England in box seat to win Ashes opener

England outperformed Australia in every facet of the game on day three of the Ashes opener, setting the tourists a victory target of 412 runs in Cardiff.

Joe Root and Ian Bell posted half-centuries to steady their side on Friday, when 15 wickets fell and England amassed a total of 289 in their second dig.

Rain is predicted for Sunday, but, with six sessions remaining, England are incredibly well placed to go 1-0 up in the five-Test series.

History suggests victory is impossible for Australia.

Only one side has pulled off a similar run-chase in Ashes history – Don Bradman’s Invincibles in 1948.

Bradman and Arthur Morris scored tons in Leeds during that Test, chasing down 404 with seven wickets in hand.

There is of course no Bradman or Morris in the current Australian XI.

Those keen to mention Steve Smith in the same breath as Australia’s greatest cricketer were given a stark reminder of why they shouldn’t in the first innings.

Smith, Michael Clarke and Adam Voges all made starts on day two and looked set, but were unable to go on with it.

Shane Watson continued that trend on day three, when he was trapped lbw in the second over of play.

It was the first time in Test history that a No.3, No.4, No.5 and No.6 batsman have all been dismissed in the 30s during an innings.

Whereas England’s tail wagged furiously in both digs, Australia’s bowlers offered less resistance in a collapse of 6-50.

Alastair Cook’s field placings, coupled with disciplined and dazzling bowling, meant Australia were rolled for 308 and conceded a first-innings lead of 122 runs.

England slipped to 3-73 in response.

Mitchell Starc was clearly restricted by an ankle injury he sustained on day one, but started with three maidens and the scalp of Cook.

Josh Hazlewood trapped Gary Ballance lbw in the first over after lunch, while Clarke plucked a spectacular catch to dismiss Adam Lyth.

First slip Clarke flung himself to the right, stuck out a hand and the ball somehow lodged between thumb and forefinger.

But Root and Bell responded with a 97-run stand, while Ben Stokes belted nine boundaries in his knock of 42.

Stokes, Jos Buttler and Stuart Broad went down swinging in a careless collapse of 3-9 in 15 balls, but Mark Wood then slapped a quick-fire 32.

The run-rate was remarkable – England scored 268 runs in 61.1 overs after lunch.


Tests: 7-418 by West Indies v Australia in 2003, Antigua

Ashes: 3-404 by Australia in 1948, Leeds

Cardiff: 8-370 by Hampshire v Glamorgan in 1988.

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