Although England eventually won the Third Ashes Test against Australia by eight wickets, their firm grip on a match which nearly finished on the second day was briefly threatened by an Aussie revival and a hint of complacency from the hosts. For the first couple of days, the majority of the Aussie batsmen appeared unable to cope with the seam bowling of James Anderson on Wednesday and then Steven Finn during their second innings. Overall, 27 wickets tumbled on the first two days of the test match as the hosts recovered from their embarrassing defeat at Lords to enjoy a more comfortable experience at Edgbaston, but a muscle injury to Anderson later on Thursday raises doubts as to his fitness for the remainder of the series.
On a fairly lively wicket and with movement detected for the quicker bowlers at an early stage, Australian captain Michael Clarke may have regretted his decision to bat first after winning the toss. Anderson was swinging the ball in both directions and confusing the batsmen so much so that Australia were reduced to 94-7 and then 136 all out as only Chris Rogers accumulated a reasonable innings by scoring 52 before being trapped lbw by Stuart Broad. Rogers had only just passed a fitness test after succumbing to dizziness during the previous test.
Meanwhile, Anderson claimed figures of 6-47 to erase the memory of his dearth of wickets at Lords and help build a platform to allow England to build a sizeable first innings lead. In scoring 133-3 at close of play on the first day, the hosts appeared set to achieve that task with Ian Bell compiling a useful 53 runs in front of his home supporters.
However, there were ominous signs for England at the start of the second day when Mitchell Johnson snared both Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes with vicious high deliveries which both batsmen gloved to wicket-keeper Peter Nevill. Although Joe Root amassed 63 runs, his dismissal and that of Jos Buttler, with score at just 190-7, suggested that the English lead would not be as healthy as first envisaged.
Moeen Ali and Stuart Broad thought differently as they shared a partnership of 87 with the former scoring 59 to suggest that he could also be seriously considered as a true all-rounder. As the England innings eventually concluded at 281and a lead of 145 runs, there was genuine hope that a rapid victory could be secured within three days.
That hope soon became two days as Steven Finn quickly claimed five wickets to justify his recall to test match cricket. Finn was sent home from the ill-fated England tour of Australia during 2013-14 with his bowling deemed unsuitable and an associated loss of form necessitating a reappraisal of his bowling action.
With confidence and form now restored, Finn helped England to claim seven Australian wickets by close of play on the second day with only David Warner of the top order batsmen offering any resistance by scoring 77. The Aussies entered the third day leading by just 23 runs but then proceeded to add another 97 to their total to ensure a third day afternoon session would be required, with England needing 121 runs to complete the victory. They duly accomplished that feat during a much longer day than expected and with a few anxious moments as Adam Lyth and Alastair Cook departed cheaply.
In a test match series of fluctuating fortunes, England have now regained the initiative and Australia must respond at Trent Bridge as per their performance at Lords, but the loss of Anderson to a side muscle strain will affect the English bowling attack in the Fourth Test, offering some hope another Aussie revival.
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