And welcome to live over-by-over coverage of day two of the fourth Ashes Test from the SCG which is due to stars half an hour early at 11pm GMT because of the hours lost to rain yesterday. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting an 80 per cent chance of showers this morning and in the early afternoon, saying: “Cloudy, high chance of showers, becoming less likely late this afternoon and evening. The chance of a thunderstorm. Winds northeasterly 25 to 40 km/h.” we’re likely, therefore, to have an on-off day and, with a damp outfield, the probability that the ball will go soft early. It happened yesterday but England managed to get the ball changed in the evening session and bagged the wickets of Marcus Harris and Marnus Labuschagne with the harder pill.
They bowled diligently if typically too short at the start of Australia’s innings, with James Anderson majestic in his third spell, Mark Wood and Stuart Broad were very menacing even if they did retreat as soon as they were driven to the sanctuary of a short ball, and Ben Stokes bowled a few rippers and some dross. Joe Root’s team ought to be pleased with their performance in the field, they saved runs and held on to their catches but their shying at the stumps when the larcenous David Warner and Labuschagne were pinching singles earned them, as usual on this tour, no coconuts.
They have two new batsmen at the crease – Steve Smith resumes on six and seemed fretful against Wood last night while Usman Khawaja, on four, may have that wonderful 171 from his last Sydney Ashes Test to succour him but England have generally bowled well at him during his career. Anderson and Chris Woakes have dismissed him four times each, Stuart Broad three times and Ben Stokes once. Interestingly, though, it was Graeme Swann who had him in most trouble, bagging him five times, while Moeen Ali and Joe Root have dismissed him once each. The mollydooker is supposed to have improved against off-spin over the past four years but it might be worth old golden arm, Root, turning his arm over early if the quicks don’t get him in the first half hour.
Given how poor England’s batting has been this series – scores of 147, 297, 236, 192, 185 and 68 kneecapping the bowlers’ efforts – it would be daft to estimate an Australian first-innings total that England could overhaul. But if they could get them out for under 300, hopefully much less, when par seems to be about 350, it would be a crumb of comfort in this fraught series.