Steve Smith completed his third century of the Ashes series after being dropped by Jofra Archer as England took just two Australia wickets in the morning session on day two of the fourth Test at Old Trafford.

Smith was untroubled on a dismal, weather-affected first day in Manchester after missing England's dramatic series-levelling win at Headingley due to concussion.

The former Australia captain made a shaky start on Thursday but punished Archer for failing to take a caught and bowled chance when he was on 65.

Smith, unable to play in Leeds due to a blow inflicted by paceman Archer in the second Test at Lord's, went on to score his 11th Ashes hundred - a tally which only the great Don Bradman has bettered.

The tourists were 245-5 at lunch, with Smith unbeaten on 101 after Stuart Broad (3-47) and Jack Leach removed Travis Head and Matthew Wade respectively.   

Smith was even more fidgety than usual when Australia resumed on 170-3, shuffling around the crease, edging and playing and missing early on.

The world's top-ranked Test batsman had a big stroke of luck when he drove a full toss at Archer, who put him down following through and watched the ball run away for four.

Archer generated extra pace than on day one, but it was Broad who was more threatening and he got the breakthrough by trapping Head (19) leg before. 

Australia were 224-5 when Wade (16) had a rush of blood and was well taken by Joe Root trying to launch Leach over the top following a short rain delay.

By then, Smith looked much more like himself, hitting glorious boundaries on both sides of the wicket and he kissed the Australia badge on his helmet and was given a warm ovation when he reached three figures just before the break.

Trinbago Knight Riders all-rounder Jimmy Neesham hailed the contribution of newly minted team captain Kieron Pollard in a narrow 11-runs win for the defending champions over St Kitts and Nevis Patriots, in the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) opener on Wednesday night.  

The in-form Pollard crafted a responsible 47 off 32 balls, as the Knight Riders managed a par score 152 for 7 in their time at the crease.  Man-of-the-match Neesham also made a steady contribution for the Knight Riders, with 33 from 30 balls before claiming 3 for 18 as the Patriots eventually crumbled for 141 in pursuit.  Fabian Allen did his best to get what seemed a makeable target, accumulating 30 from 14 runs to push the Patriots.  His dismissal by Mohammad Hasnain, however, triggered a late collapse with Neesham closing out the game with the dismals of Rayad Emrit and Sheldon Cottrell.

“Obviously we wanted to get off to a strong start here in front of the home fans.  The way Poly batted was exceptional in the first innings to get us up to what was probably just above the par score and then our spinners especially did a great job in defending it,” Neesham said.

Having come up big at crunch time for the Knight Riders, Neesham was quick to admit it was the type of role he had learned to appreciate and hoped to flourish in it for the team this season.

“It’s something I had to learn to love.  I think as an all-rounder batting six and bowling death you are going to be involved in the crunch time and you either shy away from it or you enjoy it.”

 

Craig Overton says it is up to "someone to stand up and be the man" for England with the ball in the fourth Ashes Test after Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith put Australia on top on a rain-affected day one.

Stuart Broad (2-35) had the tourists in trouble on 28-2 after removing David Warner without scoring and Marcus Harris (13) on a windy, wet day in Manchester but they had recovered to 170-3 when play was abandoned with only 44 overs possible.

The in-form Labuschagne (67) and the returning Smith (60 not out) put on 116 for the third wicket before Overton cleaned up the former with a peach of a delivery.

Paceman Overton, playing his first Test on home soil, says England must look to make early inroads on the second day as they eye a 2-1 lead with one match to play.

"We feel like we can come back with a positive attitude and try to make a difference, get someone to stand up and be the man to get conditions back in our favour," said the towering quick.

"We're probably slightly behind but we felt the conditions weren't quite with us today, with the rain and wind.

"We can come back tomorrow, get a couple of early ones and we'll be right back in the game.

"Smith is obviously a world-class player, and he's back as Test number one [in the batsmen rankings].

