Holders Australia will resume on 124-3 – a lead of 34 runs – as the fourth day of the Ashes gets under way at Edgbaston on Sunday.
The Baggy Green are looking to win their first Test series away to England in 18 years, and they were again left looking to talisman Steve Smith in their second innings, with the star batsman 46 not out at the close of Saturday’s third day.
Former captain Smith has already marked his first Test match since completing a 12-month ban imposed by Cricket Australia for his role in a ball-tampering scandal in South Africa last year with a brilliant century. His magnificent 144 helped revive Australia from the depths of 122-8 in their first innings to an eventual total of 284.
And James Pattinson has backed the “fantastic” Smith to rescue Australia once again with the bat in the first Test.
“I was talking to the press before about great players and how they always stand up when you need them,” Australia fast bowler Pattinson told reporters.
“And I think he’s done that in this game. Without him, we would be in a bit of trouble.”
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AB De Villiers sparkled on debut as Middlesex started the 2019 Vitality blast with a seven-wicket win over Essex at Lord’s.
The South African great thrilled a packed house at the home of cricket with a match-winning 88 from just 43 balls as the hosts chased down a target of 165 with ease.
De Villiers’ innings was a mix of class and belligerence, containing five sixes and six fours and it ensured Middlesex avoided a ninth successive defeat in the format, chasing down 165 with three overs to spare.
Mujeeb Ur Rahman took the new ball for Middlesex as he had done in the World Cup for Afghanistan, but it was Tom Helm (three for 27) who made the initial incisions, getting Varun Chopra and Cameron Delport caught in the deep off successive deliveries.
Tom Westley launched an impressive counter offensive, seven fours taking him to 40 before Nathan Sowter (two for 32) trapped him LBW.
The Australian leg-spinner also accounted for Dan Lawrence, caught by George Scott after De Villiers had palmed the ball back from the boundary.
At 73 for four Middlesex were in the ascendancy but Nick Gubbins dropped Ryan Ten Doeschate on the boundary when he had made just 19.
It proved expensive as Ten Doeschate raced to 50 in 33 balls before helping plunder 19 from Steven Finn’s final over as the visitors posted an imposing 164 for six.
The hosts made a frenetic start with Paul Stirling being given two lives on five, Shane Snater dropping a simple caught and bowled before Delport juggled and grassed one at square leg off Adam Zampa.
Unlike Ten Doeschate, the Ireland international failed to make the most of the reprieves, nicking Matthew Quinn through to the wicketkeeper Adam Wheater to depart for 10.
Gubbins quickly followed, but De Villiers soon signalled his intent, flat-batting a four back over the bowler’s head and then hitting maximums in successive overs as he and skipper Dawid Malan raised the 50-stand in 33 balls.
De Villiers surged to 50 in 29 balls and Malan caught the mood, crunching Lawrence for four through cover before De Villiers almost deposited the same bowler onto the Grandstand roof.
The 100-partnership came at a rate of knots and though Malan (43) was stumped off Zampa with 20 needed, Middlesex stormed home with three overs to spare.
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Sam Curran believes England’s historic World Cup triumph can spur their Ashes hopefuls on to greater heights as attention turns towards attempting to regain the urn.
England prevailed in the World Cup final in dramatic circumstances, beating New Zealand on boundary count-back alone after the sides registered identical scores in both their 50 overs and super over at Lord’s.
The tournament and the aftermath of England’s successful campaign has overshadowed the build-up to the five-Test showdown against Australia, which gets under way on August 1 at Edgbaston.
Curran feels the Ashes remains the pinnacle of the cricketing calendar but insists the Test team can be galvanised by what transpired last weekend, irrespective of whether they featured or not.
The 21-year-old seam bowling all-rounder said: “I don’t think I’m alone in saying that it’s probably the greatest cricket match ever and for that to be the World Cup final was incredible.
“That will provide a buzz for everyone across English cricket going into the Ashes.
“Days like Sunday get everyone, whether they were involved or not, more excited and desperate to do well so I’m sure it will rub off as we head into the Test part of the summer.
“The Ashes are the biggest thing you can play in as an England cricketer, that’s what I’ve always felt. Hopefully we can be lifting the urn at The Oval in September.”
Curran, whose older brother Tom was an unused squad member during the World Cup, has been drafted into England’s groups for the one-off Test against Ireland next week and a pre-Ashes training camp.
The left armer was England Lions’ standout performer against an Australian XI earlier this week, taking six for 95 and contributing a pair of half-centuries in a drawn first-class match at Canterbury.
Having recently recovered from a hamstring injury, he said: “I’ve come back and felt good, putting in some decent performances with bat and ball.
“Confidence is really good, it’s just trying to contribute as much as I can. Hopefully I’m in the XI on Wednesday and I can put in a performance.
“I’ve played four four-day games in four weeks, the body has felt good so I’m really excited to get into that. I’ll play one T20 for Surrey on Friday then prepare for the summer of Test match cricket. It’s really exciting.”
Curran enjoyed a breakthrough summer last year, being named player of the Test series against India after star contributions with both bat and ball, leading to a bumper pay day in the Indian Premier League.
However, he is adamant he is not resting on his laurels, adding: “It’s a new challenge, a new summer. I can’t rely on that, I need to look ahead and find performances that will beat the Australians in the Ashes.
“The team is pretty exciting, there will be some great cricket played. I’m really excited to see what this summer holds.”
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