Finn edges England closer to Ashes lead

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Steven Finn (c) was in fine form.

Steven Finn bowled England to the verge of a resounding victory, and 2-1 Ashes lead, at Edgbaston.

Finn, back for his first Test in two years after much-chronicled technical problems, took five for 45 as Australia stumbled to 168 for seven by stumps on day two – a lead of only 23, despite opener David Warner’s defiant 77.

Deemed “not selectable” at the peak of his problems 18 months ago, Finn took two wickets in two balls here as England produced an outstanding turnaround after their embarrassing 405-run defeat at Lord’s.

Barring more remarkable events, it ought to be merely a matter of time – and not much of it at that – before they complete the win on the third morning of this third Investec Test.

They have appeared in control almost throughout a manic contest but had to regain their composure – via half-centuries from Joe Root (63) and Moeen Ali (59) – after Mitchell Johnson dented home confidence with two wickets in three balls in his first over of a sunny morning.

Moeen’s eighth-wicket stand of 87 with Stuart Broad proved a telling passage of play, as England scrambled to 281 all out after Johnson’s early successes made it 142 for five.

Conditions favoured the bowlers from the outset here, prodigious movement available via seam and swing – and with batsmen refusing to tolerate the concept of mere survival, hectic pace took hold.

So it was in Australia’s second innings, Finn surging through the middle order to leave a sell-out crowd rapt and no doubt mystified that he has been unable to compete at this level since the 2013 Ashes opener at Trent Bridge.

It was Broad who made the first breakthrough, though, round the wicket to pin Chris Rogers lbw for a rare failure.

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Warner counter-attacked emphatically in a second-wicket stand with Steve Smith, on the way to a 35-ball 50 – during which Finn conceded 14 runs in his first over, a solitary one from the City End.

When he switched directions, he immediately had Smith miscuing an attempted pull high into the gloves of Jos Buttler.
Finn moved into overdrive after tea, his two-in-two beginning with a fine catch by Adam Lyth at fourth slip to consign Michael Clarke to another low score.

He got one in the perfect place to Adam Voges first ball, Ian Bell taking the catch at second slip – and after a six-over wait Finn had England’s next too, Mitch Marsh bowled by an inswinger.

After Warner was sixth out, skying an attempted flick to leg off the returning James Anderson to cover, England lost their all-time leading wicket-taker to a worrying side injury which saw him leave the field wincing mid-over.

But Finn was back with his fifth wicket, Johnson going Warner-style to a catch in the off-side ring to the first ball of his third spell.
 Australia’s bowlers had earlier been inconsistent.

For all Johnson’s brief brilliance, his team-mates – and eventually he – allowed plenty of scoring opportunities.

It was not obvious that either Jonny Bairstow, to his first ball from Johnson, or Ben Stokes to his second could have done anything much different to avoid gloving behind two brutish short deliveries.

Root was again England’s cornerstone until, with a run-a-ball 50 to his name, he squeezed an edge to slip driving at Mitchell Starc.
Buttler’s dismissal was a curiosity, for several reasons.

It completed a bizarre sequence for Nathan Lyon (three for 36), who was taking a wicket – as he had twice the previous evening – in his first over, the others each having come in separate minimum spells.

Buttler was hit low on the front pad pushing forward in defence, and decided against DRS only to discover on his return to the pavilion that Hawkeye was simulating the ball clearing the stumps.

Moeen began unconvincingly, playing and missing with near comic regularity against both pace and spin.

But increasingly, there were some memorable shots too, and England had more than doubled Australia’s total by the time Broad mis-pulled Josh Hazlewood (three for 74) into the hands of mid-on.

Mooen then upper-cut Hazlewood to third man as the final three wickets fell for four runs in less than three overs.

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Pakistan tame Sri Lanka in T20 opener

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Anwar Ali (r) celebrates a wicket with Ahmed Shehzad (l).

Umar Akmal smashed 46 off 24 balls and Sohail Tanvir grabbed three wickets as Pakistan beat top-ranked Sri Lanka by 29 runs in the first Twenty20 international in Colombo.

Pakistan piled up 175-5 after electing to bat and then restricted the reigning World Twenty20 champions to 146-7 in the day-night match at the Premadasa stadium. 

Akmal hit three boundaries and as many sixes during an entertaining fourth wicket stand of 81 from just 45 deliveries with Shoaib Malik, who remained unbeaten on a 31-ball 46.

Ahmed Shehzad was the other notable contributor with 46 off 38 balls, but Sri Lanka lost the way when Pakistan plundered 70 runs in the final six overs to set up the challenging target.

Pakistan lost opener Mukhtar Ahmed in the second over, but Shehzad and Mohammad Hafeez revived the innings with a 42-run partnership for the second wicket.

Debutant left-arm seamer Binura Fernando conceded 17 runs in the 16th over which included two consecutive sixes by Akmal.

Sri Lanka’s captain Lasith Malinga was the most expensive bowler, giving away 46 runs in his four overs.

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The hosts were dealt early blows as Kusal Perera fell off the third ball of the innings and Tillakaratne Dilshan was dismissed in the next over to make it 13-2.

Debutant Dhananjaya de Silva looked promising during his knock of 31 and another youngster Milinda Siriwardana made 35, before Chamara Kapugedera justified his recall with three sixes in his unbeaten 31 off 16 balls.

Tanvir, the left-arm seamer, finished with three for 29 and Anwar Ali took two for 27 to tie down the Sri Lankan batsmen. 

The second match will be played at the same venue on Saturday with Pakistan looking to  complete a triple on the current tour, having earlier clinched the Tests 2-1 and the one-dayers 3-2.

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Dale Steyn - Fastest to 400 Test wickets

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Steyn has cemented his place in the record books.

South African Dale Steyn added another feather to his illustrious cap when he became the 13th bowler in Test cricket history to claim 400 wickets. He emulated former teammate Shaun Pollock, who achieved his landmark nearly nine years ago, way back in December 2006.

Steyn’s 400th scalp was Bangladeshi opener Tamim Iqbal, who he had caught at slip by captain Hashim Amla on the opening day of the second Test in Mirpur. Kiwi paceman Sir Richard Hadlee was the first to reach this landmark. He did so in February 1990 against India at Christchurch. Since then, in all, three Indians, two West Indians, Australians & South Africans and one Englishman, New Zealander, Pakistani & Sri Lankan are in this elite list.

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Incidentally, the 32 year old Steyn took only 16,634 balls to reach his 400th wicket mark – the fewest in Test history, which is, at least, 3600 balls less than what Richard Hadlee needed to reach his milestone.

The table below has the updated career records of all the thirteen Test bowlers with 400-plus wickets:

Dale Steyn will now target Shaun Pollock’s career tally of 421 wickets, which will make the highest wicket-taker for South Africa in Tests. At his current strike rate it does look he will easily cross the South African record during the forthcoming tour of India in November/December.

The tables below looks at Dale Steyn’s Test career statistics since his debut against England at Port Elizabeth in December 2004.

Steyn has the distinction of claiming 50 or more wickets against three Test opponents – Australia, India and New Zealand. However his best strike-rate has come against Bangladesh.

He has 235 wickets on African grounds (in South Africa and Zimbabwe), while his next best has come in Asia with 90 wickets. 

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On three occasions in his Test career, he has claimed 50 or wickets in a single calendar year. His best coming in 2008 when he finished with 74 wickets

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