A solid partnership from Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne has seen Australia get off to a steady start to the fourth Ashes Test at Old Trafford, as rain played its part on the opening day.
Smith was 60* when play was abandoned, while Labuschagne fell shortly before the belated tea break for a composed and confident 67 as Australia closed play at 3-170.
Only 44 overs were bowled on day one, and despite some early jitters Australia’s batsmen managed to negotiate most of them well.
Having won the toss and elected to bat, Australia got off to a poor start with David Warner (0) again the loser in his running battle with Stuart Broad.
From around the wicket, Broad’s second ball to Warner was wide of the left-hander’s off stump, but the struggling Australian opener could not help but nibble at it, presenting keeper Jonny Bairstow with a comfortable catch.
Broad’s tail was up, and soon after he added the scalp of Marcus Harris to his tally. Again around the wicket, Broad angled one in to Harris and struck him on the pad in front of the stumps, with a subsequent review unable to save him.
But while Broad was bowling well, Jofra Archer’s pace was down, and not even the arrival of new rival Smith could inspire England’s rising star.
Smith and Labuschagne settled in at the crease quickly, and the scoring rate picked up with them.
England’s bowlers looked eager to test both of Australia’s in-form batsmen with straight bowling, targeting the stumps, but Smith and Labuschagne relished the free runs on offer off their pads.
They made it to tea with relative ease, pushing the score up all the while, before the first rain delay halted progress.
Little changed upon resumption. Labuschagne moved past 50 — his fourth from four knocks this series — and despite the gloomy conditions and sporadic rain, the partnership continued unabated.
The weather proved the biggest challenge of the day, with heavy winds blowing rubbish and a beachball onto the pitch, and frequently knocked the bails from the stumps.
But in between the inclement weather, the batting remained solid. Smith reached his 50 too, with a quite ridiculous shot through the covers, while effectively down on both knees.
It looked as if the pair would bat through the session, until Craig Overton disrupted the partnership with a sensational delivery that cut back at Labuschagne, found a way through his defences and clipped his off bail.
Travis Head survived some nervous moments to reach the tea break alongside Smith, before one last downpour ended the day’s action prematurely.
See how the action unfolded in our live blog.