Sunday, January 16, 2022

Australia high as England’s middle order collapses again

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England stumble on the tea at 124 for six after four wickets fell cheap in a chastising middle session

England face a tough road to take in this final Ashes Test in Hobart after stumbling into the tea on day two after another collapse with 124 for six.

Ashes 5th Test, day two (update at 8.45am) – England 124-6 (Billings 19*, Woakes 5* | Cummins 3-32) Trail Australia 303 all in (Head 101, Green 74 | Broad 3-59, Wood 3-115) by 179 runs

Four wickets were lost during a punishing middle session that ended with Joe Root’s team’s hopes seemingly resting on the bat of debutant wicketkeeper Sam Billings, who came unbeaten at the break alongside Chris Woakes on the 19th.

After bouncing back from 12-3 on day one, Australia hit 303 in their first innings before getting to work on England’s beleaguered batting side, who have yet to reach 300 in the series. You at least avoided the consequence.

Three wickets in 21-ball space during the first hour of the middle session did much of the damage, with Dawid Malan, Root and Ben Stokes all falling.

It came after a 49-run stall between Root and Malan was ended when the latter was caught by Pat Cummins lbw, who then got rid of the England captain in his next over.

Stokes’ dismissal, intercepted by Nathan Lyon ahead of Mitchell Starc, put Billings alongside Ollie Pope.

But it wasn’t a long-lasting partnership, lasting just 35 balls before Pope handed wicketkeeper Alex Carey catch practice as he pressured Scott Boland with a terrible shot.

Like Rory Burns, who had started the rot by going out 10 balls in the innings for a desperate duck, Pope had also been recalled for that fifth Test. Neither were impressed and the reality is things would have been a lot worse had Australia been more sober as the hosts failed to check when Burns and Malan both fell back in their innings earlier and Woakes twice to clean and five before Boland was dropped.

Zak Crawley, caught on the short leg by Cummins on 18, went just after Burns as the tourists slipped to 29 for two before the first break of the day. Burns, who was hoping to revive his international career when he was recalled for that game in place of Haseeb Hameed, was just 10 deliveries in the innings after being eliminated thanks to a direct hit from Marnus Labuschagne.

Heck, there was no dive from the opener in Surrey to hold their own. As in England in general, there seemed to be a weary resignation to Burns’ fate for much of this series.

Wood gets some tap: Nathan Lyon found favor with England’s bowlers as he went into the crease with his team 252 for eight and hit three sixes including one by Mark Wood who started from the Bellerive Oval to win the fast bowler runs that 100 have been conceded in this past innings. Overall, Australia put on 51 for their last two wickets.

Rory is burned once again: After being recalled for that final Test, Rory Burns would have been hoping for something better than the ninth duck for England. But that’s exactly what happened when he was called through by Zak Crawley for a single and saw Marnus Labuschagne strike with a direct hit as the tourists broke into the innings on two for 10 balls. Burns should have been out until the last ball of the first over when he passed Mitchell Starc but there was no appeal from Australia.

Strangle Malan: After getting a deadline on 13 when Australia failed to check an inside edge, Dawid Malan failed to cash in on his luck, instead nodding Pat Cummins on the leg when he was caught on 25 to end a 49-run stand with Captain Joe Root in the first hour of the second session.

Lyon shows the way: England struggled at 85-five after Ben Stokes fell victim to a stunningly low catch from Nathan Lyon as he attempted to put Mitchell Starc through the point midway through the middle session. It was the third wicket to fall in 21 balls and the floodlights have not even had their full effect at this point.

Stop moving the robot” – Stuart Broad loses it with the remote camera on the sidelines after pulling out of his run-up in the fifth over of the day.

Justin running out of time?

Shane Warne believes England would immediately offer Justin Langer a job if he were sacked by Australia after this run.

Langer has yet to be offered a new deal despite his contract expiring in June and his future is believed to be straining before Australia embark on their Test series in Pakistan in March.

England don’t have a vacancy at the moment, of course, as captain Joe Roots will stay on as escort coach Chris Silverwood after this tour, although he suspects he may have left the dressing room during an Ashes streak riddled with errors.

Australia are said to have lined up former England coach Trevor Bayliss as a potential replacement for the intense and aggressive Langer, who won both the T20 World Cup and these Ashes last year.

And Warne told Fox Sports Australia: “I don’t know what everyone is waiting for. England would catch him, right? He [Langer] should be signed in my opinion because he did such a good job.

“We’re not in the dressing room so we don’t know all the inside outs but I think we can only judge a coach on performances and has Australian cricket gotten any better? Is the domestic level of cricket better? Is there a group of players? There are probably three or four players outside of that roster now that could all play that weren’t there a few years ago.

“On the other side of the coin, the trainers also have durability because they can only squirt so much. He’s been there for four years, but I don’t know what they’re waiting for.”

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