Brydon Coverdale and Melinda Farrell answer your questions after day two at the Gabba (4:10)
Australia 7 for 213 (Smith 81*, Cummins 2*) trail England 302 (Vince 83, Malan 56, Stoneman 53) by 89 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
A gripping, tactical, low-scoring session of cat-and-mouse cricket ended with England seizing control of Australia’s first innings, irrespective of Steve Smith’s refusal to buckle in another formidable innings. However, an injury scare for England’s main man of the morning, James Anderson, cast a cloud over the session, as he was withdrawn from the attack amid fears that he had picked up a niggle.
By lunch, Anderson and Stuart Broad had both struck with the second new ball, to follow on from Broad’s earlier suckering of Shaun Marsh with a cleverly disguised cutter, to reduce Australia to 7 for 213, a deficit of 89. Smith, however, was immoveable, on 81 from 214 balls, another masterful captain’s innings for which England had few answers but to limit his scoring options and put the pressure on his batting partners.
The wickets ensured that it was England’s session, but they owed their position to a fine holding role from the back-up seamers, Chris Woakes and Jake Ball, who drew their lengths back to hammer the middle of the pitch, backed up by funky leg-side fields from Joe Root that had some Australian commentators referencing Bodyline tactics.
It was nothing of the sort, of course – merely an astute marshalling of England’s resources at a time when the old ball was offering little in the way of seam or swing, particularly with an operator as skilled as Smith still entrenched at the crease.
After resuming on 64 not out overnight, Smith added just 17 runs in the session, with a solitary boundary through the leg-side when Ball momentarily got his lines wrong. Ball did, however, induce the most significant moment of alarm in Smith’s innings, when on 69, he was caught unawares by a perfectly directed throat-ball that slammed into the splice and could have gone anywhere. In the end it plopped short of gully, but the message it sent was clear.
By that stage, Smith had lost his overnight partner, Marsh, who marked his return to the Test team with a hard-fought fifty, and had extended his stand with his skipper to 99 when he was done in by a canny piece of bowling from Broad. Lured onto the front foot by an apparent wide half-volley, Marsh failed to clock that Broad had rolled his fingers down the seam, and Anderson collected a dolly of a lofted drive, as the ball skidded off the splice to mid-off.
Smith, however, could not be undone so easily. England had their moments – one loose slash outside off against Woakes had Smith admonishing himself in fury, while he was also drawn into a wild flap against a Ball bouncer that could have been feathered to the keeper. But for most of the session, he was happy to duck the short balls and get firmly into line against the straight ones, fully aware of his importance to Australia’s innings, and their prospect of victory in the Test.
Tim Paine, who had made his Australia debut alongside Smith against Pakistan at Lord’s in 2010, came out to join him for his first Test innings for seven years. And though he looked solid for a while, with a pair of boundaries against Ball and Moeen Ali, he had no answer to the ball of the day from Anderson. Armed with the new ball, as well as the knowledge that he needed to make it count, Anderson produced a snorter that angled into the right-hander, nipped away, and kissed the edge for Jonny Bairstow to collect a fine one-handed catch behind the stumps.
Mitchell Starc started his innings with eye-popping intent, slamming his second ball, from Broad, clean over long-off for six – to induce a wry grin and a shrug from the bowler. Two balls later, however, Broad had his revenge, hauling his length back just an inch or two to collect another attempted drive in his followthrough. At 209 for 7, Australia were on the ropes.
But then came Anderson’s apparent injury – a clutch of his side midway through his third over with the new ball, and a guarded chat with his captain. Though he remained on the field, he was delivered a tablet by England’s 12th man, and is sure to be subjected to some intense examination from the physio during the lunch break.
Source: ESPN Crickinfo