Pat Cummins leads Ashes charge as Australia skittle England again | Ashes 2021-22

Tom Harrison would probably have described it as a brilliant opportunity to reset and recalibrate but as England’s weary cricketers left the field at the end of a wicket-filled second day in Hobart, those not blessed with the optimism of a chief executive could view their latest predicament only as desperate.

This sense of creeping dread had begun first thing when Nathan Lyon gave a nod to the news cycle in the UK by enjoying a raucous party at No 10. He cracked three sixes – including one that flew into the front yard of a neighbouring house – as the Australian tail wagged, completing an impressive turnaround from 12 for three 24 hours earlier to post 303 all out.

It then fully materialised as Pat Cummins spearheaded the latest display of fast-bowling excellence with the pink Kookaburra ball, the captain’s figures of four for 45 bowling out England for a sorry 188 in 47.4 overs. But for Chris Woakes offering some resistance from No 8 by top-scoring with 36 – and only then after being dropped on nought and five – plus Sam Billings unfurling some elegant straight drives during a maiden Test innings of 29, this would have been far worse.

After moody salmon skies had made way for pitch darkness overhead, a breakneck day ended with Australia closing on 37 for three and a lead of 152 runs.

Stuart Broad completed a pair for David Warner, Woakes strangled Marnus Labuschagne down leg for five and Mark Wood bounced out Usman Khawaja with a snorter. But Steve Smith was 17 not out, Scott Boland had admirably survived as nightwatchman and Australian sights remained trained on a 4-0 series win.

Talk of Tasmania looking to get full value for their reported A$5m staging fee with a so-called chief executive’s pitch was proved to be bunkum by this 17-wicket bonanza.

There are eight millimetres of rye grass on the Bellerive Oval surface, which, combined with the vagaries of pink-ball cricket, has offered plenty for the seamers. Lyon is the only frontline spinner on show but was yet to be called upon, save for his buccaneering 31 with the bat and a diving catch at backward point off Ben Stokes as England lost three for seven in 21 balls during the likely decisive second session.

Stuart Broad celebrates dismissing David Warner for another duck
Stuart Broad celebrates dismissing David Warner for another duck as England try to fight back. Photograph: Darren England/AAP

Australia call their fast bowlers “the cartel” and they delivered a collective performance that sat in contrast to England’s on day one. Cummins set the example – his dismissal of Joe Root lbw for 34 with a beauty that jagged back was arguably the tipping point – and Mitchell Starc, playing his fifth successive Test of the series, went at five an over but still wiped out three Englishmen along the way.

Then there were Boland and Cameron Green, two change bowlers who once again delivered control and hostility for their captain.

Australia received a significant leg-up once Lyon had turned an overnight 241 for six into a total that exceeded anything their guests have mustered all tour. England’s new opening partnership of Zak Crawley and the recalled Rory Burns were separated after 10 balls, the former calling a risky single and the latter run out by a bullet throw from Labuschagne at cover.

Burns, who had only just got away with an unreviewed edge behind sixth ball, had registered his eighth duck in 22 innings. Greater alertness and/or a dive might have saved him.

Crawley was not innocent and his attempts to atone delivered only a couple of the shots witnessed during his 77 in Sydney before Cummins found his inside edge on 18, the ball cannoning into his pad and the first-innings centurion Travis Head snaffling the catch at short-leg.

At 29 for two just before the break, Root had once again joined Dawid Malan to begin the latest rescue mission.

'I absolutely loved it': Sam Billings upbeat about batting debut despite England struggle – video
‘I absolutely loved it’: Sam Billings upbeat about batting debut despite England struggle – video

The pair found a similar groove to the third-wicket stands witnessed in Brisbane and Adelaide after the second session got under way. Though Malan enjoyed a similar slice of luck to Burns – an edge behind on 13 off Green not sent upstairs – thoughts of the conditions easing off began to rise. But refreshed after letting the support cast initially resume, Cummins then returned in devastating fashion, strangling Malan down leg to the wicketkeeper on 25 – a dismissal he was hunting given the leg slip – and then trapping Root in front to leave England 81 for four.

Root’s stated aim of securing a century on Australian soil this series now comes down to one final innings off the mainland but personal milestones remain secondary to the cause.

Sadly for him, the cause was soon dented further as Stokes flashed uppishly off Starc on four and Lyon dived to his left for a catch only bettered for athleticism when Ollie Pope snaffled Warner in the same position late on.

Kudos should probably go to Pope for being clear of mind by this stage, having been thrust back into the team in the absence of the injured Jonny Bairstow and found himself the sixth England wicket to fall before the second interval.

The irrepressible Boland nagged away outside his off stump, eventually found the edge of one of the numerous groping shots offered by the right-hander on 14.

Once Woakes had overcome drops by Warner and Khawaja in the cordon – Boland the bowler twice denied – from 110 for six he managed to chisel out 72 runs across two stands with first the encouragingly unruffled Billings and then Wood, who typically scrapped for 16 of them.

The Spin: sign up and get our weekly cricket email.

But with Billings looking to take on Green and emulate Lyon’s remarkable blows off Wood first thing, only to pick out long-leg, and Woakes then feathering down leg off Starc, the innings evaporated and soon it was back to the day jobs for England’s seldom-rested bowlers.

Source link