England close in on Ashes series victory
Engand can reclaim the Ashes trophy on Saturday after reducing Australia to 241 for 7 in their second innings. During Friday's second day of the fourth test, it was the turn of Ben Stokes to be the scourge of Australia's batsmen. He took 5 for 35 to dispel any hopes of a comeback.
That the fourth test will offer up a third day is slightly misleading. Bad light stopped play on the second day with Australia reeling in their second innings still 90 runs of making England bat again and with three wickets remaining.
Day three on Saturday at Trent Bridge will be about when defeat arrives.
For a brief spell on Friday, there seemed to be soupcon of a game. England resumed the second day on 274 for 4. There was something of a collapse as they declared their first innings on 391 for 9, a lead of 330. It looked healthy enough.
But when the Australian openers Chris Rogers and David Warner started to pile up the runs, it appeared that England had failed to be ruthless. The pair made 113 for the first wicket before Rogers was claimed by Ben Stokes.
Warner followed 17 runs later also off Stokes’s bowling. When Shaun Marsh and Steve Smith were both dismissed with the score on 136, the end appeared nigh.
Only Adam Voges injected defiance into the middle order. His doughty unbeaten 48 will give Australia some hope of at least making England bat again especially if their tailenders can amass some runs.
But with Stokes boasting second day figures of 5 for 35, the 24-year-old will be keen to add to his haul. Friday's second day was his turn to be the star bowler after Chris Broad’s 8 for 15 during Australia's imploded first innings on Thursday morning.
Broad has been – by comparison with his Thursday pyrotechnics – useless. He’s only taken one wicket. He may well increase his tally on the third day. But he’ll have to compete with Stokes.
"We’re in an unbelievable position,” said Stokes at the close of the second day. “The crucial thing is that we go out on the third day and make sure that we don’t have to go out to bat. Their tail end batsmen wagged a bit in the third test at Edgbaston so hopefully we can just get the job done.
Australia bowler Mitchell Starc will have bitter sweet memories of Trent Bridge. He took a career best 6 for 111 during England’s first innings.
“Taking six wickets was special with this being an Ashes series,” said the 25-year-old. “But I’d rather we were heading into day three in a better position.”
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