"He's always going to be difficult but we've got our plans, so we'll try to keep going to them and hope to get him out."

Marnus Labuschagne said it was "surreal" to bat with Steve Smith after the duo frustrated England in the wind on a grim first day of the fourth Ashes Test at Old Trafford.

Labuschagne (67) and the returning Smith (60 not out) made half-centuries as only 44 overs were possible due to rain on a grey, cold Wednesday in Manchester.

Stuart Broad (2-35) reduced the tourists to 28-2 by removing David Warner without scoring in the first over and Marcus Harris (13), but they were 170-3 when play was abandoned due to rain.

Labuschagne made a fourth consecutive half-century since coming in as a concussion replacement for Smith at Lord's, but Craig Overton ended a third-wicket stand of 116 by cleaning up the new number three.

Smith made up for lost time after missing England's dramatic series-levelling win at Headingley as a result of a blow inflicted by Jofra Archer and Labuschagne relished batting with the former captain for the first time in a Test.

"I did think it was a bit surreal I had Steve Smith alongside me. It was great, I love talking to him about the game and learning off him, with that experience of a great player." said Labuschagne.

He added: "Personally I think it's been a pretty good day for us. I think it was tough conditions for everything, to get momentum with bat and ball.

"I think three for 170 is a good day. We wanted to make sure we were disciplined and stayed in because it can turn very quickly out there, as we saw when Overton bowled a very nice spell."

It was not only batting with Smith for the first time in the longest format that Labuschagne experienced, as he guarded stumps without bails due as strong gusts wreaked havoc.

He said: "When they put the bails on you could see the stumps were shaking, it was just a matter of time before they came off. It was very windy out there, I've never played a game with no bails, so that was very different.

"All in all it was pretty tough conditions for bowling."

Craig Overton removed Marnus Labuschagne to end a century stand but Steve Smith was still there with Australia on top when stumps were called due to rain on a gloomy day one of the fourth Ashes Test at Old Trafford.

England paceman Stuart Broad dismissed David Warner without scoring - the fifth time he has snared the opener in a series which is level at 1-1 - before reducing the tourists to 28-2 by removing Marcus Harris.

Labuschagne (67) and Smith (60 not out) then showed why Tim Paine chose to bat on a flat pitch by putting on 116 for the third wicket on a cold, wet and windy day that saw only 44 overs bowled.

The composed Labuschagne made a fourth successive half-century since coming in as concussion replacement for Smith at Lord's, but Overton - picked ahead of Chris Woakes - dismissed him to leave Australia 170-3 when rain brought play to an early end.

Normal service was resumed by Smith after he missed England's dramatic win at Headingley due to the impact of a nasty blow from a Jofra Archer bouncer in the second Test in London as the former captain looked totally untroubled.

The out-of-sorts Warner fell in the first over, edging Broad to Jonny Bairstow when he failed to pull his bat away in time attempting a late leave.

Harris fell leg before for only 13 as the excellent Broad (2-35) built up a head of steam.

There was relief for Labuschagne when he was given not out after being done for pace by Headingley hero Ben Stokes, with England's review for leg before unsuccessful as the decision remained with the umpire's call.

Play continued without bails due to the wild conditions when the afternoon session finally got under way following a lengthy delay, with several stoppages as litter and beach balls blew across the pitch.

Labuschagne reached another superb half-century but was on his way when he was bowled by a beauty from Overton after Smith had gone to 50 with a drive that left him on his knees.

England lost a review when a ball from Stokes struck Travis Head outside leg stump and no further action was possible after the players went off for a late tea.

 

FRUSTRATION FOR BROAD, ARCHER IN ENGLAND ATTACK

It looked as though this might be a day to remember for Broad and England when the bowler began by again getting the better of Warner and then adding the scalp of Harris.

That brought in Smith to resume the battle everyone had been waiting for with Archer, yet the England star, who has enjoyed an outstanding start to his career in the longest format, could not find the same pace or length as in previous Tests as the batsmen swatted away his threat.

