day had taunted him with chants of “Crying on the telly, we saw you crying on the telly” in a reference to the star batsman’s emotional press conference in Sydney after he was sent home from South Africa. Usman Khawaja might have been out for 11, but Buttler failed to hold a tough chance off Moeen.
The left-hander made an attractive 40, but Khawaja was undone by Ben Stokes’s second ball, a superb delivery that cut back sharply to have him caught behind.