Australia vs England: What Does Day 4 Hold?

At the moment the first Ashes Test is finely poised. England’s first innings total of 302 seemed like a par score, but they will be extremely disappointed with their collapse from 246-4. However, a superb unbeaten 141 from Australian captain Steve Smith stole the momentum away from England and gave Australia a handy 26 run-lead in the first innings. Australia capitalised on this advantage in the final session of Day 3. Seamer Josh Hazlewood produced a magnificent spell of 5-1-11-2, as he dismissed under pressure opener Alastair Cook and the in-form James Vince cheaply. This has left England in the precarious position of having a meagre lead of seven, with Mark Stoneman and Joe Root set to resume this morning on 19 and five respectively. Day 4 promises to be a thrilling affair and this Test is truly is in the balance.

Can Stoneman Convert?

Embed from Getty Images
England opener Mark Stoneman has had a very profitable tour so far. He has excelled in all the warm-up matches, hitting three fifties and one hundred. However, while has looked comfortable getting his eye-in, Stoneman routinely fails to convert his fifties into hundreds. This was realised in the first innings, where he was dismissed after battling to 53, and has also been seen in his county performances for Surrey. A large part of England’s fate rests in his hands. Stoneman holds the key for England getting a large total, with this partnership with Joe Root potentially being very potent. If these two batsmen can survive the first hour tomorrow, they will put themselves in a great position to extend England’s lead. On a pitch which is suiting Nathan Lyon more than Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins, a large knock from Stoneman could prove to be invaluable.

Pressure on England’s Middle Order

Embed from Getty Images
Prior to this Ashes series, most of the criticism levelled at this England was side was about how their middle order is inexperienced and weak. However, it was the two least experienced players in the side who made the greatest contributions with the bat in the first innings. James Vince’s 83 and Dawid Malan’s 56 lead England’s solid batting performance, with their stalwarts Alastair Cook and Joe Root falling cheaply in tough conditions. While Vince has already been dismissed, there will be a lot of pressure on Malan tomorrow to replicate his first innings efforts. If he finds himself at the crease before lunch today, a lot of England’s hopes will rest on him. It will be interesting to see how he copes, but judging by his previous international appearances, he may not be able to withstand it. Along with Malan, Moeen Ali and Jonny Bairstow will have to deliver for England to stand a chance of drawing and winning. Both batsmen looked uncomfortable against the short ball, meaning that we could see a barrage of bouncers from Starc and Cummins tomorrow when they bowl at England’s middle order.

Nathan Lyon: The Main Threat

Embed from Getty Images
It is rather surprising that off-spinner Nathan Lyon has been the biggest threat to the English batsmen in this Test so far. With a seam attack of Starc, Hazlewood and Cummins, arguably the best in the world, it was interesting to see how the Brisbane pitch was slow and offered heavy turn from the afternoon of Day 1. As a result, Lyon bowled the most overs in the first innings and was a continuous threat. However, while he routinely beat the bat, especially when bowling to the left-handers, he has not been aggressive enough. For a player who made some outrageous pre-match comments about Matt Prior, he has been rather defensive in his ploy to bowl outside off. Not enough of his deliveries are going to hit the stumps, which has angered many of the commentators throughout the Test. Lyon holds the key for Australia tomorrow, but he will need to be more attacking and try to force a breakthrough himself, rather than wait for an error from the batsman.

Weather and Pitch Condition

There have been a few showers during the Test so far, but today looks to be clear and sunny. Forecasts indicate only a 20% chance of rain, paving the way for a full and uninterrupted day’s play of cricket. In terms of the pitch, it seems to have deteriorated slightly, offering even more turn recently. Lyon bowling at the end of the day yesterday engineered some huge turn, but there was still some life in it for the fast bowlers.

Main Photo:
Embed from Getty Images