Broad had at least looked in good nick but the adverse weather conditions appeared to take their toll, with the wind hindering his deliveries and even blowing the bails across the pitch to his increasing frustration.

ACCIDENTAL AUSSIE PARTNERSHIP PROVES EFFECTIVE

Labuschagne may not have got his Ashes chance in 2019 had Smith not suffered a concussion in the second Test, but Australia appear to have tripped across a hugely effective partnership.

The decision to drop Usman Khawaja looks to have been justified already, with England continuing to enjoy themselves against the tourists' openers but finding a resolute duo at three and four.

Smith was going through his full repertoire of exaggerated leaves by the afternoon as Labuschagne dug in at the other end in another impressive outing until Overton's breakthrough.

MOMENT OF THE DAY

Smith came out looking to make a statement and headed down the track in the direction of Archer after driving the quick through the off side for four.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Labuschagne and Smith were batting together for the first time in Test cricket as they put on 116 for the third wicket.
- Smith has managed eight consecutive scores of 50 or more against England in Test cricket.
- Broad is now outright third in the list of most Test wickets for England against Australia (Ian Botham 148, Bob Willis 128 and Broad 110).
- The England bowler (16) is now just one wicket behind series leader Pat Cummins (17). Five have come against Warner.
- Warner is averaging 11.3 in this series (seven innings); his lowest rate ever in a Test series.

Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith steadied the ship after Stuart Broad removed both Australia openers early on day one of the fourth Ashes Test at Old Trafford.

England paceman Broad got rid of David Warner without scoring in the first over – the fifth time he has dismissed the opener in the series – and Marcus Harris (13) after the tourists won the toss.

Australia were in trouble on 28-2 when Harris departed before the in-form Labuschagne (49 not out) and Smith (28no) took Australia onto 98-2 at lunch on a cool, windy day with rain on the way in Manchester.

Smith, back in the side after recovering from concussion, survived when Joe Root reviewed after he was struck on the pad by Headingley hero Ben Stokes on 21, but umpire's call was the verdict.

The excellent Broad (2-24) saw the back of Warner yet again when the left-hander drew the bat away too late attempting to leave and edged his second ball to Jonny Bairstow.

Harris followed leg before as Broad built up a head of steam in a strong breeze, but Labuschagne and Smith played with great assurance on a good pitch.

Smith came down the track in a statement of intent after driving Jofra Archer for four and handled the short stuff with confidence after a nasty blow from the England quick ruled him out of Australia's dramatic loss in Leeds.

Labuschagne, moving up to number three with Smith fit again and Usman Khawaja dropped, played glorious drives and the former captain – who he replaced at Lord's and in Leeds – was also in ominous touch.

Smith breathed a sigh of relief when Stokes did him for pace with a delivery that came in sharply, but DRS showed the ball was clipping leg stump.

Craig Overton, in for Chris Woakes, bowled with good pace before lunch but Australia – with Mitchell Starc picked for the first time in the series – recovered well from their bad start thanks to Smith and Labuschagne.

Mitchell Starc was recalled to play in his first Test of the Ashes series but will be hoping not to bowl on day one after Australia won the toss and elected to bat at Old Trafford.

Paceman Starc replaced James Pattinson for the fourth match of the series in Manchester, while Marnus Labuschagne moved up to three with Usman Khawaja dropped and Steve Smith returning.

Smith was passed fit after missing England's dramatic series-levelling victory at Headingley due to the concussion suffered when he was struck by a rapid Jofra Archer bouncer at Lord's.

Craig Overton was preferred to all-rounder Chris Woakes in the only change to the England team.

Joe Denly is promoted to open with Rory Burns, with Jason Roy moving down the order to number four.

Tim Paine opted to bat first on what appeared to be flat track despite heavy cloud cover in Lancashire.

Jerome Taylor will replace Pakistan’s Amad Butt in the Jamaica Tallawahs squad for the start of the 2019 Hero Caribbean Premier League (CPL) season.

