England face buoyant Australia in final-day bid to save first Ashes Test
England will attempt to negate a turning pitch and a buoyant Australia side as they look to mount a 90-over rearguard on the final day of the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston.
There has not been a drawn Test on these shores for over three years and the last time England batted out a full day to save the game was a decade ago when last-wicket pair James Anderson and Monty Panesar survived in another Ashes opener at Cardiff.
The tourists held all the cards on day four, piling up a 397-run lead as Steve Smith followed his first-innings 144 with another brilliant 142 – the fifth Australian to make twin tons against the old enemy – and Matthew Wade made 110.
A slightly belated declaration left England facing just seven overs before stumps and, although spinner Nathan Lyon extracted plenty of spin in that time, Rory Burns and Jason Roy saw things through.
Burns will have batted on all five days of the match when he crosses the boundary on Monday and the Surrey man does so having repelled Australia for over seven hours in his previous knock of 133.
Batting coach Graham Thorpe expects a tough day but pointed out England’s roller coaster World Cup campaign, which ended in the tensest of triumphs, would help raise belief.
“Certainly in our dressing room that is the type of conversation we have, a lot of our guys gained a lot of confidence from that,” he said.
“It is a different form of the game but the belief they can do it when confronted with different situations and deal with it whatever form of the game is there.
“Whatever happens during the course of the day we hope the team can show character and skill. We are going to need a lot of that because we know it will be a challenge.
“It is a fifth-day pitch, it is turning and they have a very good spinner in their attack. We have to have the belief we can do it.”
Anderson, the man who repelled 69 balls and coaxed Panesar to show similar steel at Sophia Gardens in 2009, could yet prove a good luck charm. He has not been able to bowl since the first morning of the match due to a right calf injury but did make a brief appearance at number 11 in the first innings and is ready to do so again if needed.
“He could still have a role to play,” mused Thorpe.
“We hope it doesn’t get down to that but it has already been a summer of twists and turns for us as a nation so who knows?”
Smith is likely to play a back-seat role as the game moves towards its end, unless his occasional leg-spin becomes a factor, but he is already the man who has done more than anyone to shape it despite 16 months away from the Test arena following his ball-tampering ban.
“I’ve never doubted my ability but it’s kind of a dream comeback in a way,” he reflected.
“To be able to score two hundreds in a match, in the first Ashes match, it’s something I have never done in any form of cricket before in my life. It’s incredibly special and special to put us in the position we are in now.”