The Ashes: England on the rack despite fightback
PUBLISHED: 11:30 04 December 2017
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Re-energised England produced a spirited revival with bat and ball but still trailed badly after three days of the second Ashes Test at the Adelaide Oval.
Only a sterling, unbeaten 41 from debutant number nine Craig Overton helped the tourists approach even relative respectability in their first innings as Nathan Lyon (4-60) and Mitchell Starc (3-49) shared the bulk of the proceeds.
Then after Australia decided against enforcing the follow-on, James Anderson and Chris Woakes deservedly bagged two wickets each under lights in the hosts’ 53-4 at stumps.
When they faltered to an alarming 142-7, England were still 300 runs adrift, before Overton and Woakes’ eighth-wicket stand of 66 helped them to 227 all out.
Anderson and Stuart Broad then used the new ball emphatically better than they had on day one, but with an overall lead of 268 at the close, Australia retained their grip on this match.
There was very little to like for England supporters through the first half of the day.
Events did not feature one of the manic collapses they have often succumbed to in recent years, but if anything their desultory stumble was even harder to watch.
James Vince got England’s day off on the wrong foot when he edged behind to the fourth ball he faced from Josh Hazlewood, trying to force runs into the off-side.
Captain Joe Root was then livid with himself when he edged an attempted drive at Pat Cummins to third slip.
Essex’s Alastair Cook was compliant too as he too fell to a slip catch, pushing forward well outside off stump to Lyon, and Cummins then returned with a very good delivery from round the wicket at his first attempt in a new spell to have Middlesex’s Dawid Malan inside-edging behind.
Moeen Ali and Jonny Bairstow hinted at much-needed resistance either side of tea, but it was not to be as each fell to smart return catches, albeit from poked rather than punched drives, neither of which would have reached the boundary.
Lyon’s dive to his left was a crowd-pleaser, but Starc’s was the better catch – knocked up with his right hand, before he collected the rebound.
It was therefore over to England’s eighth-wicket pair – and unlike all who went before them, they significantly exceeded expectations.
Woakes set the tone, and Overton ably followed.
Australia tried to bounce both of them out, but the response was assured with minimal fortune required as numbers eight and nine ducked, weaved, left and occasionally took on the short ball.
It was a surprise, in fact, when Woakes eventually got it horribly wrong to present Starc with his second caught-and-bowled.
Broad and Anderson could then muster only three runs between them, and Overton was left stranded short of what would have been a richly-deserved half-century in his maiden Test innings.
Back to their day job, England’s frontline seamers made life especially tough for Australia.
Anderson soon had Cameron Bancroft caught behind and in the 10th of his 11-over spell he took one back away off the seam from round the wicket to trap Usman Khawaja lbw.
A hugely-becalmed David Warner then edged Woakes to third slip to go for 14 from 60 balls.
Steve Smith had survived on nought by overturning one lbw verdict against Anderson, but could not do so a second time when Woakes hit him in front.