Despite landing heavily on his left shoulder and being unable to throw the ball on his brief return to the pitch, Australia are confident Mitchell Starc will be able to bowl on the third day at Old Trafford.
Starc was hit when he dove at midfield in the 65th over to catch an on-drive from Harry Brook. Briefly, he appeared to be injured as he lay down, but he was able to walk away with the physiotherapist and doctor after first attempting to remain on the ground.
Starc returned at the end of the next over, hoping to bowl late in the session, but after three deliveries of pursuing a ball towards the boundary, he did not feel comfortable throwing and left the field again.
He was given ice after the game, and there were no immediate preparations to send him for a scan, with a further evaluation scheduled for Friday morning. Earlier in the day, he appeared to be in pain in his left leg, having felt it a couple of times when bowling and again, more substantially, after a dive on the boundary, but this was not a cause for concern.
“I think the leg is good; there are no issues there,” Australia’s assistant coach Daniel Vettori said. “We saw what happened on the field; he’s got some ice on it right now, and we’re pretty confident it’ll be fine tomorrow.”
“He’s one of those guys who doesn’t like to spend too much time away from the field.” But he quickly got into a rut as three balls in a row came to him in the field, and he didn’t feel comfortable throwing them. I haven’t actually spoken to him, but that’s how it appeared. We’re all quite optimistic that he’ll be fine tomorrow.”
Starc made Australia’s first breakthrough.
After missing the first Test at Edgbaston, Starc got the first breakthrough for Australia when he found Ben Duckett’s outside edge and added a second when Moeen Ali was superbly held at midwicket by Usman Khawaja.
The remaining two Tests of the series are back-to-back, putting anyone who sustains an injury in this match under time constraints. Reserve quicks are Scott Boland, who has played twice in the series, and Michael Neser.
The most pressing question for Australia is if they can retain the Ashes before arriving at The Oval after suffering a humiliating day at the hands of Zak Crawley and Joe Root. A bad prediction for the weekend may be their best ally, but Vettori said it wasn’t on their minds.
“It all leads to batting exceptionally well in the third inning, and that’s what will set up the rest of the game as well as how well we bowl tomorrow,” he explained. “We won’t have a chance to influence the outcome unless we perform well the next day.” England is in command, but if we can come in and take those final wickets for as few runs as possible, it sets up the final innings, and the weather may play a role in that.”
From England’s perspective, Crawley was not privy to any negotiations between Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum but believed that they would seek as large a lead as possible rather than declaring early on the third day.
“I’m not sure; anything could happen with Stokesy,” he said, “but I think the gameplan would be to bat once while there are two very good players at the crease, Jonny [Bairstow] still to come, and good tail-end batters.” Perhaps if we lose a couple of wickets early on, but I’d have assumed it would be to gain a big lead. We anticipate them to bat well.”
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