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Lower-order resistance leaves Australia pondering pace options

Mitchell Starc claimed a solitary wicket on the second day Getty Images

Australians 266 for 5 dec and 92 for 1 (Harris 62*) lead Worcestershire 201 for 9 dec (Milton 74, Morris 53*, Hazlewood 3-34) by 157 runs

During a pesky lower order stand between Chris Woakes and Stuart Broad that looked to have given England a significant advantage at the midpoint of the Edgbaston Ashes Test, a common refrain throughout was how the pace of Mitchell Starc and perhaps the bounce of Josh Hazlewood might have been handy to clean up the tail.

Certainly both have been known to do the trick at times in the past, but their chances of selection for the Lord's Test next week were not exactly aided by a day on which Worcestershire, having limped to 75 for 8 after a flurry of morning wickets, wriggled their way to 201 for 9 and gave their captain Joe Leach the pleasure of declaring the innings closed.

Starc and Hazlewood's chief frustraters were Worcestershire's second-string wicketkeeper Alex Milton and the right-arm seamer Charlie Morris, who played their shots with steadily increasing ferocity across a stand of 88 that was only ended by the part-time legbreaks of Marnus Labuschagne.

The union may have been ended somewhat earlier, only for Starc to have bowled a no-ball when he sent Morris' off stump cartwheeling out of the ground on 12, before he and Hazlewood were spelled for much of the latter part of the partnership. Starc was back on, however, for the subsequent partnership of 38 between Morris and the last man Adam Finch, concluding an analysis that read 11.5-2-29-1 for the day.

Hazlewood, with 3 for 34 from 15 overs for the innings and 1 for 32 from 11 for the day, took the best innings figures, though he too would have been somewhat nonplussed to have a diminishing impact as the innings went on. Michael Neser (2 for 32 from 12 overs) fulfilled the role he is on tour to perform as a back-up merchant for the frontline.

Whether that is enough to convince the selectors that Australia could do with Starc's speed or Hazlewood's trajectory at Lord's will be more or less up to the selection chairman Trevor Hohns and the captain Tim Paine, with the coach Justin Langer not venturing to Worcester and taking a brief sojourn in London between Tests - likewise Steven Smith, David Warner, Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon.

The closure from Leach - who took some time to get the attention of Morris and Finch to actually do so - provided the Australians with the full final session in which to bat. Cameron Bancroft spent 40 halting balls over 7 before edging behind, but Marcus Harris was rather more fluent in gliding to 62 from 78 balls by stumps.

Mitchell Marsh was promoted to No. 3 to be given the chance for some time at the crease. In being beaten numerous times outside the off stump he showed himself still to be more of a lower-middle order player on a pitch that had, by the evidence of Worcestershire's tail, eased considerably on the seam it offered on day one.

What happens next in this match will be largely determined by the forecast for Worcester over the next 24 hours, with heavy overnight rain predicted, almost to the level of the storms that forced Australia A's earlier fixture here to be shifted to Kidderminster.

Australians 3rd innings Partnerships

WktRunsPlayers
1st31MS HarrisCT Bancroft
2nd72MR MarshMS Harris
3rd21MR MarshM Labuschagne