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Smith holds the key for Australia as Ashes Test hangs in balance
Match Report

Smith holds the key for Australia as Ashes Test hangs in balance

Australia are desperate for another rescue act from Steve Smith after England secured a crucial first-innings lead of 90 runs on day three of an absorbing Ashes contest at Edgbaston.

Bad light could not ensure a full day's play with Australia reaching 124-3 by stumps - a lead of just 34 runs.

Smith, who top-scored with 144 in Australia's total of 284 in his first Test innings following the expiry of his 12-month ban for ball-tampering, was unbeaten at 46 partnering Travis Head for the fourth wicket.

Australia, still in search of their first Ashes win on English soil in 18 years, got off to a poor start as David Warner and Cameron Bancroft both fell cheaply for the second time in the match.

The pattern of incorrect umpiring decisions continued in the second innings with England having to review Joel Wilson's not out verdict off an appeal for Warner's caught-behind to see the back of the aggressive left-hander.

Warner trudged in the direction of the pavilion as booming chants of "same old Aussies, always cheating" greeted him from the English fans. 

The early scalp also provided Broad with a personal milestone, achieving the 450th wicket of his illustrious Test career.

Broad shouldered the responsibility of spearheading the bowling attack in the absence of James Anderson, who was forced off the field on Thursday due to a calf injury.

England's premier spinner Moeen Ali then had Bancroft toss a simple chance to Jos Buttler fielding at short leg.

The partisan crowd turned increasingly hostile when Smith arrived at the crease with distasteful taunts welcoming him.

Chants of "crying on the telly, we saw you crying on the telly" - a reference to his teary press conference in the aftermath of the ball-tampering controversy - were widespread as he walked out into the middle.

Moeen later almost had Usman Khawaja caught in the slips but this time around Buttler spilled a tough chance. 

Khawaja could not convert a start and perished for an attractive 40 to Ben Stokes' sharp in-dipper.

Smith receives a concussion scare

Smith, batting on 41, was beset by a well-directed bouncer from Stokes that hit him flush on the helmet.

The former captain was then declared fit to resume batting after being checked by the team doctor to ensure he had not suffered a concussion.

Soon, dark clouds hovered around the stadium diminishing the visibility and the umpires finally decided light was not suitable enough for further play.

Earlier in the day, England opener Rory Burns ended his eight-hour vigil at the crease with a career-best 133 but the hosts immediately faltered after his dismissal.

England lost their momentum when they slumped to 300-8, leading by merely 16 runs.

The ninth-wicket partnership between Chris Woakes and Stuart Broad, however, revived England's dominant position in the match as the two added 65 runs to their side's total.

The visitors' pacer Pat Cummins was the pick of the bowlers with impressive returns of 3-84 while Nathan Lyon also chipped in with 3 wickets. 

A compact Burns and an exuberant Stokes resumed batting on the third day at England's overnight score of 267-4.

Stokes was instantly dismissed after reaching his half-century trying to play a cut shot off Cummins while Lyon removed the patient Burns with a loopy off-break.

Moeen's abysmal batting form persisted when he erred in his judgment and shouldered arms to a straight delivery from Lyon and was clean bowled for a pitiable duck.

But Woakes and Broad rebuilt for England steadily and acquired a vital first-innings advantage.