Johnny Sexton felt he was "blessed" after it was confirmed a thumb injury would not keep him out of Ireland's Rugby World Cup squad.

Sexton has not featured for Ireland this season but is likely to feature against Wales in their final warm-up match on Saturday.

The 2018 World Rugby Player of the Year had been struggling with a thumb injury over recent weeks, but Joe Schmidt included him in the squad for Ireland's World Cup campaign, which begins against Scotland on September 22.

Sexton has confirmed he sustained the injury during a training game and, after a month in a splint, his thumb has healed sufficiently enough for him to be able to make his 84th appearance for Ireland on Saturday, before heading to Japan.

"It’s all good, it was just an unfortunate injury really," Sexton told RTE.

"[I was] playing touch rugby, fitness games and got my hand caught in between someone's legs and I dislocated my thumb.

"Look, I was blessed that it ended up being fine. It was four weeks in a splint and then looking after it, then get out and get comfortable with the ball again and reintroduce the contact.

"Yeah, it could have been a hell of a lot worse. It could have been one of them nightmare scenarios where you have to get an operation and then you are struggling to play any rugby before you go."

Though Sexton acknowledged it was difficult to cope with the thought of possibly missing out on the World Cup, the 34-year-old said the injury did enable him to focus on other areas in order to boost his fitness.

"I did a lot of extra running sessions and conditioning, which is good for me. It's been a long time since I got a long block," Sexton said.

"Sometimes after Lions tours you get a few weeks and then you are back into it and then the next season you are looking after injuries [so] it was good to get an extended pre-season really.

"Hopefully I’ll see the benefits of it on Saturday if I get out there. That first match back is always a shock to the system so I'm nervous about that but looking forward to it as well."

New Zealand wrapped up the Twenty20 series against Sri Lanka with a game to spare courtesy of a four-wicket win in Pallekele on Tuesday.

Having chased down a target of 175 to win a rain-hit opener 48 hours earlier, the Black Caps rallied from 38-3 to overhaul the home side's total of 161-9 with two balls to spare after an unexpectedly dramatic finish to proceedings.

Colin de Grandhomme and Tom Bruce – drafted into the XI to replace the injured Ross Taylor – shared a crucial fourth-wicket stand worth 109 as both posted half-centuries.

Neither were able to see the job through to the end – De Grandhomme was caught in the deep on 59, while Bruce was run out for 53 at the start of an eventful final over that started with the tourists losing two wickets in as many balls.

It appeared to be three in three when Mitchell Santner's slog sweep to wide long on was held by Shehan Jayasuriya, only for the fielder to collide with onrushing team-mate Kusal Mendis and make contact with the rope as he fell to the ground.

Both Sri Lanka players required treatment by the boundary during a lengthy delay that concluded with a six being signalled, drawing New Zealand level on the scoreboard. Santner duly secured victory from the next delivery, smacking it to the same area for four.

The Kiwis had done well in the first half of the contest to restrict their opponents, with Sri Lanka seeing several of their top order fail to capitalise on promising starts.

Opener Mendis made 26 from 24 deliveries at the top of the order while Avishka Fernando eased to 37 before an excellent running catch by Santner ended his innings, giving stand-in skipper Tim Southee (2-18) the first of his two wickets.

Seth Rance was the pick of the New Zealand attack, however, claiming 3-33. The seamer picked up the crucial scalp of Niroshan Dickwella with a clever slower delivery, trapping the batsman lbw for a top score of 39 from 30 deliveries.

The third and final T20 of the series takes place on Friday.

Tim Paine has no doubt Usman Khawaja will recover from a poor run of form that has seen the batsman dropped from Australia's squad for the fourth Ashes Test.

Khawaja has scored a combined 122 runs across six innings so far this series, averaging just over 20 with a high score of 40.

Leading run scorer Steve Smith was absent for Australia at Headingley, as Ben Stokes inspired England to a remarkable one-wicket victory, but the visitors' talisman will return at Old Trafford, with Khawaja the player to drop out.

