Coming into the day, England were already chasing the game, after three lackluster days – both with the bat and the ball. But somehow, on day four, early on under beautiful bowling conditions, England got themselves off to the best start possible.
All their gathered luck, energy and motivation were finally on their side, with Stuart Broad and James Anderson showing why they are still valuable to the Three Lions. A quick start, where they sent Michael Neser and Marcus Harris back, England put themselves in a great situation. The wicket of Steve Smith only solidified their situation to greater extent.
However, the downfall, the partnership between Travis Head and Marnus Labuschagne, with cameos from Cameron Green and Mitchell Starc put Australia in pole position to win the Test, taking their lead to 467 runs. England, who started the day well were put under the pump, requiring to break records in order to bring them back in the series at 1-1.
Labuschagne-Head to Australia’s rescue
In a team that already had Steve Smith, it was merely impossible to imagine any batter bettering his numbers. But then Marnus Labuschagne happened to Australian cricket. Since his debut in 2018, only Joe Root has scored more than the Australian No.3, who has since debut, scored 2113 runs with the bat, averaging 62.15. In this Ashes, he hasn’t put a foot wrong, with 74 in the first Test before scoring his first Ashes century earlier in the second Test in Adelaide.
The 27-year-old continued his golden run, both in Test cricket and against England, with his 12th Test half-century and his seventh against England. En route his second innings fifty, the right-hander also became the fifth-fastest Australian to go past 2,000 runs in Tests. Against England, he averages 58.1 and had a control percentage of 84.2, attacking 20.5% of the deliveries.
On the other hand, there was Travis Head, fresh from his hundred at the Gabba. After failing to trouble the bowlers in the first innings, Head’s innings in the second was a clear vindication of his talent as a counter-attacking batter. Australia’s struggle against India was evident, with how they tackled the troubled waters. But here, Head smacking a 54-ball 51 turned the game around in Australia’s favour in no time.
Chris Woakes’ struggling time in the middle
One of the biggest calls that England took ahead of the Adelaide Test was to leave Mark Wood out of the bowling attack and insisting with the pace of Chris Woakes. After four innings, 62.4 overs of tireless bowling, the all-rounder has only struck thrice in the series, averaging 76, striking every 125.3 deliveries. The biggest worry though was the way Woakes was utilized in the pink-ball Test.
Woakes’ biggest strength is his ability to move the new ball but here in Adelaide, the all-rounder was used as the fourth-choice bowler in a one-dimensional attack. With Broad-Anderson operating with the new ball, Woakes was rather ineffective in his role as the second-change bowler, visible in the drops of his speed.
On Day 2, the all-rounder’s average speed was 129.4 and throughout the Test, was in the vicinity of 131.6. His economy rate in the first innings read 4.4, which shows that Woakes isn’t the best choice as the fourth-choice bowler in the four-man pace attack. His average in Australia (53.53) is the second highest for a visiting pacer, only behind Danny Morrison.
Lyon-Malan and the reward for pacers
It might seem a little confusing how the three are related in any measures but the truth is they are. The battle between Nathan Lyon and the two English left-handed batters – Rory Burns and Dawid Malan was the big one. While Lyon did not dismiss either of the two left-handers, he was constantly a threat to the two English batters, who were out saving the Test for the Three Lions.
It is evident in the false shot percentage of the two batters, Malan 25.8% and Burns 36%. With Jhye Richardson and Michael Neser bowling from the other end, they were on the receiving end of the toiled labor from the Australian off-spinner. Not just that, the off-spinner also turned the ball 6.3 degrees, the most he has got in a Test match since the 2019 Edgbaston encounter.
As indicated by CricViz, the two dismissals were a result of the late seam movement, 0.98 degrees away from Burns and 1.7 degrees into the left-hander Malan, caused their downfall. But it was Lyon’s spell that put a seed of doubt.
England’s batting exposed yet again
Joe Root’s year as a batter has been nearly flawless, the amount of runs he has racked up game after game, he has been the best in world cricket. Yet again in Adelaide, for the second innings in a row, Root walked out to bat with his side 48/2, needing another mammoth partnership to save the Test. In process of saving the Test for his side, the English skipper went past Sir Alastair Cook as the most runs as an English skipper, with 4847 runs.
Yet again, as explored yesterday by us, Root’s persistent performance in the Three Lions outfit points a glaring weakness in England’s armor – their batting. Despite his injury earlier in the day, when he didn’t take the field, Root has once again been put in the direst spot, to save England. And once he was dismissed in the final over of the day, all the hopes of England surviving the Test has walked back alongside Root.