Second Test set for thrilling final day

05 December 2017

England fight hard in pursuit of record total to leave Magellan Ashes series in the balance

Magellan Ashes 2017-18, Second Test


Day Five Session Times (local)
2pm - 4pm | 4.20pm - 6.20pm | 7pm - 9pm

A match that began with scorching scrutiny of Joe Root and his decision to bowl at the coin toss now rests in the palm of England's captain who enters day five of the second Magellan Ashes Test daring to dream of the most unforeseen win.

By contrast, Root's rival skipper Steve Smith confronts a restless sleep knowing that if England – with Root unbeaten on 67 – can score a further 178 runs before Australia find six more wickets, the scorn poured upon his counterpart will be laid squarely at the home captain's feet.

ROOOT! Skipper stands tall, carries England

Having spent most of the Test’s first seven sessions under Australia’s heel, the door unexpectedly opened for England when Smith chose not to enforce the follow-on on Monday. And since then, Root’s men have played with a bravado belying their start to the tour.

So much so that the 4-176 they scored from 62 overs on Tuesday evening raises the genuine prospect they can double that tally in the full day that awaits on Wednesday.

The 354 that England distantly eyed when they began their pursuit at the outset of the second session stood as not only a new benchmark for successful run chases at Adelaide Oval, it would set a new record for England batting last to win in more than 140 years of Test matches.

That chase should have suffered a severe setback before it got going, but when Alastair Cook had scored a single that comprised England's team total he was pinned on the crease by Josh Hazlewood and Australia were convinced he was out lbw.

Except that when umpire Chris Gaffaney rejected their appeal, the conviction of Smith and his team quelled so quickly they didn't risk referring it to the review process which ultimately showed (to satisfy the crowd's curiosity) the ball would have thundered into the former captain’s leg stump.

Cook survives as Aussies opt against lbw review

It heralded the start of Australia’s recurring DRS nightmare as the evening wore on.

The frustration Australia felt at so conspicuously missing that trick compounded in the following over when Mitchell Starc went searching for swing by pitching the ball full at Mark Stoneman, who lapped up the lack of movement and pocketed three consecutive boundaries.

Perhaps trying to emulate the spell that England’s seamers cast over their rivals' top-order on Monday night, Australia's quicks seemed to over-reach in their attempts to make something happen when the ball was new and hard and instead allowed England to rattle along unhindered at almost three runs per over.

Day three: Australia lose four quick wickets under lights

It wasn’t until Nathan Lyon entered the battle that the equilibrium began to shift, with the fierce bounce and fizzing turn casting immediate uncertainty into the England openers, and Cook was the first to succumb when he tried to hit against the spin only to fall foul of Australia’s lone DRS triumph.

The removal of the figure most likely to bat through if England were to make history elicited a response from Lyon's fellow bowlers and it was the quicks who landed the next blows.

Starc's change of ends brought a reversal of fortune with Stoneman fending a low catch to gully, and for the umpteenth time in a career not yet 10 Tests old, James Vince nicked a catch behind the wicket which meant the responsibility for winning the match fell to Root.

Dinner wrap: Aussies strike double blow

And while the England captain needed a few reliable partners to stay with him if the unlikely target was to be reeled in, it’s doubtful he could have hoped for a more steadfast ally than the Decision Review System.

Not only did Root correctly challenge Aleem Dar’s decision to give him out on 32 when he inexplicably offered no stroke to a delivery from Lyon that was fortuitously shown to be bouncing over the bails.

But five overs later he watched on with rapidly rising hopes as Australia torched the two reviews they had been allocated for the remainder of the match within the space of three deliveries.

The first came after Pat Cummins jagged a ball so rapidly back at Root it was almost worth calling for a closer look just so Tim Paine’s glovework could be admired in slow motion on the big screen, although the faint tickle of ball against thigh pad was no grounds for dismissal.

Cummins sets Adelaide alight with late wicket

At the start of the next over, Josh Hazlewood trapped Malan on the crease with the ball striking the left hander above the knee roll of his pads but Smith, as if believing the law of averages might transcend the rules of cricket, thought it worthy of further inspection.

When the ball-tracking technology showed that once more the stumps were not imperiled by the ball’s projected path, the Barmy Army roared their delight from the choir in the shadows of St Peter’s Cathedral and one more piece of this cryptic Test match puzzle fell for the tourists.

Aussies waste two reviews in three balls

If England are to conjure a history-making win from a position so seemingly hapless midway through the third day that their former captain Michael Vaughan announced that "the wheels have come off", their renaissance can be traced back to that pivotal moment on Monday evening.

The point at which Australia opted to buttress their advantage rather than batter their enemy.

With the debate surrounding Smith’s decision not to utilise the follow-on still percolating around Adelaide Oval and beyond when the day began, a continuation of the wickets clatter from the previous evening did nothing to stymie that discussion.

In theory, Australia's strategy to bat again on Monday night with the ambition of pushing through until the approach of dusk on day four and with a lead nudging 400 was difficult to fault.

But in the heat of combat come the start of Tuesday's play, that blueprint began to look a little blurry as the impetus England's bowlers had unexpectedly found under the floodlights was maintained beneath the next day's patchy cloud and a westerly breeze.

Tea wrap: Anderson's five helps set target of 354

As a result, Australia found themselves back in the field after a solitary session with Adelaide bathed in afternoon sun and the ball as reluctant to deviate from the straight as the city’s meticulously planned grid of wide boulevards.

It was no real surprise when Lyon, installed as nightwatchman and rattled by a bouncer from Stuart Broad that crashed into the grille of his protective helmet soon after the resumption, surrendered his wicket in the time-honoured fashion of the tailender.

Desperate Anderson clatters into the stumps

By backing away to the leg side, aiming an ambitious slog over extra cover and looping a simple catch to mid-off instead.

Even less unexpected was the removal of Peter Handscomb soon after, the rising star of Australia’s middle-order a year ago now so wretchedly out of touch and confidence that he implemented a mid-innings change of batting strategy that yielded no effective shift in results.

Handscomb must make change: Ponting

With England’s bowlers relentlessly pushing Handscomb – who bats notoriously deep in his crease – ever further back on his stumps, the right-hander abandoned his favoured option of habitually working the ball to the leg side and began backing away to try and steer it through the off.

Which resulted in him guiding a low catch to the right of Malan at third slip, and altered the nature of the concourse conversation from 'did Smith get it right?' to 'should Handscomb get the chop?'.

The answer to both questions might rest on the Test's final result, but it's clear that England feel they have Handscomb’s measure and the fact that he began second-guessing his technique in the middle of a match suggests he might share that belief.

Australia's dual hopes of setting an insurmountable target and then attacking England's foot-weary batters either side of the dinner break and into the night slipped further towards fanciful when their first innings top scorers Tim Paine and Shaun Marsh both fell cheaply in the day’s second hour.

Anderson claims maiden five-wicket haul in Australia

Neither of them able to reach 20 in a second innings that lasted just 58 overs and represented Australia’s lowest Ashes total since they were infamously bowled out for 60 within a session at Trent Bridge in 2015.

Also their most recent Test loss to their historic rival.

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 Adelaide Oval, December 2-6 (Day-Night). Tickets

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