England hope for rain
England fought back well on day three thanks to Jonny Bairstow’s century, their first of the series, but they remain reliant on heavy rain to save them from a fourth defeat.
Trailing by 158 with only three wickets left, the draw is resolute in the favourite position at 1.374/11 with Australia 3.8514/5. England are 60.059/1.
Although a grim position for England, all is not lost. The forecast is not good and there may even be an outside chance that they get a shot at redemption if the home side are prepared to keep them keen with a declaration in the second innings.
Things could have been a lot worse. England were sliding to another horrible first-dig effort when 36 for four. They have recovered to give them a chance of a mediocre total. Not bad for them.
Day four: They might make it to the lunch break before rain. But it could be a long wait to get back out there with a 70% chance of rain until 18.00
Day five: A delayed start likely but only a 20% chance of rain from 14.00.
The pitch looks tricky. Batting should, ordinarily, be sedate around the 40 over mark in only the second match innings particularly with batsmen set.
But a spiteful surface was evident when Ben Stokes and Bairstow were together at around that mark and there seemed to be a recognition from both that there would be one with their name on any moment.
It was more reminiscent of a day four, possibly even day five pitch. An old ball was still capable of steepling bounce and keeping low. A good clue is to watch whether the surface breaks up when the ball pitches. That was happening on day two.
In the last ten years, the average number of overs required per wicket in the fourth innings at the SCG is just over nine.
That statistic would appear to damn hopes of a result. The current SCG surface can’t be considered a typical wicket, however.
There is life in the pitch and the game. And Australia could breathe extra life into it with a generous declaration to keep their hopes of a whitewash alive.
When they bat again, they are likely to be putting their foot straight on the gas to try to put time back in the game. It is not unlikely (if they lead by 100-odd on first-innings) that they could set England in the region of 270-280 to win. Such a number seems to be commensurate with a 40-50 over day.
If – and it’s a big if – that’s what transpires then there is certainly room in England’s price for a trade. They would be nowhere near the 60.059/1 mark if Australia were gung-ho.
That would be just before a ball was bowled in the fourth. Australia will look to hit England hard and they will be roared on by the faithful. It could, eventually, be some finish.
Stat of the day
England’s attacking intent increased through the day, a sign that they perhaps knew it was individual glory or bust on this wicket. Their attacking shots rose from 14% in the morning session, to 24% after lunch and 30% after tea.
Runs look high
As entertaining as England’s late flurry of runs between Bairstow and Mark Wood was, it was surely them raging against the dying of the light. Sportsbook’s innings runs quote of 299.5 looks high. You call also go under at even money on the exchange runs line.
Australia should be refreshed on day four, Scott Boland may even be fit to bowl again and Bairstow must start from fresh. The adrenaline that surged through his veins will not be present to stop that thumb from hurting. He took a nasty blow from Pat Cummins.
It looks a very solid short. Moisture in the air and off the pitch will not disappoint Australia’s bowlers, either.
Ashes series day wins tally
Australia 12.5 England 1.5