September 29, 2022

Published from Mumbai, Delhi & Bhopal

The Ashes, 5th Test: Australian retain upper hand despite England’s late fightback

Hobart : Continuing their domination in the series, Australia retained the upper hand on the second day of the fifth and final Ashes Test, despite England’s late fightback, here on Saturday.

England were bowled out for 188 in their first innings, conceding a lead of 115 runs, but they picked up three Australian wickets — David Warner (0), Usman Khawaja (11), Marnus Labuschagne (5) in the third session to pull things back. Steven Smith (17 not out) and nightwatchman Scott Boland (3 not out) were at the crease as Australia finished Day 2 at 37-3 in their second innings, leading England by 152 runs.

As many as 17 wickets fell in the day at the Bellerive Oval in Hobart as Australia and England wrestled for control.

Australia didn’t have a good start in their second innings as Stuart Broad sent back David Warner for his second duck in the ongoing Test. Chris Woakes and Mark Wood too got into the act, the former dismissing Marnus Labuschagne and the latter getting the better of Usman Khawaja with a snorter to leave Australia reeling at 37/3.

Earlier, resuming the day at 241/6, Mark Wood gave England their first breakthrough of the day. The pacer bowled a short ball to dismiss Mitchell Starc (3), who top-edged the ball, giving a catch to Rory Burns at square leg. Australia skipper Cummins (2) was the next one to get out and it was again a short ball, which brought a wicket for Wood and England.

Australia were eight down for 252 but Nathan Lyon played a counter-attacking knock to revive the hosts’ innings. The Australian No 10 took on Wood’s short-ball and pulled him away, in front of and behind square, for three sixes, quickly pushing the total to 280, when Chris Woakes removed Alex Carey (24). Lyon finished with 31 off 27 and added another 23 for the final wicket with Scott Boland (10 not out) to take Australia to 303 in their first innings.

Starting the innings for England, the returning Rory Burns survived a probing first over from Mitchell Starc, with the Australians even not appealing for what Snicko showed was an edge. However, his luck ran out soon enough when he got run out. Crawley played a shot to the covers and called Burns for a quick single. Burns (0) was slow to respond and Marnus Labuschagne nailed a direct hit at the striker’s end.

Burns’s opening partner Crawley (18) enjoyed a more positive start, playing three delectable drives to reach 18 off 20 before he was dismissed by Pat Cummins, leaving England in trouble. Thereafter, Dawid Malan and Joe Root didn’t allow the hosts to take any more wickets before dinner.

Resuming the second session from 34/2, Root and Malan began well. Malan was handed a reprieve when he edged a ball from Cameron Green that went unspotted by the fielding side. Soon, the boundaries also began flowing as Root picked up a couple off Boland while Malan hit a brace off Green.

With runs flowing easily, Australian skipper Cummins was forced to bring Starc and himself into the attack. The left-arm pacer went for 13 in his first over but Cummins ended the 49-run stand by strangling Malan down the legside. After Malan’s departure, Cummins got rid of his counterpart with a sharp nip-backer that caught Root on the back-foot and pinged him on the knee-roll for a straightforward LBW decision.

England slid further when Ben Stokes played a Starc delivery towards backward point where Nathan Lyon took a stunning catch, leaving the visitors struggling at 85/5. Boland then returned to the attack and got Ollie Pope nicking to the wicket-keeper.

Things would have been worse for the visitors had Australia held onto a couple of catches offered by Chris Woakes (36) soon after. Warner and Khawaja shelled the catches to give Woakes reprieves. He made that count to an extent, putting on a 42-run stand with debutant Sam Billings (29) and then adding another 30 runs with Mark Wood (16).

Including Woakes, England lost their last three wickets in the space of six runs, conceding a heavy lead. Broad and Woakes then struck early with the ball to send back Warner and Labuschagne and give England a bit of hope.

Brief scores: Australia 303 & 37/3 in 19 overs (Steven Smith 17 not out, Usman Khawaja 11; Mark Wood 1-9) vs England 188 (Chris Woakes 36, Joe Root 34; Pat Cummins 4-54, Mitchell Starc 3-53) lead by 152 runs.

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