Australia captain Pat Cummins starred with both bat and ball as the Ashes-holders had the better of a rain-marred third day in the first Test against England in Birmingham on Sunday. The lower-order batsman made a useful 38 in a total of 386 that left Australia just seven runs behind on first innings. And the fast bowler then dismissed Ben Duckett before England also lost their other opener, Zak Crawley, in a dramatic 20-minutes’ play between the showers. England were 28-2 in their second innings, a lead of just 35 runs, at stumps after a huge downpour at 1450 GMT had sent the players from the field.
They had made steady progress when an initial rain delay stopped play for an hour-and-a-quarter.
But after the match resumed in overcast skies, with the Edgbaston floodlights piercing the gloom, conditions were now hugely in favour of World Test champions Australia’s pace attack.
And they made the most of a brief 22-ball session by taking two wickets for no runs as England slumped from 27-0 to 27-2.
Cummins led the way, with Duckett edging the 30-year-old low to all-rounder Cameron Green, who dived forward to hold his latest excellent catch in the gully.
Three balls later, Scott Boland had Crawley caught behind off a superb full-length delivery that angled in and straightened to take the edge.
Ollie Pope and star batsman Joe Root, whose unbeaten 118 was the cornerstone of England’s first-innings 393-8 declared, were both yet to get off the mark when the umpires finally abandoned play for the day at 1713 GMT.
Khawaja’s epic innings
Earlier, England finally saw the back of Usman Khawaja but only after his painstaking 141 had effectively turned the first of a five-match series into a one-innings showdown.
Australia, bidding for a first Ashes series win in England in 22 years, resumed on 311-5.
Khawaja was then 126 not out, having ended his decade-long wait for an Ashes hundred in England, with Alex Carey on 52 after Australia had recovered from 67-3.
Bairstow had made a run-a-ball 78 in England’s first innings, but his bad time behind the stumps continued with just the fourth ball of Sunday’s play as he gave Carey another reprieve by dropping a one-handed chance off James Anderson.
But Anderson, the most successful fast bowler in Test history, took matters into his own hands as the 40-year-old bowled Carey between bat and pad for his first wicket of the series.
New batsman Cummins launched off-spinner Moeen Ali for two sixes and later hoisted Broad high over the rope as Australia moved closer to drawing level.
Broad had labelled the pitch “soulless’ on Saturday, but the innovative tactics that have characterised the leadership of England captain Ben Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum helped wrap up the Australia innings quickly.
Khawaja was finally bowled by Ollie Robinson trying to pierce an unusual “umbrella field” as an impressive 321-ball innings, including 14 fours and three sixes, finally came to an end.
The final four Australian wickets fell for just 14 runs in 23 balls, Robinson (3-55) ending the innings when he had Cummins caught in the deep by Stokes.
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