Australia stumble before rain halts play on day three
England snared three early scalps to leave visitors reeling at 4-80 before inclement weather brought early end to day three
Andrew Ramsey at Lord's
17 August 2019, 11:00 AM AEST
First Test century makers Steve Smith and Matthew Wade will hold the key to Australia challenging England's first innings total if London's grim weather allows the second Test to resume on Saturday.
Another day of light but relentless rain saw play suspended at lunch, and then called off at 5.20pm after 24.1 overs had been bowled for the day, with Australia on the back foot at 4-80 in reply to England's day two tally of 258.
The forecast for the weekend shows the probability of showers on both remaining days of the Test which has been plagued by wet weather, although the game has moved at speed in the four sessions played thus far.
With the opening day lost and day three severely truncated, a draw remains the most likely outcome although England will fancy their chances if they bowl in similar conditions as prevailed on Friday morning.
And if they can remove one or both of Smith (13 not out) and Wade (0 not out) to expose the tourists' lower-middle order and tail.
The conditions at Lord's when Cameron Bancroft and Usman Khawaja resumed at 11am were even more darkly foreboding than they had been during the extended session the previous evening.
The famous ground's floodlights burned bright against slate-grey clouds that seemed to skim the tops of the retractable towers as they (the clouds) scudded westward across London.
The going proved just as heavy at ground level, as Stuart Broad and Jofra Archer subjected Bancroft and Khawaja to a searching examination.
For all the preparatory work undertaken in the Sheffield Shield competition over recent seasons to better prepare players for England, Friday morning at Lord's brought together the Dukes-brand ball in day-night conditions.
In other words, distinctly batter unfriendly.
Bancroft hung in grimly, jamming down late on the deliveries that threatened his front pad and his stumps, and studiously leaving those he did not need to play.
It wasn't until the morning's sixth over, and the 53rd ball that Bancroft had faced in more than an hour at the crease, that he found the boundary – albeit a controlled thick edge from a rare full ball from Archer that scooted to third man.
By contrast, Khawaja had shown the delicate touch and deft timing that was a feature of his brief knock on Thursday evening, in which he accumulated 18 runs with a freedom that others had failed to find.
He pocketed three boundaries in a solitary over from Chris Woakes whose short-wide offerings proved fodder with England employing such attacking fields in the gathering gloom.
But when Woakes followed that over with a maiden, there grew a palpable sense of expectation that built and built like the cloud banks, and eventually unleashed a cascade of wickets.
Bancroft was first to go, trapped in front of his stumps by a ball from Archer that jagged back into him, down the Lord's slope.
The opener's uncertainty as to whether it might have hit him too high on the pad led him to call for a review, but when that revealed the ball to be clipping the bails, the Lord's crowd roared and Archer had his first Test wicket.
Three balls later, Woakes removed Khawaja with a delivery that ran up the hill, away from the left-hander who was compelled to chase it and the resultant edge was pouched by a euphoric Jonny Bairstow.
Then followed an epic hour or more of Test cricket, during which England's bowlers seemingly threatened every time they released the dark red ball that glistened under the artificial light as it whizzed towards, and often past, the probing Australia bats.
Travis Head was tested repeatedly by Broad, who operated around the wicket to the vice-captain in the clear belief that the left-hander is vulnerable to that line of attack.
It proved correct when he swung a ball past Head's inside edge and into his front pad, which appeared to be plonked directly in front of middle stump although that view was clearly not shared by umpire Aleem Dar who refused the England appeal
Incredulous, Broad convinced his captain Joe Root it would be a travesty not to review the decision and the video evidence confirmed what the naked eye had suggested.
With Head gone for seven, Australia were reeling at 4-71, still 187 runs in arrears and the momentum of the match undeniably with the hosts.
The degree of difficulty posed by the conditions and the England bowlers was best exemplified by the pair that took Australia to lunch, called five minutes early when the day's first rain shower arrived.
Smith, who so dominated the first Test at Edgbaston that he was adjudged the world's premier Test batsman and perhaps the nearest modern equivalent to the incomparable Don Bradman, had scored just 13 from 40 balls faced in almost and hour and a quarter at the wicket.
Even more pointedly, the naturally fluent Wade who – like Smith – had excelled at Edgbaston and posted a century in the series opener, had been unable to find a run from the 23 balls he received in his gruelling 32-minute stay to that point.
He had also survived a scare shortly before the rain fell, adjudged lbw to Ben Stokes but reprieved when his canny call for a video review showed the ball had pitched outside leg stump which granted him immediate immunity.
It was a rare moment of relief for Australia in a most suffocating session.
Australia XI: David Warner, Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Matthew Wade, Tim Paine (c/wk), Pat Cummins, Peter Siddle, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood
England XI: Rory Burns, Jason Roy, Joe Root (c), Joe Denly, Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Chris Woakes, Jofra Archer, Stuart Broad, Jack Leach
Session times (all times local):
First session: 11am-1pm
Second session: 1.40pm-4.10pm
Third session: 4.30pm-6.30pm
2019 Qantas Ashes Tour of England
Australia squad: Tim Paine (c), Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner.
England squad: Joe Root (c), Moeen Ali, Jimmy Anderson, Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes (vc), Olly Stone, Chris Woakes.
First Test: Australia beat England by 251 runs at Edgbaston
Second Test: August 14-18,Lord's
Third Test: August 22-26, Headingley
Tour match: Australians v Derbyshire, August 29-31
Fourth Test: September 4-8, Old Trafford
Fifth Test: September 12-16, The Oval