Cricket-England face ultimate test of bold attacking approach

By John Mehaffey

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) – England face the ultimate test of the fearless attacking ethos which has revolutionised the national cricket team over the past year when play resumes in the fourth Ashes test at Old Trafford on Thursday.

After England captain Ben Stokes had asked Australia to bat, the visitors reached 299 for eight at the close of the opening day with the hosts needing victories in Manchester and again at in London next week after narrowly losing the first two tests.

Both history and a gloomy weather forecast stand in the way of Stokes’s side and an historic series victory.

Only Australia in 1936-7 have recovered from a 2-0 deficit when Don Bradman scored 270, 212 and 169 in consecutive tests while rain is forecast for Manchester during the final two days at the weekend.

Regardless of the conditions or the forecast, Stokes was always going to insert the Australians when he won the toss for the fourth consecutive time although only 10 captains in the previous 83 tests staged in Manchester have fielded first and none has been rewarded with victory.

England captured the wickets of both openers Usman Khawaja (3) and David Warner (32) in the morning session and their race against time accelerated in the afternoon with Stokes constantly switching his bowlers and manipulating his field placings.

Steve Smith (41) and Travis Head (48) made useful starts but only Mitchell Marsh (51), Australia’s hero in a losing cause with his century in the third test at Headingley, and Marnus Labuschagne (51) reached a half-century.

England pace bowler Stuart Broad, who captured his 600th test wicket on Wednesday when he dismissed Head in the final session from a mishit hook shot, said the team had been delighted to take eight wickets on a pitch holding no terrors for the batsmen.

“Of all the pitches we’ve played on in this series, it feels like the most balls were middled today,” he said. “It felt like if you just missed, you went to the boundary.

“But ultimately there are wicket balls out there as well. When we won the toss we weren’t hoping for 160 all out, we were just hoping for a decent chase. We are going to try to move the game quickly from the start of play tomorrow.”

(Editing by Toby Davis)