There is a sense of relief emanating from the English media by stumps on the first day of the fourth Ashes Test, after tourists enjoyed a rare passage of promising games in Sydney.
Two late blows dealt by England’s bowling attack – the first through James Anderson and the second from Mark Wood – saw guests tease the hosts on a rainy day.
After opening Marcus Harris (38) and first drop Marnus Labuschagne (28) was rejected late in the third session, so another wind-asked referee calling stumps with Australia 3-126 after only 46.5 overs were possible.
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“England began to exercise some form of control – a new experience where cricket studs have generally been on the other foot,” wrote Lawrence Booth of The Daily Mail.
The journalist followed that line with an excavation at Harris.
“England can wonder how they have allowed the weakest member of Australia’s top team to score 152 runs at 30 in this series, a better record than any of their own line-ups apart from (Joe) Root and Dawid Malan. “
Former England captain Michael Atherton clapped for Woods performance on opening day, which ended the day with figures of 1-31 from 10 overs and consistently tested the home side with his fiery pace.
“James Anderson’s two spells, at six overs in the morning and seven in the evening, were the choice, and the second opener, Marcus Harris, fell to him, while Mark Wood’s electric tempo did it for Marnus Labuschagne for the second time in consecutive tests,” wrote Atherton in The Times.
“Wood has only won six wickets in this series, but three of them have been big fish – Labuschagne twice and Steve Smith once.”
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Wood had another admirer in the former English skipper Michael Vaughan.
“Whatever happens over the next two weeks, Mark Wood has been fantastic for England over here,” Vaughan wrote on Twitter.
“Pace and energy every time he bowls, but more his enthusiasm for the game. Aussies love him.”
Former England fast Steven Finn also pointed to the impact of Wood.
“As soon as Marcus Harris was out, you saw Joe Root go to Mark Wood and say, ‘I need a quick outburst from you,’ and it worked,” Finn told the BBC.
“It was a rare day in this series where what England did worked.”
Australia will resume their innings in the morning, weather permitting, with second drop Smith at six and No. 5 Usman Khawaja at four.
England are on the hunt for their first win in the series, having lost the first three Tests in Brisbane, Adelaide and Melbourne as they failed to regain the urn.
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