Ben Stokes limps off to add to England woes on wicketless second morning in Sydney

The Ashes
Ben Stokes

England’s hopes of forging ahead in the fourth Ashes Test fell foul of a wicketless second morning in Sydney, with a dropped catch and an injury to Ben Stokes adding to their woes.

The tourists have already surrendered the urn after sustaining an irretrievable 3-0 deficit in the series but were in a promising position after restricting their opponents to 126 for three on a rain-affected first day.

But they were unable to add to their tally as 51 not out from Steve Smith and an unbeaten 39 from the returning Usman Khawaja took the score to 209 for three at lunch.

England's Joe Root (left ) and Jack Leach walk off as rain stops play
Jack Leach, right, was let down by the catching efforts of Jos Buttler and captain Joe Root (Jason O’Brien/PA)

Spinner Jack Leach should have dismissed Khawaja for 29, but wicketkeeper Jos Buttler and slip Joe Root were both guilty of sloppy handiwork as they combined to fluff the chance. As if that was not bad enough, England had to endure the sight of all-rounder Stokes leaving the field in pain during the very next over.

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He had been bowling a barrage of bouncers in a bid to unsettle the fourth-wicket pair but the effort took its toll as he clasped his side in his follow through and immediately left the field seeking treatment.

With hopes high after a late double strike the previous evening, England walked off the field looking browbeaten once again.

After just 46.5 overs were possible on day one, play was brought forward half-an-hour to try and make up lost time. But instead, the New South Wales weather continued to frustrate as there were three separate rain breaks for passing showers.

Steve Smith celebrated a half-century just before lunch.
Steve Smith celebrated a half-century just before lunch (Jason O’Brien/PA)

The first short passage of play saw England use all four of their specialist bowlers inside eight overs as the Australia duo settled in. The second saw the batting pair move on to the front foot, Smith pumping James Anderson’s first ball back down the ground as he over-pitched and Khawaja striking Leach through the infield.

Smith appeared keener than most to get off when the weather changed again, despite looking perfectly settled, and his eagerness to indulge the interruptions appeared to irk England, who declined to even leave the field during the third, and shortest, delay.

Australia were making steady progress, Khawaja cutting Leach aerially for four to bring up the 50 partnership and Smith always able to manipulate a scoring shot.

When Leach finally coaxed out an error, Buttler was not sharp enough to take the outside edge and Root spilled the ricochet as it arrived at gentle speed and perfect height. England has faced told a story of abject frustration, but that turned to anxiety as Stokes’ short-ball stint saw him injure his left side trying in vain to force the issue.