Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne once again stood in England’s way after a double strike from Stuart Broad put Australia under early pressure on the first morning of the fourth Ashes Test.
Broad dismissed David Warner for a duck, his fifth success in seven innings against the left-hander, and had Marcus Harris LBW to leave the tourists two down early on at Old Trafford.
But Smith, back from the concussion that ruled him out of the Headingley Test, joined the man who replaced him in that match to put on an unbroken stand of 70, leaving Australia 98 for two at lunch.
Labuschagne outscored Smith, 49 to 28, but the latter remains the key wicket having made scores of 144, 142 and 92 in his last three knocks.
Smith’s reunion with Jofra Archer, whose 92mph bouncer caused his temporary absence, did not quite live up to its top billing, comprising just seven uneventful deliveries in an even morning session.
Australia captain Tim Paine won the toss on a good looking surface and enthusiastically took up the option of batting first.
His opening batsmen may not have fully shared his optimism given the precarious pursuit of facing the new ball in this series, and it took Broad just four deliveries to land the first blow of the day.
Broad has meticulously raked Warner over the coals in recent weeks and duly did it again. It was a batsman error on this occasion, Warner shaping to leave outside off stump, but inadvertently feeding Jonny Bairstow after failing to withdraw the bat.
Broad exploded in delight as he was mobbed by his teammates, leaving Warner scoreless in his last two innings and with a dismal return of 79 in seven knocks.
Archer started with a solid but unremarkable stint at the James Anderson End, but it was Broad whose nagging full length was causing problems.
He struck again at the end of his fourth over, Harris rapped high on the front pad and then given out after a typically imploring appeal from the seamer.
Harris called for DRS, but replays showed the ball clipping leg stump, sealing his fate.
That brought Smith to the crease, ushering in his eagerly-anticipated battle with Archer. After the box office showdown between the pair at Lord’s, this was a soft reintroduction, comprising just seven balls – including two bouncers – before Archer’s spell came to an end.
Smith will have been happy with how he fared, ducking the short ball well and getting off the mark with a well-timed cover drive for four.
He and Labuschagne carefully built the total, scoring safely and regularly on the leg-side as England’s lines drifted.
Australia picked up the pace with five boundaries in the space of three overs, Labuschagne taking on the spin of Jack Leach and the hero of Headingley Ben Stokes offering Smith a couple of cheap fours.
Labuschagne endured some dicey moments – top-edging a pull, surviving Stokes’ LBW shout on umpire’s call, and edging Leach just wide of slip – but there was no further joy for the bowling side.News Now - Sport News