Pat Cummins conquered Joe Root in their individual battle and has all but ensured Australia will finish the Ashes with a 4-0 margin over England after the hosts dominated the second night of the first Test in Hobart.
Cummins ended Root’s innings with a superb off-cutter and added three more wickets as Australia bowled the tourists out for 188 and despite losing three wickets before stumps, they still hold a 152-run lead when day three gets underway on Sunday afternoon.
On a bowler-friendly wicket, any victory target of more than 250 will likely be too much for England’s brittle batting line-up based on their poor returns throughout the series.
A late declaration in the fourth Test at the SCG helped England salvage a draw to give Cummins the first blemish on his record in his first series as Test skipper. But the NSW paceman took it upon himself at Blundstone Arena to lead from the front with the ball, taking 4-45 in 13.4 overs after Australia’s tail wagged to stretch their first-innings total to 303.
Australia made it hard for themselves in the field, failing to appeal or review a couple of early caught-behind opportunities and then dropped a pair of catches in the slips.
The home side’s second innings started similar to their first dig with wickets tumbling.
David Warner perished for a duck, giving him the second pair of his career after Manchester in 2019, when he slashed Stuart Broad to point at the start of the second innings before Marnus Labuschagne surrendered his wicket meekly when his glance off Chris Woakes gave new keeper Sam Billings his first catch in the Test arena.
Usman Khawaja (11) copped a rip-snorter of a bouncer from Mark Wood as the hosts were reduced to 3-37 before Steve Smith (17) and nightwatcher Scott Boland (three) managed to negotiate the rest of the tricky evening session despite a few anxious moments as the ball swung in the air and off the seam.
England’s innings got off to what has been a trademark terrible start when Rory Burns, recalled after two Tests in the wilderness, was run out for a duck.
A 147.7 km/h brute of a short ball from Mark Wood, and Khawaja has to go! #Ashes pic.twitter.com/0opj43CWx7
— 7Cricket (@7Cricket) January 15, 2022
Replays indicated Burns had nicked Mitchell Starc in the first over but the Australians didn’t appeal but they found their voice when a Marnus Labuschagne direct hit caught the opener short by a minute margin after he hesitated at the non-striker’s end when called through by Zak Crawley.
The tourists slumped to 2-29 in the eighth over when Crawley inside-edged Cummins to Travis Head at short leg with the first-innings centurion juggling the catch then celebrating with a “bin-lid” dance.
Dawid Malan, who also had a reprieve when he nicked Starc but Australia opted not to review the decision, departed for 25, one shy of a 50-run stand with Root, when he got a tickle down leg side from Cummins.
He then removed his opposing skipper three runs later when he darted the ball back off the seam to rip off his front pad.
Root didn’t even bother to ask for a video review as he trudged off for 34 to leave his team in peril at 4-81.
And it only got worse when Ben Stokes came and went for just four when he slashed Starc to a diving Nathan Lyon at point, bringing Billings to the crease in his debut at 5-85.
Ollie Pope nicked off to Boland for 14 and the Victorian should have been on a hat-trick but Woakes’ first-ball edge was grassed by Warner at first slip.
Khawaja compounded the error when he spilt a more difficult chance at third slip, also from Woakes, also from Boland’s bowling.
Cameron Green had Billings out hooking for 29 when Boland at fine leg showed his teammates how to hold onto a chance before Woakes’ luck finally ran out when he nicked off to Starc down leg side for 36.
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Broad put in another embarrassing batting effort to be bowled by Starc for a duck before Mark Wood went down swinging to Cummins for 16.
After a Jekyll and Hyde day-one performance from Australia, they did the same with the bat on the second afternoon.
Starc (three) and Cummins (two) were bounced out quickly by Mark Wood as the hosts went from 6-241 overnight to 8-252 before Nathan Lyon stepped up with the counterattack.
Lyon hoisted Wood over the square leg boundary for three sixes, two of them in succession, including one which sailed out of Blundstone Arena.
Alex Carey played Woakes onto his stumps for 24 before Lyon (31) and Boland added 23 for the last wicket to push their total to 303, higher than any innings England have achieved on this tour.