Australia storm to 2-0 series lead

06 December 2017

Australia are one win away from regaining the Ashes after England lose six wickets for just 57 in anti-climactic finish to second Test

Magellan Ashes 2017-18, Second Test


For all the discussion and dissection of Steve Smith’s refusal to enforce the follow-on, Australia’s eventual 120-run win that sealed the second Magellan Ashes Test on Wednesday and took his team to a formidable 2-0 series lead stands as clear vindication of his strategy.

Match wrap: Australia win topsy-turvy second Test

By contrast, his rival skipper Joe Root’s call to defy history and bat first upon winning the toss will likely echo throughout Ashes folklore after the history defying run chase England threatened for the final day wilted under an onslaught from Australia’s quicks.

A final day that tantalisingly promised one of the great Ashes finishes yielded instead an anti-climax as the tourists' final six wickets fell for 57 in less than 20 overs on day five, with Australia snatching two vital breakthroughs in the day's first 10 minutes before Mitchell Starc cleaned up with a new ball.

Sizzling Starc ends England, collects five-fa

Just as many suspected he might have done a few evenings earlier, if given the chance.

The first hour of day five – uncharted territory for the Test game's embryonic day-night format – was always going to decide the match's eventual outcome.

If England were able to re-set their two established batters and see off the early onslaught before the next new ball came due in the day's second hour, they were likely to set a sense of panic among their opponents that might make their chase even more fruitful.

But if Australia was able to slip into a rhythm from the outset then England's task was always going to be huge, and Josh Hazlewood delivered precisely what his team required from the very first ball of the day.

Watch all 10 England wickets to fall

With signs of reverse swing from the pink ball, Hazlewood hit an optimal length and a challenging line immediately and seized the double breakthrough his team wanted almost as quickly.

At the end of day four, Australia had foreshadowed their belief that they retained the front running and that a quick wicket or two come the resumption would set them on course for the win that seemed so likely over the first few days.

But even their most optimistic spit-balling wouldn't have dared entertain a breakthrough from the second delivery of an afternoon start that came – for the first time in the match – in the sort of sun-drenched conditions that batters crave.

In keeping with the recurrent theme of this Test, that dismissal was accompanied by a whiff of uncertainty.

Hazlewood strikes early blows on day five

Chris Woakes, the England allrounder asked to add nightwatchman to his already broad job specification, was drawn towards a ball from Hazlewood that held its line and elicited an excited appeal from Australia’s slips cordon as it settled in Tim Paine’s gloves.

For a second or three it seemed umpire Aleem Dar would remain uninterested and Australia's squandering of their DRS allocation on Tuesday evening would return as the day's early talking point.

Despite an absence of conviction that suggested an element of doubt, which would traditionally be shared with the batter, Dar haltingly raised his finger prompting Woakes to immediately utilise one of England’s two available reviews.

And that proved about as equivocal as Dar's body language, the lack of a smoking gun on Hot Spot overruled by the eyewitness evidence provided by the real-time snickometer that was sufficient to corroborate the umpire’s initial verdict.

Bet365 Play Of The Day - Hazlewood bags Root

If that was the start Australia had optimistically imagined, Hazlewood’s next over delivered the gift of which they had greedily dreamed.

Root, Test cricket's third-ranked batter and the torch bearer for his team’s ambitious hopes of an historic win, was knocked over without adding to his overnight score.

His dismissal underscored why hefty fourth innings run chases have been such a rarity across 140 years of Test cricket as the fifth-day pitch – regardless of whether it's dropped in or home grown – yielded a ball that failed to bounce as expected and took the bottom of Root’s bat.

Ouch! Overton misjudges Cummins bouncer

In less than 10 minutes of cricket, the optimism that had bubbled around the stadium in the hours prior to play starting quickly fizzed and flattened into a mood of inevitability as England’s pursuit of 354 floundered at 6-177.

The mood shift was graphically reflected in the method by which England attacked their task, and the Australia bowlers attacked their quarry.

Moeen Ali, a free-scoring middle-order player by nature, spent 40 minutes compiling two runs as Australia steadfastly refused to provide him with any width until – in trying to sweep Nathan Lyon and relieve some pressure – he became the latest to fall victim to a line-ball umpiring call.

Lyon maintains 100 per cent record against Moeen

The left-hander’s obvious problems against Lyon’s off-spin coupled with his inability to find potency with his own bowling might lead England to consider elevating much fancied leg-spinner Mason Crane at some stage of a series that is rapidly slipping away from the tourists.

Almost as quickly as the arrival of the new ball put paid to England’s tail, speculation was again heightened as to how differently the back half of this Test might have played out if Smith had let loose his quicks with a lead of 215 last Monday evening rather than choosing to bat again.

Root posts fifty but falls early on day five

On the basis of Mitchell Starc's first delivery with the new ball on Wednesday, a near unplayable fast out-swinger that moved late and trapped Craig Overton like a tin duck at a shooting gallery, it might well have been over at least a day earlier.

Certainly Stuart Broad (8) and Jonny Bairtsow (an enterprising 36 from 57 balls) didn’t survive for much longer beyond that as Starc finished with 5-88 and England spluttered to 233 all out.

Once again doubts were raised about the wisdom of batting Bairstow so deep in the order (he came in at No.8 in England’s second innings) when he is clearly as capable as any player in their top five.

Bairstow hammers Starc through the covers

But despite the heat and light generated by endless theorising as to the wisdom of Root’s call at the coin toss and Smith’s on the third evening, the glaring reality is that the tale of this Test can be told in a comparison of the respective teams' first innings total.

Australia hung tough to graft 442 while England failed to convert a series of starts and fell for 227, a disparity of 215 in a game decided by 120.

Which means South Africa’s Dudley Nurse still remains the sole Test captain to lose a match after leading by more than 200 runs on the first innings, an unwanted place in history that’s been his alone for 67 years.

2017-18 International Fixtures

Magellan Ashes Series

Australia Test squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb, Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine (wk), Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood, Jackson Bird, Chadd Sayers.

England Test squad: Joe Root (c), James Anderson (vc), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Gary Ballance, Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Mason Crane, Tom Curran, Ben Foakes, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ben Stokes, Mark Stoneman, James Vince, Chris Woakes.

First Test Australia won by 10 wickets. Scorecard

Second Test Australia won by 120 runs (Day-Night). Scorecard

Third Test WACA Ground, December 14-18. Tickets

Fourth Test MCG, December 26-30. Tickets

Fifth Test SCG, January 4-8 (Pink Test). Tickets

Gillette ODI Series v England

First ODI MCG, January 14. Tickets

Second ODI Gabba, January 19. Tickets

Third ODI SCG, January 21. Tickets

Fourth ODI Adelaide Oval, January 26. Tickets

Fifth ODI Perth Stadium, January 28. Tickets

Prime Minister's XI

PM's XI v England Manuka Oval, February 2. Tickets

Gillette T20 trans-Tasman Tri-Series

First T20I Australia v NZ, SCG, February 3. Tickets

Second T20I – Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7. Tickets

Third T20I – Australia v England, MCG, February 10. Tickets

Fourth T20I – NZ v England, Wellington, February 14

Fifth T20I – NZ v Australia, Eden Park, February 16

Sixth T20I – NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18

Final – TBC, Eden Park, February 21