© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Cricket – Ashes 2019 – Fifth Test – England v Australia – Kia Oval, London, Britain – September 15, 2019 England’s Ben Stokes during the end of series presentation Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers
By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) -David Warner marched to the brink of a century after being reprieved three times in the field but England grabbed late wickets to leave Australia 193 for three at tea on day two of the opening Ashes test on Thursday.
Spinner Jack Leach removed Marnus Labuschagne for 74 and paceman Mark Wood dismissed Steve Smith for 12 just before the break, but Australia’s batsmen came off with a 46-run lead over England’s paltry first innings 147.
Warner was 94 not out and Travis Head yet to score on a sweltering afternoon at the Gabba.
Reprieved by a Stokes no-ball when bowled for 17 in the morning, Warner’s luck looked like it would never run out as he was dropped in the slips on 48 in the first over after lunch and survived a run out chance when on 60.
Warner nicked paceman Ollie Robinson to second slip where Rory Burns, who was bowled first ball by Mitchell Starc on day one, put down a simple catch at waist height just to his left.
Warner later went for a suicidal single after hitting Wood straight to Haseeb Hameed at bat pad, then slipped over and dropped his bat as he tried to get back to his crease.
Hameed, who fumbled the ball before gathering it, still had ample time to aim but his hurried throw flew wide of the stumps.
Warner and Labuschagne marched on to a 156-run partnership, taking to Leach with gusto.
Labuschagne roared towards a century but after smashing Leach for a six he was out the next ball, slashing the spinner straight to Wood at point.
Stokes’ no-ball stoked controversy as TV pictures showed he had overstepped the return crease on three successive deliveries before the wicket ball.
However, the all-rounder was unable to correct his run-up because none of them were called. Broadcasters later reported that the equipment used by the third umpire to check the front foot had broken down.
A no-ball had also denied Stokes his first test wicket in the 2013/14 Ashes, when he over-stepped in having Brad Haddin caught behind in the second match at Adelaide.
Minus pace stalwarts James Anderson and Stuart Broad, the pace attack led by Robinson and Wood kept steaming in but had little luck. They regularly beat the bat and watched helplessly as edges fell agonisingly short of fielders.
Robinson had early reward when he had Marcus Harris out for three in the sixth over, the opener pushing meekly at a fullish ball and nicking to Dawid Malan in the slips.
Root gave a bleak assessment of the wicket from England’s perspective during the morning’s drinks break.
“It has dried out,” he said. “It’s hardened up a little bit. There’s a few dents to work with for our seam bowlers.
“So we’ve just got to trust the areas that we’ve been hitting so far and back ourselves to take chances when they come.”
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