Marnus Labuschagne seems set to move up to three, with Smith coming in at four, but Paine insists Khawaja – who captained Australia in a tour match at Derby last week – has not been dropped for good.

"Usman is obviously a key player in our side batting at three and he hasn't scored the runs," Paine told a news conference.

"With Steve coming back, it was a tough decision to make on Usman. We think he's still got a lot of cricket left in him, he's got a good Test record over his career and we expect he'll bounce back pretty strongly."

When asked how long Khawaja's place had been under threat, Paine replied: "I'm not sure, I'm not a selector. I give my opinion. It was only spoke about, as far as I'm aware of, this week.

"Usman hasn't scored the runs he would like or we would like, so unfortunately for him Steve missed the last Test and when a player that good comes back someone has to make way.

"It's a good thing for us we've got a player of Usman's quality on the sidelines. It means we're getting our team to where we want to be."

While Khawaja will not feature at Old Trafford, Mitchell Starc could be in line to make his return to Australia's bowling attack, having been selected in the 12-man squad.

"He's in the 12, so he's close," Paine said. "We'll have another check of the wicket today, it looks pretty dry, it's got a bit of pace in it.

"Starc bowled superbly last week at Derby, he's got his length right and we’re really pleased at what he did down there.

"He's a great option for us, we think this wicket might suit him. If we make that call we're sure he'll do a great job."

Paine's captaincy has come under scrutiny following the defeat in Leeds, while England paceman Jofra Archer said he believed Australia became complacent in the third Test.

"Jofra's entitled to his opinion, he's had plenty of those before," Paine responded. "We made mistakes, it happens, we've addressed it as a team, spoke about it honestly.

"I was certainly one of those people that made mistakes. It happens in cricket, we're here, we've moved on and ready for this Test match."

Joe Root admitted Jason Roy "might be better suited at four" as England look to remedy their top-order woes with another batting rejig for the fourth Ashes Test.

Joe Denly had already confirmed he will be promoted to open at Old Trafford this week, while the more aggressive Roy will come in at four in the second change to England's top order in the space of four Tests.

Roy, an ODI star in the Cricket World Cup triumph earlier this year, has averaged just 9.50 in the three Ashes Tests in which he has opened and so Denly, who originally shifted from three to four before the series started, will now face the new ball alongside Rory Burns.

It is a move which England's number three Root hopes can bring out the best of Roy in the longest format.

"Openers have struggled in English conditions," the England captain said at a news conference.

"It's not just us, you look at other sides that have come over and the openers have not performed.

"Jason is a high-quality player, we all know that, but he might be better suited at four. Joe has played good cricket all summer, he's got himself in and looked very good in the second innings [at Headingley], so hopefully he can go and get us off to a good start with Rory.

"We think [Roy] might be suited to the middle order, having seen the evidence over the last three games, so it's a great opportunity for him to make the position his own.

"We've all seen what he can do in international cricket when he gets himself in, hopefully batting a little lower down allows us to do that."

Somerset seamer Craig Overton will replace Chris Woakes for the fourth Test in the only change for England, who levelled the five-match series at 1-1 with a thrilling one-wicket win at Headingley last time out.

England have turned to Craig Overton for the crucial fourth Ashes Test against Australia at Old Trafford, with Chris Woakes the man to miss out.

Speaking at the pre-match news conference on Tuesday, captain Joe Root confirmed Somerset's tall seamer Overton, 25, will feature in a five-day match for the first time since March 2018.

The hosts' batting struggles have been more pronounced, but all-rounder Woakes will drop out of the attack having taken just two wickets at Headingley across 22 overs and scoring a combined six runs with the bat.

Overton has featured in three Tests for England and he dismissed current Australia quartet Steve Smith, David Warner, Tim Paine and Pat Cummins in the last Ashes series.

