Australia turn screws on England

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Australia 473 for 9 dec and 45 for 1 (Harris 21*, Neser 2*) lead England 236 (Malan 80, Root 62, Starc 4-37, Lyon 3-58) by 282 runs

(CRICINFO) Australia opted to turn the screw on England after taking a huge first-innings lead in the second Test of the series in Adelaide. Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon shared seven wickets as the tourists were unceremoniously bundled out following a century stand between Joe Root and Dawid Malan that had briefly raised English hopes, with Australia extending their lead to 282 after braving a half-session of batting against the pink ball under lights.

Steven Smith’s decision not to enforce the follow-on meant the Test continued to follow the template set in the day-night game at the same ground in 2017-18 – on that occasion, England had been dismissed for 227 in response to 442 for 8 declared. But at this point the course diverged, as England’s seamers were unable to make any inroads with the new ball. Their only success came via a run-out, and that after David Warner and Marcus Harris had put on 41, Australia’s highest Ashes opening stand since the 2017 Boxing Day Test.

With two full days left in the game, the potential to put England’s beleaguered batters through further floodlit examinations and the likelihood that Lyon’s spin will carry even greater threat in the fourth innings, Australia were already in prime position to press for a 2-0 lead in the series.

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It marked a remarkable – though not totally unexpected – turnaround, with the performances of Root and Malan during a third-wicket association that eventually realised 138 suggesting that Australia would not have it all their own way. But after Cameron Green provided the breakthrough, taking the key wicket of Root for the second week in succession, Lyon and Starc seized the moment. From 150 for 2, England lost their last eight wickets for 86 runs – a painful echo of shipping 8 for 74 after a similar stand between Root and Malan in Brisbane last week.

Starc struck twice in a seven-over spell with the old ball, and at 6 for 169 there seemed a very real possibility that England would be batting again later in the night. Ben Stokes and Chris Woakes steadied the innings through to tea but there was very little batting to come; Lyon ended the stand at 41, finding appreciable turn to bowl Woakes off an inside edge, and although Stokes briefly threatened a counterattack, he dragged Green on to his stumps to be the ninth man out.

There may have been a degree of relish as Australia took the fresh pink pill with the lights beginning to take effect, ready to dole out some medicine to the last-wicket pair of Stuart Broad and James Anderson. Starc finished the innings with 4 for 37, the wicket of Broad his 50th in day-night Tests – at a cool average of 18.10 – while Lyon reinforced his status a week after becoming the third Australian to reach 400 Test wickets, his 3 for 58 leaving him two shy of equalling Shane Warne’s aggregate of 56 as the most prolific bowler at Adelaide Oval.

The workloads of his bowlers was probably the key concern for Smith, even though the control provided by Lyon – who wheeled away through a spell of 19-10-30-3 – meant he did not have to ask much of Jhye Richardson and Michael Neser, the two enforced replacements to the attack from Brisbane.

After a wicketless afternoon session – the first time a visiting team had achieved that in a day-night Test in Australia, when facing a minimum of 15 overs – the reversal in fortunes following the dinner break was swift. Root took his tally of half-centuries without converting in Australia to eight, his departure precipitating a slide of 4 for 19 during what was supposedly the most benign time of the day for batting.

Green, held back by Smith until the 38th over, was the man to disturb England’s tranquility, luring Root into playing needlessly outside off stump once again. Root punched his bat before walking off, fully aware that this was the sort of day on which England needed someone to go big. Australia immediately cranked up the pressure, with Green and Lyon stringing together four maidens before the return of Starc brought about Malan’s downfall for 80, slashing profligately for another catch in the slips to Smith.

With Lyon finding his groove having switched ends, England entered a familiar spiral. Ollie Pope’s struggles against spin continued as he was caught twice at short leg in the space of three balls from Lyon. He successfully reviewed the first, Rod Tucker’s decision overturned after replays showed the ball had deflected off Pope’s forearm, but then fell trying to use his feet as a thickish inside edge squirted to the lurking Marnus Labuschagne, waiting eagerly for another chance.

Stokes took a dogged approach to starting his innings, waiting until his 24th delivery to get off the mark, but there was little support forthcoming, Jos Buttler’s miserable Test continuing as he threw the hands through an ambitious drive at Starc to be caught in the slips for a 15-ball duck. Out of a clear blue sky, Australia had grabbed the game by its scruff.



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