England suffer another miserable batting collapse with Jos Buttler out for a duck, Ollie Pope failing and Ben Stokes running out of partners as Australia close day three 282 runs ahead and closing in on 2-0 Ashes lead
- Australia moved closed to second Test victory after another England collapse
- England slumped from 150 for two to 196 for six as important wickets tumbled
- They were ultimately bowled out for 236 despite battling 34 from Ben Stokes
- Jos Buttler went without scoring and Ollie Pope could only contribute five runs
- Mitchell Starc took four wickets and Nathan Lyon ended up with three
- Australia didn’t enforce the follow-on but ended the day on 45 for one
If the definition of insanity, said Einstein, is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result, then England’s cricketers clearly need to swot up on their aphorisms.
To the dismay of their supporters, who are beginning to wonder how bad the damage will be once this series ends in mid-January, their travails on the third day of the second Ashes Test at Adelaide mirrored almost exactly the events of the first at Brisbane.
At the Gabba, a third-wicket stand of 162 between Dawid Malan and Joe Root was followed by a collapse of eight for 74. Now, the same pair added 138, only for England to throw away eight for 86.
Mitchell Starc is congratulated for taking the wicket of Jos Buttler for a duck as England’s batting collapsed once again in their first innings of the second Ashes Test at Adelaide
Buttler looks back in horror to find David Warner has taken the catch to dismiss him off Starc
Nathan Lyon appeals successfully for the wicket of Ollie Robinson – one of three for the spinner
Ben Stokes, who made 34 before being bowled by Cameron Green, expresses his anguish
Australia are eyeing a 2-0 lead, from which the chances of an English comeback belong in cloud cuckoo land.
But it was the circumstances of their latest surrender that made events at Adelaide Oval hard to take for a side who are in danger of going the way of so many of their predecessors in this part of the world.
In the best batting conditions of the match, against an attack missing Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood, Malan and Root spent the first session making Australia look mortal, turning England’s overnight 17 for two into a positively giddy 140 for two by the dinner break.
For the first time in the Test, they had enjoyed the better of a session.
The left-handed Malan occasionally got into trouble trying to cut Nathan Lyon’s off-breaks, but otherwise his partnership with Root suggested there was little to fear.
Michael Neser and Jhye Richardson are worthy enough, but Cummins and Hazlewood they are not.
And as both batsmen ticked off a half-century, thoughts turned to whether either might hang around until the final session, when the lights come on and the ball begins to swerve.
We should have known better. After the break, Australia settled on an accurate alliance of the 6ft 6in all-rounder Cameron Green at one end and Lyon at the other, and regained control.
Cameron Green celebrates taking the wicket of Joe Root for 62 to spark the England collapse
Mitchell Starc celebrates the key wicket of Dawid Malan, who made 80, mainly alongside Root
Between them, they reeled off six maidens, a sequence that – disastrously for England – included the wicket of Root, unsettled by Green’s bounce and poking low to Steve Smith at slip.
This year, his every visit to the middle has been accompanied by a welter of stats. And sure enough, his 62 here took him to 1,606 runs in 2021, the fourth-highest tally by a Test batsman in a calendar year.
But there was another stat, and it continues to haunt him: Root is yet to score a Test hundred in Australia. Twenty innings have produced eight fifties and an average of 40, but unless he starts converting them, England’s hopes here will go from slim to none.
His demise was the catalyst for a familiar capitulation. Malan, after reaching the 80s again, tried to cut a ball from Mitchell Starc that was too close for the stroke and provided a third slip catch for Smith – another area where Australia have comfortably outperformed England.
Ollie Pope once more looked a bundle of hyperactivity against Lyon, eventually squeezing him to short leg, and when Jos Buttler drove loosely at Starc to depart for a 15-ball duck, England had slipped from 150 for two to 169 for six. The floodlights were not yet on.
To make matters worse, Ben Stokes – strokeless against Lyon – appeared to be troubled by the left knee he jarred at Brisbane, reducing his mobility and raising fresh concerns about his chances of lasting the course all the way to Hobart.
Chris Woakes is bowled by Nathan Lyon to become the seventh England wicket to fall
Ben Stokes is bent double after fending off a fiendish delivery during his innings of 34
Stokes was fast running out of partners when he became the ninth English wicket to fall
Chris Woakes whacked a few fours off Richardson, but was bowled via the edge by Lyon, who then won a marginal leg-before decision against Ollie Robinson.
Stokes briefly hit out, launching Lyon high over square leg for six, but chopped on against Green for 34. And there was time for Stuart Broad to be hit on the chin by Richardson. If it wasn’t insult, it was injury.
Armed with a lead of 237, Smith opted not to enforce the follow-on, preferring instead to extend their advantage. They added 45 for the loss of David Warner, run out for 13 after a mix-up with Marcus Harris. England barely celebrated.
The truth is, they have little be cheerful about. For the second Test in a row, they have picked the wrong attack, plumping for the steady Woakes ahead of the dangerous Mark Wood. And, for the second successive visit to Adelaide, they have bowled too short, apparently petrified of being driven.
Not only that, but their treatment this year of Jack Leach left them with no frontline spinner on a surface that has always helped Lyon.
Ignored throughout the home summer after he was easily England’s leading wicket-taker in six winter Tests in Sri Lanka and India, Leach was a lamb to the slaughter at the Gabba, and unselectable here.
Joy for Australia as Jos Buttler goes without scoring, caught by Warner at slip off Starc (right)
Marnus Labuschagne celebrates taking the catch to remove Ollie Pope off Lyon’s bowling
As if to rub it all in, seven English wickets were taken by Starc, Australia’s quickest bowler, and Lyon, their off-spinner. England’s diet of five fast-medium seamers, plus Root’s serviceable off-breaks, proved food and drink for the home batsmen.
Even Australia’s captaincy dramas seem to have worked in their favour. The pre-series resignation of Tim Paine because of a sexting scandal allowed them to strengthen their side by handing the gloves to Alex Carey. And Cummins’s brush with Covid has made no difference to their potency with the ball.
If anything, it has given him the chance to spend a rare week with his young family, before returning refreshed for the Boxing Day Test at Melbourne. For England, things could get even messier.
England’s Barmy Army supporters do their best to rally the team on another chastening day
Fans dressed as Father Christmas in the stands as the scoreboard tells a tale of England woe
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