Hazlewood freezes England fightback to help hosts go 2-0 up

4
© AFP

It’s the hope that gets you. After a strong showing on the fourth day, England arrived at Adelaide Oval ahead of day five with the chance of making history.

No side had made more to win a Test here and a famous victory was, albeit unlikely, still possible. Within the first hour, though, Australia had snuffed out England’s hopes and the hosts wrapped up a 120-run victory just before tea. Australia now have a 2-0 lead in the series and a firm grip on the Ashes.

England begun the day on 176 for 4, requiring 178 more to win, but importantly had captain Joe Root unbeaten on 67. If England were to get close to their target of 354, their best player would have to get them there. Alas, it was not to be. Root was gone, caught behind off the excellent Josh Hazlewood, in the third over without adding to his overnight score. England had already lost Chris Woakes to the second ball of the day, out to the same bowler in the same fashion. Game, more or less, over.

Australia started brilliantly with the ball, led by Hazlewood whose two wickets came from textbook deliveries to batsmen just starting their innings. The ball that got Woakes zipped through off a good length just outside off-stump, forcing the batsman to play, and snicko showed the ball had flicked the edge of the bat after the batsman had reviewed. The delivery to Root, another perfect length delivery, seamed away a touch and stayed slightly low.

After an indifferent match, Hazlewood’s probing opening spell had more or less won his side the game. He looked full of intent from the first ball, regularly bowling in the high 80mphs and keeping it full, making the batsmen play and eschewing the short ball. It was relentless pressure early on and the home side’s fielders were vocal and full of energy. Australia had the start they wanted.

When Root went so too did England’s hopes. Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc, who finished with 5 for 88, made him play almost every ball early on and it was a fine piece of bowling to remove him. It had to be after the way Root had played on the fourth day but it is another half-century which England’s captain has failed to convert. Out of 18 fifties in the second innings of Test matches, Root has just one hundred, the joint second worst conversion rate in history.

Australia continued to bowl with energy and control throughout the first session, smothering England’s batsmen. Nathan Lyon was introduced early and bowled with his customary control both over and round the wicket and Pat Cummins bowled quickly, hitting the seam often and throwing in the odd bouncer for good measure. There was hardly anything to hit.

Moeen Ali, a natural free-scorer, became increasingly frustrated as he was given nothing to get his innings up and running and eventually the pressure told. He swept a straight ball from Lyon, missed and was given out LBW by umpire Aleem Dar. The batsman reviewed it but the decision was upheld by DRS on umpire’s call. England’s all-rounder made 2 from 20 deliveries and has now been dismissed by Lyon in all four innings in this series.

The new ball was taken with forty minutes left in the first session and Starc struck with his first delivery, pinning Craig Overton, who had earlier taken a nasty blow near the heart from Cummins, on the crease LBW with a full ball which swung back in. Shortly later, Stuart Broad was caught behind off the left-armer and Jonny Bairstow, who worked hard for his 36 and should be promoted up the order, played on to give Starc his seventh Test five-wicket haul.

Australia have been by far the better team so far – England have probably won one day out of ten – and deserve their 2-0 series lead. The teams now head to Perth where England have only ever won once. It is going to take a miracle for Root’s men to get themselves back in this series. The home side will now be targeting a clean sweep.

Brief scores:

Australia 442/8 decl. (Shaun Marsh 126*, Tim Paine 57; Craig Overton 3-105, Stuart Broad 2-72) & 138 (Usman Khawaja 20, Mitchell Starc 20; James Anderson 5-43, Chris Woakes 4-36) beat England 227 (Craig Overton 41*, Alastair Cook 37; Nathan Lyon 4-60, Mitchell Starc 3-49) & 233 (Joe Root 67; Mitchell Starc 5-88, Nathan Lyon 2-45, Josh Hazlewood 2-49) by 120 runs.