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Ashes: First Test finely balanced as Australia take 34 run lead over England

Australia's Usman Khawaja walks back to the pavilion. (Credit: Getty Images)

Australia hold a 34 run advantage over England going into day four of the first Test of the Ashes.

England ended their first innings on 374 all out, a lead of just 90 runs in reply to Australia’s 284, after a succession of early wickets at the start of the day’s play. Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes did manage to slowly extend England’s advantage which at one stage was looking very slight - the home side certainly would have been hoping for a greater advantage.

But Australia managed to take a lead into day four despite losing three wickets, Steve Smith on 46 alongside Travis Head with 21. The former Aussie captain causing England concern, just as he did in his first innings.

The match still finely balanced going into day four, Australia finishing the day on 124-3.

The day started with the same raucous atmosphere that had been witnessed for the first two days of this opening Test match at Edgbaston.

It took Rory Burns almost 25 minutes to get his first run of the day as he calmly worked his way into the day’s batting, continuing with Ben Stokes at the other end. And it was the World Cup hero who made the first milestone of the day, the 28-year-old reaching his 50 off of 95 balls.

However, the very next over, Stokes was out, edging the ball to Australia captain Tim Paine. The Aussies’ with their first breakthrough of the day to end a partnership worth 88 runs.

As Burns looked to build another partnership, this time with Jonny Bairstow, the 28-year-old was dismissed by Nathan Lyon, edging the ball once again to Paine. An incredible innings for the Surrey County cricketer, the England man departing for 33.

By this point Australia were flying, as England crept to 300, Moeen Ali and Jonny Bairstow were both out. Ali was bowled by Lyon for a duck not playing a shot, and Bairstow caught by David Warner off the bowling of Peter Siddle. Three wickets in two overs for just four runs and England were eight down carrying the smallest of advantages over Australia.

Broad and Woakes had the task of steadying things for England as Australia dominated the morning session, but lunch arrived with England on 328-8 and a lead of just 44. The game finely balanced and the visitors in a buoyant mood.

England's Stuart Broad bats during day three. (Credit: Getty Images)

Lunch appeared to come at the perfect time for England after in the afternoon session the two tail-enders nudged the home side’s lead into a healthier looking position.

The pair had created a partnership worth 65 runs, every run valuable and cheered by the Edgbaston crowd. But with the lead up to 81 runs Broad fell for 29 and the duo’s time at the crease together came to an end. The 33-year old miscuing a shot into the air off the bowling of Pat Cummins and the catch was taken by James Pattinson.

James Anderson was the new man at crease and it looked clear that England’s star bowler wasn’t completely fit, struggling to run between the wickets. After some patient batting the 33-year-old slogged a ball into the air for a simple catch from Cummins.

England ending their first innings on 374 all out, a lead of 90 runs, with play after tea looking crucial to the result of the first Test.

Australia’s openers came out for their second innings but there was no sign of Anderson for England.

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But the Aussies got off the worst possible start. After just three overs Johnny Bairstow caught one behind the stumps from David Warner off the bowling of Broad and everyone but but Broad seemed convinced it had taken a nick.

After a sending it upstairs for a review Warner was dismissed by an edge off the bottom of his bat when trying to get it out of the way and Australia had lost their first wicket for just 13 runs.

Australia's David Warner walks off after being dismissed. (Credit: Getty Images)

It didn’t take long for Cameron Bancroft to follow Warner. The 26-year-old edging the ball straight to Jos Buttler at short leg and the England man made a simple catch. Australia were 27-2. Steve Smith the next man in and the former Australian skipper walked out to the usual chorus of boos

It could have got even worse for the visitors but Buttler who had just taken a catch, put the 28-year-old put down Usman Khawaja when close in at second slip. Buttler got his fingers on the ball but couldn’t keep hold of it.

Australia were looking to rebuild through Smith and Khawaja and just when it looked as though that might happen, Ben Stokes took his second wicket of the match. Khawaja edging the ball to Jonny Basirstow with the slightest of touches. The batsman deciding not to review the decision. Australia 75-3.

England were on top but knew that they would need to get out key man Steve Smith to really take advantage. The 30-year-old’s first inning nock of 144 proved vital to his side in their first innings.

Steven Smith of Australia bats during day three. (Credit: Getty Images)

Australia drew level with England’s score in the 22nd over and Smith was playing beautifully once again. The constantly changing England fields showing just how difficult England are finding him to play against.

Australia’s lead slowly increased and so did their griphold on the match, as bad light stopped play with Australia on 124-3, Smith just four runs away from a half century going into day four.

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