Aussies in trouble at Edgbaston
James Anderson’s best Ashes figures of 6 for 47 swung the battle for the urn back in England’s favour as Australia capitulated on day one of the third Ashes Test, at Edgbaston.
The tourists were shot out for just 136 in 36.4 overs after opting to bat as Anderson wreaked havoc in a stunning afternoon spell that included four wickets in 19 balls.
By the end of a rain-interrupted day England had all but achieved parity, closing just three runs behind on 133-3, after under-pressure Ian Bell, promoted to three, struck 53 on his home ground and Joe Root struck an unbeaten 30 from 35 balls.
Warwickshire batsman Bell put on 57 in 9.5 overs for the second wicket with Alastair Cook (34) after Adam Lyth (10) fell only before the England skipper fell in outrageous fashion, pulling Nathan Lyon into the midriff of short leg Adam Voges as he took evasive action.
Bell reached his 44th fifty in 113 Tests off 51 balls with a delicious drive through the covers for four off Mitchell Starc only to then gift his wicket away, hoicking Lyon to David Warner at midwicket.
Australia’s implosion marked an astonishing turnaround in fortune from the second Test, which they won by 405 runs to level the series after bowling England out for 103.
All the momentum seemed with the tourists but Anderson, who went wicket-less in his last outing at Lord’s, started the rot by nipping a delivery back into David Warner’s pads.
Steven Finn, selected after Mark Wood failed to recover from an ankle problem, made deeper in-roads by claiming two wickets in nine balls in his first Test appearance in two years.
The Middlesex seamer –– deemed “unselectable” after problems with his action in the 2013/14 Ashes –– picked up the prized scalps of Steve Smith, well caught low down by Cook at first slip, and Michael Clarke, bowled by a delicious full ball that sneaked through his defence.
England’s momentum was interrupted by a half-hour rain break that reduced the morning session to 19 overs –– Australia taking lunch on 72 for 3 at lunch –– and showers returned to delay the start of the afternoon session by 23 minutes.
The re-start brought a clatter of wickets as Anderson’s accuracy and movement off the pitch proved too much for Australia’s middle-order.
Adam Voges nicked behind trying to leave, Mitchell Marsh nicked through while driving at a wide half-volley and Peter Nevill –– preferred to Brad Haddin –– was bowled off peg leaving the ball.
Mitchell Johnson had just collected his 2,000th Test run when he was drawn into a drive at Anderson, bowling around the wicket, Ben Stokes taking a fine catch at fourth slip to make it 94 for 7.
Chris Rogers –– the one road block to England’s relentless pressure –– notched his fifty off 82 balls only to be trapped lbw by Stuart Broad (2-44), who found the edge of Mitchell Starc’s bat to hand Jos Buttler a third catch of the innings.
Anderson –– who took three wickets in the first innings of the first Test at Cardiff but had gone wicketless in the three subsequent innings –– wrapped matters up as Lyon dragged on.
England’s reply stuttered early on as Lyth drove loosely at Josh Hazlewood, Voges taking a juggling catch at first slip, bringing Bell to the wicket to the delight of a raucous crowd.
The 33-year-old drove well as Australia’s seamers persisted in bowling a full length, while Cook accumulated steadily –– showing plenty of intent square of the wicket –– before his unfortunate demise.
Root, though, remained steadfast –– top-edging Johnson for the only six of the day as he attacked a short ball –– and will carry England hopes for a sizeable first-innings lead in partnership with the recalled Jonny Bairstow.