If it was James Anderson on first day, Steven Finn stepped into his shoes on the second. The speedster, who failed to find favor with England selectors two years ago, almost extracted a second-day finish but Australia’s new wicketkeeper Peter Nevill came in the way. At the end of Day-2, Australia with 168/7, have a 23-run lead over England but they don’t look like saving the test. The best that they can do is to hope for the mercy of rain-gods. That may be the only way for Australia to avoid defeat. Earlier in the day, England too were in trouble against Australian bowlers, who extracted the pitch advantage like Anderson did on Day-2. The best show came from Michael Johnson, who, in innings’ 31st over, produced two bouncers, both of which fructified into wickets and England tottered at 142/5. With England batsmen looking less and less confident against Starc, Hazlewood and Lyon, it seemed that the advantage gained on first day would be frittered away. But a rescue act from Moeen Ali and Stuart Broad ensured that England ended with 281 all out. The 145-run lead provided a good cushion for England’s bowlers, when Australia came back to bat for the second time.
England began the second day at the overnight score of 133/3 with Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow at the crease. Hazlewood began the day for Australia and yielded 4 runs in the innings’ 30th over. Clarke called Michael Johnson for the 31st. Johnson had not been impressive on first day as he had been relying on bouncers and short-balls. On Day-2, he began by a straight fullish delivery that Joe Root despatched to the ropes and took a single off the next ball. Then Johnson came up with a fierce ripper aimed at Bairstow’s body and the batsman had no option but to fend it off. In doing show, Bairstow gloved it the keeper. Johnson was not done yet. New batsman Ben stokes played one delivery but on the second he fell prey to another short ball from Johnson, similar to the one that claimed Bairstow’s wicket. The manner of dismissal was same except that this one bounced higher and Stokes couldn’t get his gloves out of the way. At 142/5, the match looked evenly poised and when Joe Root and Jos Buttler fell in the 41st and 46th overs, 190/7 did not look a commanding total. England only had Moeen Ali from amongst the recognized batsmen in company with Stuart Broad for the eighth wicket. But these two forked out an extremely effective 87-run stand and England’s final score of 281 all out, gave them a 145-run lead.
After the first innings fiasco, Australians were expected to play with some responsibility. It wasn’t so difficult to wipe off the first innings deficit and pile up some more runs to pressurize England. But their second innings began with Chris Rogers’ unconvincing LBW in the fourth over and after 13th, it acquired the same disastrous trend as the first innings. Alastair Cook employed Steven Finn, who began striking straightaway. First to depart was Steven Smith, who made just 8 off 27 balls in his 45 run partnership with David Warner. Clarke failed for the second time, taking 19 balls for his 3 runs, before a marvelous catch by Adam Lyth brought his end. Voges and Marsh also fell as Finn’s victims and it was 92/5 in the 23rd over. Only David Warner scored for Australia and when he fell as the sixth wicket at the innings score 111, he had contributed 77 off 62 balls. To give Australia some solace, wicketkeeper Peter Nevill held on. With Mitchell Johnson, Nevill wiped off the first innings deficit in producing 42 for the seventh wicket before Johnson got out. Nevill was still there at draw of stumps on second day with Australia’s score reading 168/7. His 37 scored off 117 deliveries showed tremendous restraint for someone, who is playing only his second test match. Mitchell Starc with 7 off 29 is keeping Nevill company and on these two rest all Australia’s hopes.
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