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Ashes Test: Labuschagne, Marsh lead Australia’s fight back: 214/5 on Day 4 at Old Trafford

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As expected, rain had a major say on the fourth day at Old Trafford with two sessions fully washed out. After a long wait, play finally had gotten underway during what would normally be the second hour of the post-lunch session. When play resumed, the odds were heavily stacked against Australia, more so the overnight pair of Marnus Labuschagne and Mitchell Marsh. To their credit, the duo weathered the storm rather solidly, negotiating whatever England threw at them with calm.

A lot of the initial phase was about defiance but Marsh did surprise some with an attacking shot early, a nonchalant drop-kick that wasn’t all that far away from Moeen Ali who ran to his left from deep square leg. That apart, the partnership was mostly compact in their shot selection and gave England very few chances when together. Labuschagne gradually started flowing in terms of run-scoring even as Marsh dug deep at the other end.

A moral victory of sorts came for the pair when, after about 90 minutes of play, the umpires told Ben Stokes that England couldn’t operate their pacers anymore due to fading light. It meant that spin had to be bowled from both ends and Moeen came in, as did Joe Root. It allowed Labuschagne to up a gear as he eased towards a well-deserved Test ton, his second overseas. However, it was spin that would eventually break the partnership.

Shortly after completing his century, Labuschagne appeared to be a tad lazy against Root who was getting some bite off the dry Old Trafford surface, constantly threatening the outside and inside edges. His arm-ball in particular had a bit of fizz about it and that’s what got Labuschagne, whose half-hearted late cut ended up as a bottom-edge which Jonny Bairstow pouched on the rebound. It wasn’t given on-field but Bairstow egged Stokes to review and was proven right.

Cameron Green appeared a bit shaky, particularly against spin, and also survived a review at the stroke of Tea. Meanwhile, Marsh has looked quite flawless at the other end although spin is starting to have a say on this tired surface. England would have fancied to have a few more overs of spin in the final session but that wasn’t to be as the rain returned to wash out the remainder of the day.

The weather forecast for the final day is just as ominous as it was for the fourth day, if not worse. England will hope that they get at least a session like they did today or more as they seek to gun down the remaining five wickets. As for Australia, they showed a lot of fight today in the 30 overs that they had to face but will need to do a lot more of that on a wearing surface, if weather and light permits.

Brief scores: Australia 317 (Mitchell Marsh 51, Marnus Labuschagne 51; Chris Woakes 5-62) and 214/5 (Marnus Labuschagne 111, Mitchell Marsh 31*; Mark Wood 3-27) trail England 592 (Zak Crawley 189, Jonny Bairstow 99*, Joe Root 84; Josh Hazlewood 5-126) by 61 runs

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