Stuart Broad starred as England had Australia 83 for three on the first morning of the 2019 Ashes but an injury scare for fellow seamer James Anderson cast a shadow over the hosts’ bright start at Edgbaston.
The tourists opted to bat in the first Specsavers Test but lost their top three for just 35 as Broad accounted for openers David Warner and Cameron Bancroft – both booed to and from the crease following their roles in the sandpaper scandal – while World Cup winner Chris Woakes sent back Usman Khawaja.
A stand of 48 between Steve Smith, the third of Australia’s reunited ball-tampering trio, and Travis Head evened up the scales heading into the break as the rivals jostled for supremacy on day one of a possible 25 this summer.
Anderson’s fitness could yet prove to be a decisive factor, with the 37-year-old restricted to just four overs in the session after feeling tightness in his right calf. The nation’s record wicket-taker was sent for a scan on the problem, leaving England sweating over the most reliable bowler.
Tim Paine’s decision to bat first after winning the toss meant Warner and Bancroft were straight into the lion’s den. Catcalls rang around the ground as they walked to the crease, with the Hollies Stand upping the ante with a chorus of “cheats, cheats, cheats”.
Bancroft began by playing back an Anderson maiden but Warner almost gave his detractors their dream outcome when he nicked his first ball of the day down the leg side.
James Anderson has tightness in his right calf and will have a scan on it this afternoon 😞 pic.twitter.com/tumrCogl0m— Wisden (@WisdenCricket) August 1, 2019
Broad appealed, as did wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow, but neither umpire Aleem Dar or captain Joe Root were persuaded.
That was the start of a colourful but unaccomplished knock from Warner, who was spoken to about batting too far down and survived a loud lbw shout before being given for two when Broad beat him again bowling fast and full from round the wicket.
Dar was quick to raise the finger this time and Warner trudged off to widespread jeers as England fans sang “cheerio” and waved squares of sandpaper. Once again, though, replays told a different story, suggesting the ball would have slipped past the leg stump.
It took Bancroft 25 minutes to get off the mark, with a punched drive down the ground, but it was only a matter of time before Broad had his way. Having successfully pushed the opener deep with a series of yorker-length deliveries he pulled one back and drew a flimsy edge that Joe Root snaffled at slip.
Bancroft crossed with the incoming Smith as he left, inviting the loudest reactions yet, with Broad signalling to the fans to keep up the noise.
The seamer beat Smith’s outside edge three times on nought but Khawaja was next to go for 13, DRS confirming he had feathered Woakes behind.
Smith (23no) began to find his feet and Head (26no) hit four boundaries as Australia restored calm to their innings before the interval.
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England pacer Jofra Archer will be given an opportunity to prove his fitness for the second Ashes Test against Australia in a T20 Blast for Sussex on Friday as well as a Second XI game for the county outfit on Tuesday.
The Barbados-born pacer had been named in the England’s 14-man squad for the first Ashes Test but he failed to make the cut for the playing XI due to concerns over his fitness.
Archer will now participate in Friday’s T20 Blast clash against Kent before taking part in a Second XI Championship game against Gloucestershire starting on Tuesday in order to prove his fitness.
The 24-year-old pacer has had a rousing start to his England career and was instrumental in the side’s maiden World Cup title-winning campaign by chipping in with 20 wickets.
He will now hope to make his Test debut for England in the second Ashes clash at Lord’s which gets underway on July 14.
“Jofra is coming back from quite a serious injury England skipper Joe Root had said on Thursday while explaining the pacer’s omission from the playing XI for the Edgbaston Test.
“We looked at conditions and made a decision on what we thought would best take 20 wickets here. It also gives him time to get absolutely ready and fit to make sure he has his workloads up and ready to go for later in the series if he needs to make an impact.
“His fitness will be monitored throughout the week. It’s important that he’s ready to go to offer something different.”
England will look to crown a summer in which they have already lifted the World Cup for the first time by regaining the Ashes from Australia over the course of the next seven weeks.
The first Test gets under way on Thursday at Edgbaston, a venue with a reputation for being the most hostile for touring teams in England and where Australia have not won in any format since 2001.
Australia prevailed 4-0 the last time the urn was up for grabs in 2017-18 and the tourists could potentially field all three of the ball-tampering trio this week.
Visitors won the toss and opted to bat first.
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