Valjee puts England in box seat
Umesh Valjee played a captain’s innings as his unbeaten century made England favourites to win the Deaf Ashes for the first time.
The opener carried his bat as the tourists replied to Australia’s first-day 157 with 188. Crucial to that 31-run first-innings lead were stands of 49 and 59 for the last two wickets.
Buoyed by their advantage, England reduced their opponents to 70 for five by stumps with Stephen George taking 3-27 from 21 unbroken overs, including 12 maidens.
That left the hosts, who have held the May/Craven Trophy since its inception in the early 1990s, with a precarious lead of 39 going into the final day.
England resumed on 60 for three with Valjee on 29 but Stephan Pichowski could only add four to his overnight eight before becoming Tim Regan’s third victim.
Yesterday's bowling hero Paul Allen, who claimed 7-30, was soon caught and bowled by Justin Bergin without addition to the score.
Australia’s dominance with the ball, similar to England’s yesterday, continued as Andrew Wood was bowled by Australia captain Kym Daley.
James Dixon and Daryl Sykes followed for ducks to Regan, who finished with 5-56, and Matthew Shenton respectively to leave England reeling at 86 for eight, still 71 behind.
However, Valjee and 17-year-old George Greenway eked out vital runs before the latter fell on the stroke of lunch for 18 from 45 deliveries to a smart slip catch by Tim Bergin off Russ Churchyard.
George heroically occupied the crease for 80 minutes after the interval, while his skipper completed a magnificent 104 not out from 262 balls, featuring 11 fours, in 363 minutes.
Valjee’s collection of classy shots around the ground ended when Paul Welch had George caught and bowled for seven from 55 deliveries.
England maintained the momentum as Allen trapped Adam Vero in front for nought.
Grant Thompson and Luke Trudgett put on 36 before the latter was bowled by Dixon for 25.
Churchyard, who was particularly obdurate, and Thompson crawled along with 13 runs in 14 overs before George cleaned up the latter for 15.
He also saw the back of Bergin for 14, well held at cover by James Schofield, and Welch - Australia’s top-scorer in the first innings with 63 not out - thanks to Dixon’s sharp catch at mid-off.
That left the hosts 66 for five and they added four as Churchyard and Daley finished unbeaten on six and three respectively, the former’s from 102 balls.