Chris Woakes fears the worst for James Anderson’s prospects of featuring in the remainder of the first Ashes Test as England look to end the resolve of Australia linchpin Steve Smith.
England’s record wicket-taker sent down only four overs on the opening morning before going for a scan on a calf complaint and though he was able to bat on the third afternoon, he moved gingerly and did not take to the field for Australia’s second innings.
The tourists wiped out a 90-run first-innings deficit and were 34 ahead on 124 for three, Smith ominously still there at the close four short of his fifty when bad light and then rain at Edgbaston brought a slightly early end to proceedings.
Anderson’s prognosis remains unclear but the continued absence of a player Woakes feels is “the best fast bowler that’s ever lived” is a concern for his team-mate.
Woakes said: “I was gutted for Jimmy, he’s obviously dying to play more than anyone and wants to play more than anyone.
“But it wasn’t right which was unfortunate for him and unfortunate for us as a team with him being the best fast bowler that’s ever lived, in my opinion, with the amount of wickets he’s taken and all that.
“(His absence) is a bit of a blow but at the same time us as a unit have to go out there and try to do the job.
“Moving forward, I actually don’t know (whether he will be available on Sunday). The fact he hasn’t taken much part in the game so far doesn’t look too promising but I actually don’t know.
“It’s a well-poised Ashes Test match. It’s been a great Test match so far, reasonably even. We’re pretty happy having them 30 for three.
“If we can start well in the morning, two big wickets up front could be quite crucial. All of a sudden if you have them 50 or 60 for five, it’s a big turning point. Tomorrow morning, as always, is important.”
The only troubling moment on Saturday for Smith, who has compiled exactly 200 runs in this Specsavers series opener, was when he took a blow to the side of the helmet after missing an attempted pull off Ben Stokes.
Woakes recognises the significance of accounting for the former Australia captain as early as possible but revealed bowling on this pitch is becoming ever more problematic.
He added: “We saw how destructive was at the back end of the first innings, he scored over half the runs, so it’s important we try to get him out. He’s a world-class player.
“I think on this surface in particular, it’s hard to force the issue as a bowler.
“The pace has gone out of the pitch so you almost have to build pressure, maybe attack at the other end and hold at the other, and build pressure to make sure the batsman makes a mistake.
“But Steve doesn’t make too many mistakes.”
Smith’s blow saw a gap in play as he chatted with a couple of England players before being treated by the team doctor. There seemed to be no lingering effects as he batted to the close.
Asked about Smith’s condition, Australia paceman James Pattinson confirmed he was OK before paying tribute to a batsman who has excelled in this fixture despite being routinely jeered by the crowd for his involvement in the ball-tampering scandal.
Pattinson said: “It was quite a good reaction from him wasn’t it? We had a little bit of a chuckle in the dressing-room. He always puts a bit of mayo on things. He seems to be fine now.
“Without him we would be in a bit of trouble. He’s a fantastic player and to do it after everything he’s been through and he’s been copping a bit from the crowd, which has amused a lot of people.
“But to his credit, he just gets on with it and he’s a fantastic player. He’s someone who lifts the group when he’s out there.”
The home side claimed a handy first-innings lead of 90, all out for 374 after Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes backed up Rory Burns’ maiden international hundred with vital tail-end runs.
They then prised out three wickets before Australia had cleared the deficit, Broad, Moeen Ali and Ben Stokes dovetailing to see off the top order, leaving the fate of the game revolving around Smith.
Steve Smith currently averaging 145.71 in his last 10 Test innings against England— Tim (@timwig) August 3, 2019
He produced a sensational 144 to drag his side back from the brink on day one, his first Test knock since his year-long ban for ball-tampering, and when bad light intervened shortly after 6pm at Edgbaston he had effortlessly reeled off another unbeaten 46.
Australia will resume on 124-3, 34 in front, knowing their chances might well live and die with their former skipper.
England, meanwhile, are juggling a depleted attack. James Anderson was able to make a brief cameo with the bat but did not join his team-mates in the field, his right calf injury clearly serious enough to keep him out of the fray.
At one stage Jofra Archer appeared as a substitute fielder, his first appearance in the Test environment, and whatever transpires over the next 48 hours it seems increasingly certain the World Cup winning seamer will debut in Anderson’s place in the second Test at Lord’s.
Woakes and Broad ushered England to what could still be a priceless 90-run lead after a middle-order collapse on the third day of their Ashes opener against Australia. Burns added only eight runs to his overnight score before departing for a titanic 133, one of four wickets to fall on Saturday morning as the hosts slipped from 282-4 to 300-8.
England had nevertheless moved past Australia’s first-innings total, and a 65-run stand between Woakes and Broad swelled their score even further before they were all out for 374, when an early tea was taken.
Provided by Press Association Sport
England will be looking to gain a big first innings lead on day three of the first Ashes Test against Australia in Birmingham.
Rory Burns remained unbeaten on 125 as England reached stumps on 267-4 overnight in reply to Australia’s 284.
Giving Burns company is Ben Stokes, batting on 38.
The hosts will look to gain a sizeable lead as batting in the fourth innings is expected to be difficult.
Will Australia manage to restrict England’s lead? Catch the live updates below.