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Crawley-Root puts England in pole position: Day 2: Stumps – England lead by 67 runs against AUS

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It’s the third day of a Test match that’s generally called the moving day but with the weather forecast grim for the last two days of the game, England made their move on day two. And in some style. James Anderson set the tone by striking off the very first ball of the day to remove Pat Cummins while Chris Woakes registered his maiden Ashes fifer to soon wrap the innings up. Australia only managed to muster 18 more to their overnight score and ended with a middling total of 317.

The visitors did get the perfect start with the ball as Mitchell Starc removed Ben Duckett early but little did they know that it would be among the very few moments of joy that they would experience in the day. England’s faith in Moeen Ali for the number three role got vindicated as the left-hander stitched up a fifty, while also sharing a century stand with Zak Crawley, although both batters looked a bit shaky in the first session.

However, come the second session, the script changed dramatically. Whether it was the surface easing up a bit with all the sun beating down or Australia’s lack of clarity with the ball, both batters appeared in top gear. Particularly Crawley who was at his fluent best with those imperious drives, cuts and pulls, taking the Aussie bowlers to the sword. Moeen also laced some typically elegant drives before perishing to an ambitious shot that was taken stunningly by Usman Khawaja at mid-wicket.

Moeen’s dismissal, though, brought us to what was the centerstage phase of the day. A double-century stand at more than run-a-ball is treasured even in ODI cricket, and here Joe Root combined with Crawley to add 206 off just 178 balls in a red-ball game. The second session run rate went above seven runs-per-over while the pattern remained the same for a major part of the final session until Crawley’s dismissal. The opener, who registered his maiden Ashes ton, looked set for a double hundred before chopping one onto the stumps.

Root continued to up the tempo although things were relatively comforting for Australia since Crawley’s exit. England’s no.4 soon fell to an unplayable delivery from Josh Hazlewood – a hard length ball that shot through low after pitching to knock Root over. It was the kind of dismissal that would have ironically pleased England more than Australia, given the state of the game as it was evidence of the surface showing some variable bounce.

Skipper Ben Stokes and Harry Brook preferred to water down their aggression to prevent further damage today, with the plan clearly to go hell for leather on day three. There were a few instances again of variable bounce with Stokes being the frequent sufferer and all this adds to England’s advantage with the lead already 67 and six wickets still left in the shed. Australia, missing the presence of a specialist spinner, was largely made to look clueless with the ball adding to questionable tactics.

Brief scores: Australia 317 (Mitchell Marsh 51, Marnus Labuschagne 51; Chris Woakes 5-62) trail England 384/4 (Zak Crawley 189, Joe Root 84; Mitchell Starc 2-74) by 67 runs

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