Ashes battle set to resume after early lunch as rain clears

BIRMINGHAM: Rain was clearing at Edgbaston on Tuesday with play in the final day of a compelling first Ashes test between England and Australia scheduled resume at 1315 GMT after an early lunch was taken.

Damp patches on the outfield were still being mopped up after heavy rain but drier conditions are forecast for the afternoon.

The match is delicately poised after a see-saw battle on Monday with Australia on 107-3 in their second innings chasing a victory target of 281 to take a series lead.

England’s most successful Ashes bowler Stuart Broad had swung the pendulum in favour of the hosts with a sensational spell shortly before stumps on Monday, removing Marnus Labuschagne and Australia talisman Steve Smith.

Australia had reached 61 without loss after bowling England out in their second innings for 273 before Ollie Robinson had David Warner caught behind and then Broad grabbed the spotlight.

Australia opener Usman Khawaja, who scored a superb century in his side’s first innings 386, was unbeaten on 34 with night watchman Scott Boland on 13 not out.

England will be favourites for the very fact that run chases of more than 200 are notoriously difficult, as Australia found in the 2005 thriller at Edgbaston when they chased 282 and were bowled out three runs short.

Australia’s need the joint second-highest successful chase at Edgbaston to win and the omens are not on their side.

In the past decade, Australia have been set a fourth-innings target of 200-plus on 22 occasions and have won only two.

Australia do have plenty of batting left in the form of Travis Head, Cameron Green and Alex Carey but their tail was no match for England’s bowlers in the first innings with the last four wickets tumbling for 14 runs.

Whatever the outcome, the first test has exceeded all expectations with England’s ‘Bazzball’ tactics having Australia hanging on grimly for large chunks of the match until the visitors briefly got on top on Monday.

“It’s one of those days when both teams will come to the ground with a genuine belief they can win the game which is a great place for test match cricket to be,” Broad said after his heroics on Monday, looking ahead to the climax.

“Ashes cricket is just magical.”

All tickets were sold for the final day. —Reuters

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