"At this ground, I think it does perform differently, an extra bit of bounce that a tall bowler gives you, I think that balances out our attack in these sorts of conditions," said Root.

"[Overton] is a competitor. We saw him come into Ashes cricket on debut and straight away looked at home, got himself in a battle and I expect him to do just that this week.

"He's got good control, good skills and can move the ball off straight and I expect him to cause some issues for the Aussie batters."

Though the series is level at 1-1, the manner of England's incredible one-wicket victory at Headingley in the third Test suggests the momentum will be with Root's team at Old Trafford.

"You come off the back of a win like that, it's a big win for the whole squad - for it to happen in the way it did, for us to turn up here with confidence and very much alive in this series," added Root.

"The way we played the week before at Lord's, it started to feel like we were wresting our way back into the series.

"Last week I think we made quite a lot of mistakes and we didn't get it right but through some individual brilliance and resistance in our batting in the second innings, and high-quality bowling throughout - bar the odd spell here and there - we still managed to win in a way

"If we can bring those two performances together it feels like we'll be in a really good place this week as well."

England will be hoping to build on the momentum given to them by Ben Stokes' brilliant match-winning innings at Headingley when they renew their rivalry with Australia in the fourth Ashes Test.

Stokes steered England to an improbable one-wicket success with an unbeaten 135, compiling an unbroken 76-run stand with last man Jack Leach to level the series at 1-1.

Having missed out on the chance to retain the urn in Leeds, Australia will hope to get back on track at Old Trafford, where Steve Smith is expected to return from his concussion-enforced absence.

Here we look at the key Opta numbers ahead of the two teams' next meeting in Manchester.

 

6 - Australia are unbeaten in their past six Test matches against England at Old Trafford, winning three and drawing three. Their last defeat there came in the 1981 Ashes.

11 - However, England are also on a good run at the venue having not lost any of their previous 11 Tests (W9 D2) since a defeat to Pakistan in 2001.

57 - After making his best ever score against Australia last time out, Stokes is now averaging 57 in his 12 innings this calendar year.

242 - Rory Burns has been the most productive opener in a series where top-order batsmen have largely struggled. Burns has scored 242 runs, 163 more than anyone else who has opened - (David Warner 79, Jason Roy 57, Cameron Bancroft 44 and Marcus Harris 27).

9 - Bouncers have played a big part in this series and Australia paceman Pat Cummins has used them to great effect, with nine of his 17 dismissals coming from a short ball. The other bowlers have only combined for four dismissals via that method.

2001 - Should Australia win at Old Trafford, they will ensure they retain the urn and avoid an Ashes series loss in England for the first time since 2001.

58 - England's Jonny Bairstow needs just 58 more runs to reach 4,000 in Test cricket.

357 - Nathan Lyon has now taken the third-most wickets of any Australian bowler in Tests after moving beyond Dennis Lillee at Headingley. He now trails only Glenn McGrath (563) and Shane Warne (708).

378 - No batsman has scored more runs in the recently formed ICC Test Championship than Smith, whose 378 in the Ashes have come at an average of 126.

Steve Smith is back above Virat Kohli in the ICC Test batting rankings for the first time in over a year after the Australia star's fine start to the Ashes.

Even though he has missed the last three innings of the series due to a concussion-enforced absence, Smith has scored 378 runs - the most of any batsman - against England at an average of 126 in his first Tests since his year-long ban.

Kohli had held top spot in the rankings since August 2018, when Smith was displaced for the first time in three years while serving his suspension for his role in the ball-tampering scandal.

However, a second-innings golden duck against West Indies in Jamaica on Sunday meant Kohli was one point behind the Australian when the rankings were announced on Tuesday.

India skipper Kohli has not made a century in his three Tests this year and could now fall further behind Smith, who is expected to return for Australia when the fourth Ashes contest begins at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

Kane Williamson is third in the rankings behind Smith and Kohli, with England captain Joe Root moving up to sixth and Ajinkya Rahane up to seven.

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