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Smith, Labuschagne hit fifties on rain-hit first day

Steve Smith resumed batting duties for Australia since suffering a concussion with another composed half-century to steer Australia towards safety on a rain-marred first day of the Ashes Test at Old Trafford.

Smith was unbeaten on 60 at stumps with Australia reaching a total of 170-3 on a dreary day where the England bowlers could squeeze in only 44 overs.

The star batsman extended his supreme record over England with his eighth successive fifty over the Ashes rivals - going back to his exquisite batting displays in his side's home series victory in 2017/18.

Australia were jolted early by a double strike from veteran paceman Stuart Broad with the visitors reduced to 28-2 in the first hour of play.

Smith's arrival brought calm to Australia's jittery innings as he forged a 116-run stand with Marnus Labuschagne, who hit his fourth consecutive fifty-plus score in the series ever since he replaced Smith as a concussion substitute at Lord's.

Smith had to withdraw from the cricket action after being felled by a nasty blow from Jofra Archer in the second Test of the series, which forced him to complain about symptoms of delayed onset of concussion.

He thus had to sit out England's remarkable one-wicket win at Headingley that was made possible by an extravagant knock from Ben Stokes.

Broad continues to dominate Warner

Australia captain Tim Paine's decision to bat first under overcast conditions immediately backfired as Broad had David Warner nick one behind to the wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow just four deliveries into the innings.

Warner's second-ball duck marked his sixth single-digit score in seven innings and the fifth instance of him being dismissed to Broad in the series.

Marcus Harris soon followed his opening partner when he was trapped lbw by Broad bowling a nagging line from around the wicket.

Harris' departure brought Smith into the middle, who starred with twin centuries in Australia's 251-run drubbing of England at Edgbaston.

Smith, with his idiosyncratic shuffles in the batting stance, then proceeded to nullify the threat posed by England's pace attack with crisp drives through the off-side.

He later reached fifty with a peculiar drive off the bowling of Stokes as he stretched his arms and bent his knees to middle the ball to the boundary fence.

Labuschagne, who had earlier survived an lbw appeal and a subsequent review from England, was eventually bowled by Craig Overton for a healthy contribution of 67 runs.

Travis Head often found himself in a tangle as he survived several close calls but did just enough to see Australia through to the end of the day without further damage.

Intermittent rain accompanied by increasingly windy weather was the major killjoy in Australia's battle against a spirited England bowling unit.