Birmignham, July 31 (IANS) Comeback man Steven Finn missed a hat-trick but pulverised Australia with a five wicket haul as England were sniffing victory on an action-filled day two of the third Ashes Test at Edgbaston here on Thursday.
A win will enable England to regain their lead in the five-match series.
Australia managed to score 168 for 7 in their second innings at the draw of stumps, only 23 runs ahead of England with three full days of play remaining on a fast and bouncy track, where pacers have had a ball so far.
Peter Nevill (37) and Mitchell Starc (7) were in the middle.
Earlier in the day, replying to Australia’s first innings total of 135, England put up 281 on the scoreboard, courtesy half centuries from Joe Root (63) and Moeen Ali (59) and a 87-run eighth wicket stand between Ali and Stuart Broad (31).
After the England essay ended in the 12th over into the post lunch session, Australia needed 145 to stave off an innings defeat.
But they seemed close to ignominy, as 26 year old Middlesex pacer Finn (5 for 45) ripped through the heart of their batting in a deadly opening spell (9-1-39-4), even as opener David Warner (77) fought with grit.
The Australian batting tottered from the start, with opener and first innings resistance man Chris Rogers (6) getting struck on the front foot before the wicket by playing the wrong line against Broad.
Six feet seven inches tall Finn, returning to Test cricket after two years, then took centre-stage by plucking out Steven Smith (8) in his second over, as the Australian willower top edged a short of the length delivery.
Playing his 24th career Test, Finn did more damage in his fourth over, getting rid of skipper Michael Clarke (3), who fell to a fantastic low diving catch taken by Adam Lyth at fourth slip.
The England bowler proceeded to devour Adam Voges (0) off the next ball, to be on a hat-trick but Mitchell Marsh denied him the honours.
However, Marsh (6) did not last long, as Finn rattled the right hander’s stumps. Australia seemed in big trouble at 92 for 5.
James Anderson, who had enviable figures of 6 for 47 in the first innings, then ended Warner’s defiance, but Peter Nevill (37) and Mitchell Johnson (14) added an invaluable 42 runs for the seventh wicket in an exhibition of dour resistance that ensured England would have to bat again.
Johnson had earlier in the day taken his 300th Test wicket.
Coming back into action, Finn saw the back of Johnson to complete to claim his seventh wicket of the match and 97th of his Test career.
The arch-rivals are locked 1-1 in the five-match series.