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England vs Australia, Old Trafford Test, Day 3 Talking Points, Pat Cummins, David Warner, Jonny Bairstow, Steve Smith, video, cricket news

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England is six wickets away from setting up an Ashes series decider at The Oval, with Australia staring down the barrel of a humiliating defeat in Manchester.

The hosts blasted 592 in the first innings, with wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow left stranded on 99 not out after a dazzling Bazball-inspired blitz on Friday afternoon.

In response, Australia collapsed to 4-113 at stumps on day three, still trailing by 162 runs, with Marnus Labuschagne (44*) and Mitchell Marsh (1*) unbeaten overnight.

Meteorologists are predicting heavy downpours in Manchester this weekend, giving the Australians a glimmer of hope for a miraculous draw.

‘STUPID CRICKET’: AUSSIE TACTICS TORN TO SHREDS

Australia’s “predictable” and “negative” tactics were heavily scrutinised as England registered 592 in the first innings at Old Trafford on Friday.

After the fifth-wicket partnership between captain Ben Stokes and Harry Brook grew past fifty on Friday morning, Australia turned to Plan B — putting six fielders on the boundary rope and dropping short.

The tactical change halted England’s momentum but allowed Stokes and Brook to comfortably rotate the strike — the Australians were seemingly waiting for the batters to make a mistake rather than looking to unearth a breakthrough.

“Australia doesn’t have a proper method right now other than hope. They need the batters to make a mistake,” legendary commentator Jim Maxwell growled on BBC Test Match Special.

“The most predictable, stupid cricket. It’s nothing cricket.”

Australia didn’t take the second new ball when it became available in the 80th over, wary that it would be easier for Stokes and Brooks to find the boundary rope against a fresh Dukes pill. Rather than hunting wickets, the Australians were cautious of stemming the flow of runs.

“The Australian approach is very similar to yesterday, negative,” former England spinner Vic Marks said on BBC Test Match Special.

“The Aussies are playing with a mindset that it is definitely going to rain all weekend. They’ve had a very unlike-Australia attitude.”

Cummins finally took the second new ball in the 91st over, and Josh Hazlewood claimed four quick wickets in a productive 22-ball burst.

“I just don’t understand why they didn’t take it sooner,” lamented former England cricketer Alex Hartley.

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Australian bowler Josh Hazlewood. Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP
Australian bowler Josh Hazlewood. Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFPSource: AFP

After England tailender James Anderson walked out to bat, Australia placed all nine fielders on the boundary rope for Jonny Bairstow, looking to get the wicketkeeper off strike.

Bairstow, who boasts one of world cricket’s most powerful pull shots, responded by repeatedly punching Australia’s seamers into the stands.

Australia’s quicks resorted to bowling down the leg side to prevent Bairstow from farming the strike, but Carey couldn’t prevent several wayward deliveries from sailing through for four byes.

Former Victorian wicketkeeper Darren Berry tweeted: “This is unwatchable. Goodnight to all lovers of the game of our great game of cricket. This is absolutely insane to anyone watching this s*** with half a clue about the game. Enough is enough.”

Australia’s bowlers bombarded Anderson with bouncers — the 40-year-old looked uncomfortable against the short-pitch barrage, but survived 17 deliveries as he combined with Bairstow for a frustrating 66-run partnership for the tenth wicket.

Anderson was eventually dismissed by the first delivery he faced that would have struck the stumps, trapped LBW by Cameron Green.

“Australia got a little carried away with the short stuff,” former Test captain Taylor said on Channel 9.

“There has been too much short bowling … they are better than that.

“Yes, bowl short stuff, but don’t get carried away with it.”

James Anderson of England. Photo by Clive Mason/Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

‘WELCOME BACK’: BAIRSTOW REPAYS SELECTORS’ FAITH

The Old Trafford crowd was denied one of the all-time century celebrations after Jonny Bairstow was left stranded on 99 on Friday afternoon.

The England wicketkeeper has been under enormous pressure throughout the Ashes series, having dropped a handful of catches, missed a regulation stumping and registered five consecutive scores of less than 21. There were calls for him to hand over the wicketkeeping duties to Ben Foakes ahead of the Old Trafford Test.

However, Bairstow responded emphatically to his critics in Manchester this week, outclassing Australian counterpart Alex Carey with bat and gloves.

The 33-year-old held onto a superb one-handed catch to remove the dangerous Mitchell Marsh in the first innings, and England teammate Stuart Broad warned he’d take that added confidence into his batting.

Broad’s prediction came to fruition when Bairstow fell agonisingly short of breaking Ian Botham’s record for fastest Test century at Old Trafford on Friday afternoon. His vicious demolition, which featured ten boundaries and four sixes, made Australia’s world-class bowling attack look amateurish.

Jonny Bairstow of England. Photo by Clive Mason/Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

Pat Cummins placed nine fielders on the rope for Bairstow, but the right-hander responded by repeatedly peppering Australia’s quicks over the leg-side boundary. It was reminiscent of the Bairstow that dominated the Test arena during England’s 2022 home summer.

“We know the capabilities of Jonny Bairstow, he’s one of the best all-format batters in the world, but how he made his runs today was a real statement,” former Sri Lankan wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakkara said on Sky Sports.

“It’s also a follow on from the fact he kept really well in this match. For most keepers, who are genuine all-rounders with the bat, they do go hand-in-hand.

“He’s such an invaluable player for England. The way he put the bowlers to the sword, clearing the lines at will, really dampened the Australian spirits.”

Former Australian bowler Glenn McGrath continued on BBC Test Match Special: “For Bairstow to go out and bat like that would have given him confidence and it transferred into his wicketkeeping. Maybe that’s what he needed to get things going.”

