In contrast to the first-day landslide at Trent Bridge, the England and Australia’s Under-19s played out a far more balanced and attritional third day of the ‘youth Ashes’ Test at the Riverside Ground in Durham.
Excellent bowling from Australia’s young quicks on day two meant England resumed under pressure at 5-242, trailing the tourists’ commanding first-innings total by 204 runs and needing another 55 to avert the threat of the follow-on.
That milestone was passed without further loss thanks to Ryan Davies and Aaron Thomason, who had already arrested a mini-collapse by putting on 81 on Wednesday evening and ensured there were no Thursday morning jitters for England, extending the partnership to 144.
They rode their luck a little especially against the probing bowling of West Australian Jhye Richardson, who was not the only Australia seamer to be let down by the odd fielding error.
Thomason was dropped at second slip in the fourth over of the day off Richardson and again six overs later in the gully off South Australian David Grant.
Davies also had the odd streaky moment, reaching a 75-ball 50 with a thick edge to third man off Grant. But the Kent wicketkeeper batsman played plenty of authentic strokes in making 73 from 108 balls, including a straight six off Sam Grimwade, before he edged Grant to first slip where Will Pucovski made no mistake.
Ryan Davies formed an important partnership with Aaron Thomason // Getty
Thomason, a combative all-rounder from Warwickshire who made several handy contributions in England’s one-day series in Australia earlier in the year, fell four overs later, lbw to Fletcher Seymour for 67 from 139 balls with 10 fours.
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Richardson then returned to bowl Ben Green with a delivery as good as the one that had accounted for Callum Taylor on Wednesday, to leave England on 329 for eight.
But Australia’s hopes of polishing off the England innings quickly to secure a substantial first-innings lead were further frustrated by Matt Parkinson, who scored an unbeaten 32 in almost two hours, sharing partnerships of 36 with Jared Warner and 27 with Saqib Mahmood.
Richardson and Grant eventually snared the final two wickets to bowl England out for 392, handing Australia a 54-run advantage.
A thoroughly impressive performance from Richardson - 5-75 from 26 overs - ensured he was the pick of the Australian bowlers, with Grant, Seymour and Liam Hatcher sharing the other five wickets.
Australia suffered an early scare in their second dig when Thomason - sharing the new ball with Warner due to a calf strain suffered by Mahmood on Tuesday - had the left-handed Caleb Jewell well caught by Davies in his second over, only to see that the umpire Michael Gough was signalling no-ball.
However the Australian openers found it tougher going than in the first innings as England bowled with more control, Green breaking Jewell and Jonte Pattison’s opening stand of 56 when he had the latter edging to Thomason at first slip.
Then, first-innings centurion Jordan Gauci could not replicate his earlier heroics, surviving a dropped catch at leg slip before being trapped lbw to Lancashire legspinner Matthew Parkinson and departed for 14.
Parkinson then produced a classic googly to claim another lbw decision against Will Pukovski in the final over of the day, leaving Australia 3-91 with a lead of 145, opening up the possibility of an interesting final day.
Jewell, after capitalising on his early let-off, will resume on 38 alongside in-form skipper Jake Doran.
The 'underage Ashes' consists of four ODI matches and a Test match.
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