The Ashes: David Warner, Steve Smith and rain halt England’s pursuit of MCG victory
England’s chances of winning the fourth Ashes match suffered a blow in Melbourne after only 45 overs were bowled on day four of the Boxing Day Test.
After securing a lead of 164, largely thanks to Alastair Cook’s unbeaten double century, England took two wickets before the rain came to halt their progress.
Going into the final day, Australia are 103-2 with David Warner (40) and captain Steve Smith (25) at the crease as they look to cut into the deficit and save the match.
Resuming on 491-9, England were unable to build on their overnight score as James Anderson was caught off the first ball of the morning. The bowler’s dismissal did hand Cook yet another record, however, as the opener who moved to number six in the all-time run-scorers list also became the first batsman to carry his bat in a Test match at the MCG, finishing the innings unbeaten on 244.
Facing a deficit of 164, Australia openers Cameron Bancroft and Warner made a solid start to the reply. For once Warner took a back seat in the partnership as Bancroft hit four boundaries to edge ahead of his partner as the stand reached 50. But he then departed for 27 as he chopped on a delivery from Chris Woakes to hand England a much-needed breakthrough.
Five overs later, number three Usman Khawaja was also on his way. After hitting a four and a six, the left-hander tentatively played a defensive shot on the back foot and James Anderson found his edge to reduce Australia to 70-2 at lunch.
England’s accuracy and Australia’s determination to bat long resulted in a subdued start to the afternoon session, with just 16 runs scored from ten overs before and after the lunch break. While the runs dried up, Warner was in complete control and appeared determined to occupy the crease in a similar manner to double centurion Cook.
Alastair Cook has produced one of his greatest ever innings at the MCG
— The Ashes on BT Sport (@btsportcricket) December 28, 2017
The 31-year-old was somewhat fortuitous to survive when he attempted to flick Chris Woakes through mid-wicket, however, with the mistimed stroke narrowly evading Anderson. Smith, meanwhile, struck two boundaries through cover as he soon began to demonstrate the form that has tormented England throughout the tour.
England’s pursuit of wickets was then halted as a heavy downpour forced the players off the field before tea. Further showers ensured play could not resume and play was abandoned with Australia on 103-2, a deficit of 61.
‘Only one team can win from here and that is England if they come out in the morning get a couple of wickets,’ former Australia bowler Glenn McGrath said on Test Match Special. ‘If England break this partnership before Australia get past their total then they are in with a real shot.’
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