It was one of those days. Intermittent rain allowed only 46.5 overs of play and there were more rain breaks (5) than the numbers of wickets that fell (3). Australia lingered on to put 126 runs on the board for the loss of three wickets before another spell of shower brought a premature end to the day’s play.
England, put into field, must be reasonably happy. Except they had to walk off the field when they had Australia against the wall, with each one of the top three - David Warner (30), Marcus Harris (38) and Marnus Labuschagne (28) failing to convert their starts.
After a delayed toss and multiple rain interruptions, the morning session allowed only 12.3 overs. In some insipid cricket, the ball did not do much for James Anderson and Stuart Broad while Harris and Warner focussed on innings construction. In fact, there were only 12 scoring shots out of the 75 deliveries bowled. Both the bowlers looked more threatening bowling around the wickets but there was not much to worry about for Australia’s opening pair.
Post lunch, the partnership crossed the 50-run mark when Warner made his first mistake. Broad got one to straighten a bit from the full-length area. On the drive, Warner edged it to the slip where Zak Crawley did the rest. It is the 13th time Broad fetched Warner, reminding everyone of the 2019 Ashes. The southpaw had six boundaries in his knock of 30.
On the other end, Harris looked solid, carrying the confidence from his 76 in Melbourne. A 60-run stand between him and the number one Test batter, Labuschagne hinted at ominous signs for the tourists. However, after multiple plays-and-misses, Anderson found the outside edge of Harris’ bat to break the partnership in the 40th over.
Labuschagne fell in the next over. Wood claimed it with a brilliant channel delivery in the back-of-a-length area that didn’t allow the right-hander to leave the ball. The steep bounce found the nick on its way to Jos Buttler’s gloves.
Getting into middle-order so early with overcast conditions, England smelled blood. Steven Smith began with a pristine cover drive to the ropes but alongside Usman Khawaja, he was playing for the stumps. The situation brought a spring in England’s footsteps. Another wicket could have put them on top as Australia had nothing to gain from those nervous moments of batting.
Rain returned at the end of the 47th over, amidst bright sunshine, to complete the rescue mission for the incumbent batsmen. Smith ran off the ground while Ben Stokes and Broad walked off slowly, unbothered by rain. The contrasting emotions told the tale.
In a larger picture, the rain forecast in the upcoming days may help England to save themselves from a whitewash and frustrate Australia in their objective to achieve the same.