Cricket: Steve Smith, Marnus Labuschagne exits give England hope of staying in Ashes contention

Key wickets late in the day have helped keep England in contention in their must-win third Ashes test, with Australia finishing a thrilling day two on 116/4, with a second-innings lead of 142.

More heroics from captain Ben Stokes singlehandedly brought England within 26 runs of Australia's first innings total, after a big-hitting 80, as the hosts skittled out for 237.

England celebrate their wicket.
England celebrate their wicket. Photo credit: Getty Images

Despite losing the early wicket of David Warner for one - to Stuart Broad for the 17th time in the veteran bowler's test career - Australia looked in control and coasting towards a commanding lead.

The cheap wickets of experienced duo Marnus Labuschagne (33) and Steve Smith (2) dragged England back into the match, before first-innings centurion Mitchell Marsh steered Australia through to the close of another gripping day of Ashes action.

When Stokes came to the wicket, England were staring down the barrel of another defeat, languishing on 87/5 and needing their captain to save them, just as he did at Headingley in 2019, to avoid Australia retaining the Ashes early.

After lunch, despite visibly struggling with a variety of injuries, a wounded Stokes took the attack to Australia, hammering back-to-back sixes to pass 6000 international test runs in style.

He could not quite match his Lord's heroics with another century, but his efforts, backed up by some tail-end hitting from his teammates, got England back into the contest.

The sunny conditions were perfect for Australia to settle in and bat for a long period to stretch their lead, but after Warner's wicket went, Labuschagne's Ashes struggles continued, as he again failed to reach a half-century, falling to a poor shot.

Playing in his 100th test, Smith would have been eyeing up another hundred, but ended up clashing with England wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow, who was controversially stumped in the last test, as he left the field.

Both Australian batsmen fell to Moeen Ali, wickets that took the spinner to 200 in test cricket.

England sensed a flurry of wickets to come, as Chris Woakes found Usman Khawaja's edge for 43, but Marsh (17 not out), who hit a century is his first test appearance for Australia since the 2019 Ashes in the first innings, again looked in fine touch.

Travis Head (18 not out) was alongside him at the close, but dismissing Marsh on Sunday will be key to England building on their evening's work at Headingley. 


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