Australia is one win away from reclaiming the Ashes after beating a resurgent England by 120 runs.
The Poms looked dead and buried on the afternoon of day three, having crumbled for 227 in reply to Australia’s first innings of 8/442 declared – but their bowlers led a stunning resurrection in the day-night match to dismiss the hosts cheaply and set up an exhilarating final day run-chase.
Despite the England heroics, all signs were pointing to an effortless Australian victory.
After being bizarrely sent in to bat on a notoriously good Adelaide batting wicket, the Aussies piled on the runs with Shaun Marsh scoring a sterling 126 not out and Tim Paine chipping in with a well-made 57. They then rolled through a meek England batting effort thanks to four wickets from in-form off-spinner Nathan Lyon.
Holding a very convincing lead heading into the second innings, Australia’s captain, Steve Smith, had the option of enforcing the follow-on. He decided to send his own batsmen out for the final session of play under lights – a choice he’d come to regret and for which he’d almost pay the ultimate price.
The night sky awakened a monster inside the English attack; suddenly their bowlers could do no wrong.
Australia suffers night terrors
Jimmy Anderson and Chris Woakes had the new pink ball swinging and seaming prodigiously both ways, and the Aussies could hardly lay willow on leather as they slumped to 4 for 53 overnight. The onslaught continued the next day, Australia eventually capitulating for a meagre total of 138 in which no batsman topped 20 runs. Anderson deservedly secured a maiden five-wicket haul on Australian soil and all-rounder Chris Woakes contributed heavily with four prized scalps including Smith and David Warner.
— cricket.com.au (@CricketAus) December 5, 2017
Set a seemingly unattainable 354 for victory, the English batsman finally showed the starch that has been sorely lacking. Skipper Joe Root proved why he’s among the world’s elite, playing a defiant innings of 67. He sucked up the pressure on day four, defending stoutly and counter-attacking as he marshalled England towards a historic win.
But a massive double strike early on day five from seamer Josh Hazlewood swung the game firmly back in Australia’s favour. He dismissed nightwatchman Woakes on the second ball of the day and struck again in his next over to remove Root – a morale-killing blow.
From there the Australians ran rampant, quickly wrapping up the tail to secure victory, spearheaded by 5 wickets from Mitchell Starc. The Poms refused to roll over without a fight in what has proved to be a brilliant advertisement for the five-day game, but their revival proved to be too little, too late.
Despite their defeat, their marked improvement has added interest to the series, which may yet prove to be intensely competitive.
DRS provides drama
The excitement of the match was slightly marred by some poor umpiring decisions and controversy over the decision review system (DRS). The on-field umpires’ decision-making was frequently proved wrong, with multiple calls overturned on review.
Australia’s Marsh and Paine were saved by the DRS from LBW shouts in successive overs on day two. Debate raged particularly over Marsh’s let-off after he was given out by on-field umpire Chris Gaffaney. A review showed the ball going comfortably over the stumps – but many spectators and former players argued that the technology simply wasn’t accurate, that the ball would’ve crashed into the pegs.
Shaun Marsh has survived the plumbest lbw that I’ve ever seen DRS overturn! #Ashes
— Jamie Cox (@jamiecox1969) December 3, 2017
Cricket took a backward step the day it encouraged players to umpire. DRS was to eliminate howlers not adjudicate 50/50 LBWs.
— Jamie Cox (@jamiecox1969) December 5, 2017
The debate accelerated when Smith saved his wicket by appealing for a review that overturned a borderline LBW decision. But it wasn’t all smooth sailing for him. He failed to review a rejected LBW call on Alastair Cook early in England’s run-chase – missing a chance to have the visitors teetering at 1 for 1, then saw the crucial wicket of Root, awarded by the on-field umpire, taken away from him by a successful English referral. A minute later he again appealed against an umpire’s ruling, convinced he had the key batsman out caught behind – only to be denied once again by DRS.
And they say technology makes the game easier!
The Ashes contest resumes when the third Test starts in Perth on December 14. – Troy Whittaker @troywhittaker98
Top image from Cricket Australia’s public Twitter feed.