2nd Innings: Australia in Chase of a Deficit of 331 Runs
Australia embarked upon their second innings with a deficit of 331, and the distressing possibility of a two-day defeat, as England threaten to regain the Investec Ashes with almost indecent haste at Trent Bridge.
England declared at 391 for 9 to give Australia a tricky 10 minutes before lunch on the second day, a classic example of doing what the opposition least want you to do. There was still cloud cover around, though, enough to leave England anxious to begin bowling a second time and extend their bounty.
When Stuart Broad passed David Warner's outside edge four times in the last over before lunch, without success, the challenge that lay ahead for Australia was clear to see.
Mitchell Starc salvaged his best Test figures of 6 for 111 from a match that otherwise has provided unremitting gloom for Australia.
Going anywhere this weekend? Tickets for the cricket may not quite have the value they appeared. Alternative attractions include Nottingham's urban beach, where Australia could have sand kicked in their faces, or outdoor theatre at Nottingham Castle.
After the delight of the first day came the levity of the second as England added a further 117 for the loss of five wickets. Three of them went to Starc, who swung the old ball skilfully, and late, too, and at one stage had six of the first seven wickets to fall.
England resumed at 274 for 4, the Friday crowd expectant. The three-day finish at Edgbaston, with the prospect of similar here, has drained revenue from the game, but it is no solution to cosset batsmen on benign tracks, which might please chief executives but will just remove the imperative to fashion good defensive techniques and create an imbalance between bat and ball that will lead to a creeping sense of disillusionment.
Root, 124 to his name, had played the one innings of quality on the opening day, but he never locked onto the second morning. Starc persisted with wide deliveries outside off stump, aware that they have repeatedly caused his downfall. Root was impatient to punish them from the outset and after several fresh air shots edged one to the wicketkeeper Peter Nevill.
There was curious cricket at the other end, with Mitchell Johnson serving up driveable deliveries to the nightwatchman, Mark Wood, who did not shun the opportunity to do just that. Starc plucked out his leg stump to end the fun and, in his next over, another lavish inducker emphatically cleaned up Buttler, so continuing his unproductive series.
When Stokes fell softly down the leg side against Josh Hazlewood, England, at 332 for 8, had seemed a touch wasteful, but Moeen Ali was joined by Stuart Broad, who had arrived at his home ground to see his 8 for 15 already engraved on the Trent Bridge honours board.
The pair gambolled along with a stand of 58 in eight overs, Hazlewood suffering the indignity of 19 from one over, including two elegant drives on the up from Moeen and a top-edged six by Broad into the beer queue - a strategic position, one imagines, he will be joining himself before too long.
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