Bairstow currently has more fifties in this Ashes campaign than Steve Smith, Marnus Labuschagne, David Warner and Carey, while his series batting average climbed to a respectable 40.00.

The Yorkshireman, who recently recovered from a horrific leg injury, has well and truly repaid the selectors’ faith.

“There’s obviously been a lot of talk, some of which has been a bit out of order, to be honest,” Bairstow said at stumps.

“They can say what they want. That’s up to them. They’re paid to have an opinion. If they don’t have an opinion, they don’t have a job.

“When you’re told that you might not walk properly again, never mind run or play professional sport again, I’m immensely proud of the determination that I’ve shown and the commitment to get back.”

England’s Jonny Bairstow. Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFPSource: AFP

WARNER’S SPOT ONCE AGAIN ‘UNDER THE MICROSCOPE’

David Warner’s dismissal on day three of the Old Trafford Test was reminiscent of the tentative, indecisive opener Stuart Broad terrorised in England four years ago.

The left-hander, having just been beaten on his outside edge, didn’t know whether to leave a Chris Woakes delivery that would have missed the stumps. Warner initially shaped to shoulder arms, but dropped his bat at the final moment, with the ball ricocheting off his inside edge onto the pegs.

The 36-year-old looked back at his stumps and dropped his head in disbelief. He had wasted another start, trudging off for 28 — there were no smiles from the New South Welshman on this occasion.

“Warner will hate that dismissal today, because people are looking and wondering about his position,” commentator Jonathan Agnew said on BBC Test Match Special.

“His place is under the microscope.”

Since the start of the 2019 Ashes, Warner has averaged 17.00 in the United Kingdom with two fifties in 20 knocks — approaching the end of his fourth Ashes tour, he is still searching for his maiden Test century in England.

Warner’s most recent Test hundred outside of Australia was nearly six years ago, back in September 2017.

The veteran opener has indicated that he wants to end his Test career with a farewell match at the SCG next summer, but national selectors may be tempted to look elsewhere before then.

However, former Australian wicketkeeper Ian Healy declared that Warner should play the fifth Ashes Test at The Oval.

“He made some steps again today, both innings he’s improved,” Healy said on Channel 9.

“He was good on his feet, now his bat is coming down nicely, watching the ball right onto the bat much better in that innings; until the one misplaced shot and he finds himself in the sheds.

“He’s not getting much luck.”

Test batting average since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic

60.54 — Usman Khawaja

49.80 — Marnus Labuschagne

49.05 — Travis Head

46.85 — Steve Smith

33.50 — Cameron Green

32.16 — Alex Carey

28.26 — David Warner

David Warner of Australia. Photo by Clive Mason/Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

SMITH’S SECOND-INNINGS WOES CONTINUE

Unfortunately for the Australians, Steve Smith hasn’t been able to replicate his Ashes heroics from four years ago.

Since his exceptional century at Lord’s, Smith’s contributions with the bat have been minimal, registering scores of 34, 22, 2, 41 and 17 against England.

On day three of the Headingley Test, the 34-year-old attempted to guide a Mark Wood bouncer towards fine leg but instead gloved it through to wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow. Smith was marching towards the sheds before umpire Joel Wilson could even make a decision.

It continued a worrying trend for the New South Welshman in the second innings of Tests — since December, Smith has averaged 24.38 when batting in the second innings, with two fifties in 22 knocks. Away from home, that figure drops to 19.25 with no half-centuries in ten digs.

The difference between Smith’s Test batting average in the first and second innings throughout his entire career is also jarring, with the right-hander averaging 73.34 and 38.19 respectively.

Incredibly, Smith has never scored a century in the fourth innings of a Test match.

Steve Smith’s Test batting average by innings

1st — 85.21

2nd — 55.19

3rd — 42.77

4th — 28.38

Steve Smith of Australia. Photo by Clive Mason/Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

‘CAPTAIN CALAMITY’: CUMMINS’ NIGHTMARE IN THE FIELD

Australia prides itself on exemplary fielding at Test level, but that certainly wasn’t the case during England’s first innings at Old Trafford.

After dropping a regulation catch on day two, captain Pat Cummins was guilty of neglecting to back up a return throw at the non-striker’s end, gifting England an extra couple of runs.

The New South Welshman then missed a chance to run out Ben Stokes in the 64th over, handing his rival skipper an extra life on 7.

On Friday morning, Alex Carey fumbled a return throw from substitute fielder Michael Neser and botched another run-out opportunity, gifting Stokes another life on 32. The Durham all-rounder finished on 51.

Later in the morning session of day three, Harry Brook found himself stranded in the middle of the pitch, but Cummins couldn’t complete the run-out chance at the non-striker’s end, giving Brook a second life on 19. The Yorkshireman was later dismissed by Josh Hazlewood for 61.

Another run-out opportunity emerged in the 108th over with Anderson backpedalling after a moment of miscommunication between the wickets, but Cummins inexplicably threw to the wrong end. He threw up an apologetic wave to his teammates.

Cummins’ body language drew the ire of former Victorian leg-spinner Bryce McGain, who told SEN on Friday: “Pat Cummins from the top is certainly looking a bit tired and worn out.

“I think Pat is pretty exhausted also from thinking his way through and solving all these problems that England are chucking at him.”

Australian legend Ricky Ponting echoed McGain’s remarks on Sky Sports commentary, questioning if Cummins had become “physically and mentally worn out” after five consecutive Tests in six weeks.

Australian captain Pat Cummins. Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFPSource: AFP

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