Josh Hazlewood happy to pray for rain as Australia's Ashes lead hangs in the balance

Josh Hazlewood happy to pray for rain as Australia's Ashes lead hangs in the balance

Australia’s lead in the Ashes series has been left hanging by a thread after a horrendous two days at Old Trafford. Now they pray that the rain will help them escape with a tie, though it would be a hollow way of retaining the urn.

The pace of Mark Wood drew three wickets in Australia’s second innings and such was the damage inflicted that the better part of the remaining two days may need to be washed away to avoid defeat, despite opting for a longer batting line-up in this Test. However, it seems that the forecast will come true and the Australians were not trying to hide that they would be willing to lend a hand.
“I would be very happy,” admitted Josh Hazlewood. “Obviously it’s a forecast, but forecasts can change all the time. Obviously rain and light play a big part in cricket and always have. So yeah, it would be great to lose a few overs here and there, and make our job a little easier if I hang in there.”

Different forecasts give varying predictions for how much rain will fall over the next two days, but Saturday looks universally bleak with a bit more uncertainty about the final day on Sunday. Either way, it looks like England may only have a narrow window to force the result that would keep them on course for only the second team to come from 2-0 down to win an Ashes series.

“Weather is weather, and I’m not Michael Fish,” said Jonny Bairstow, referring to the famous BBC meteorologist of the 1980s and ’90s. “Coming tomorrow, if there’s a bit of weather, maybe some overhead, you’d like to hope that we can create some opportunities. The weathermen have been right, the weathermen have been wrong, who knows what’s going to happen? We’ll continue with the same mentality and that will be trying to take another six wickets.”

It was Bairstow who compounded Australia’s woes on day three when they went on an unbeaten 99 to increase England’s lead to 275. Although the visitors had a modicum of success in stopping the scoring before lunch, overall they were debilitating innings for the vaunted attack with Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc scoring 392 runs between them at 5.22 over. It was only the second time the trio had conceded a hundred each in the same inning.

“I can imagine a few games against India on some flat grounds that we’ve made the journey on as well. So nothing too new for us I guess.” [it] it was probably just the run rate,” said Hazlewood, who claimed a five-wicket haul. It was a pretty special punch from Zak [Crawley] and… obviously Jonny and Rooty too. We definitely could have been better in patches throughout the innings and hopefully we could have, but it’s not. So we’ll take a look at it and learn again.”

Hazlewood also defended Australia’s tactics against Bairstow in the final position of 66 with James Anderson, during which the pair said goodbye to Alex Carey on three occasions, so Bairstow could strike back.

“Do you just bowl wide and down and really prevent it from scoring? Or do you try to roll the dice and bounce it and try to get a wicket that way, or do you keep bowling hard and hopefully one goes up the chute?” he said. “But there are times where we could potentially walk away from him all the time.

“We probably saw a new tactic today of running over the bouncers or running at the goalie. It’s just trying to limit his scoring and [trying] different things to try with two balls left, one ball left, keep the tailender in strike for the next over and stuff like that, so I thought we did reasonably well.”