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Overton seeks inspiration to scupper Smith's threat

 

High point: England’s Jos Buttler jumps as he attempts to field a shot from Australia’s Steve
Smith on the first day of the fourth Ashes Test
High point: England’s Jos Buttler jumps as he attempts to field a shot from Australia’s Steve Smith on the first day of the fourth Ashes Test

By Rory Dollard

England seamer Craig Overton insists someone needs to "stand up and be the man" if they are to grab the initiative from Steve Smith in the fourth Ashes Test.

The Australian batsman proved his batting was in rude health after sitting out the famous home win at Headingley with concussion, easing his way to an unbeaten 60 after previous scores of 144, 142 and 92 in the series.

Smith's efforts helped his side to 170 for three on an opening day that was restricted to just 44 overs after frequent delays for rain and heavy wind at Emirates Old Trafford and he has now batted for over 13 overs in his four innings to date.

Stuart Broad had earlier given England a strong start, removing David Warner and Marcus Harris cheaply with the new ball, with Overton marking his recall after 18 months by bowling the obdurate Marnus Labuschagne for 67 late on.

The 6ft 5in seamer admitted the tourists had the better of the day but, little more than a week after Ben Stokes' match-winning heroics in Leeds, knows one performance can flip matters on their head.

"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," he said.

"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, 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. 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."

Overton played his first two Tests in the last Ashes tour and added a third cap against New Zealand in Auckland before disappearing off the radar.

He was delighted to be lining up in a friendlier environment this time and equally pleased to pick up Labuschagne with a trademark delivery.

"Making my debut Down Under was really nice but making a home debut in front of my parents is special," he said.

"It's good to be in front of an English crowd and getting a bit of support rather than the Aussies jeering and booing you.

"The over before the wicket, Marnus cut me for four thinking it was the inswinger, but I told him it wasn't.

"Then I bowled him the inswinger. It came out nicely and worked out quite well.

"There wasn't a 'send off' or anything when I got him out, I was just saying 'that one was the inswinger, make sure you keep an eye on it'."

England's pace attack will be hoping for less blustery weather when play resumes, with Overton revealing the crosswinds affected his run up.

Smith and Labuschagne also had their concentration tested, with litter blowing across their eyelines and the bails temporarily jettisoned entirely after they refused to stay in place.

"It was frustrating for everyone," said Labuschagne after his fourth successive half-century - a sequence which started when he became Smith's concussion substitute.

"I had to pull away when the chip packets kept coming past and then a beach ball.

"It was just frustrating for the game in general and England were getting frustrated because we had to pull away. When they put the bails on you could just see the stumps shake and it was just a matter of time before they came off.

"It was very windy out there, I've never played a game where you've played with no bails and it was pretty tough conditions for bowling out there."

Those heavy winds brought an element of farce to proceedings. Litter from the crowd repeatedly blew across the outfield, forcing numerous pauses in play, while Smith gleefully swept a beach ball to the boundary when it skipped on to the pitch and the bails blew off often enough to persuade the umpires to remove them entirely for a brief period. All the while the game was drifting.

In the end Overton made the breakthrough, nipping one back into Labuschagne and flicking the bails - which had thankfully been restored by this stage in proceedings.

Stokes knocked new man Travis Head to the floor with a wonderful yorker but Joe Root frittered a review attempting to convert that moral victory into a wicket.

Scoreboard

Fourth Test Match

Emirates Old Trafford

Australia 170-3 (M Labuschagne 67, S P D Smith 60 no) v England

AUSTRALIA FIRST INNINGS

M S Harris lbw b Broad 13

D A Warner c Bairstow b Broad 0

M Labuschagne b Overton 67

S P D Smith not out 60

T M Head not out 18

Extras b4 lb8 12

Total 3 wkts (44 overs) 170

Fall: 1-1 2-28 3-144

To Bat: M S Wade, T D Paine, P J Cummins, M A Starc, J R Hazlewood, N M Lyon.

Bowling: Broad 10-2-35-2, Archer 10-0-28-0, Stokes 8-0-36-0, Leach 6-2-18-0, Overton 10-0-41-1.

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