Joe Root and Dawid Malan Launch English Fightback – First Ashes Test Day 3 Recap

Joe Root and Dawid Malan combined for a 159* run partnership on day three of the First Ashes Test.
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If by the end of the second say of this First Ashes Test, England looked well and truly out of the contest, then they ended day three at least on the ropes rather than the canvas. That was thanks to a superb partnership between Dawid Malan and Joe Root that was worth 159 runs (and counting) to their cause and that put a significant dent in the Australian lead. Of course, England remain in arrears, but their cause no longer looks half so desperate as it once did.

It should be said that the conditions looked considerably better for batting than they had over the first two days, as evidenced by Mitchell Starc’s breezy 35 during the closing stages of Australia’s first innings which helped Australia add a potentially priceless 82 runs. The innings was eventually brought to an end on 425 by a Mark Wood yorker that hammered into Travis Head’s stumps, leaving England 278 runs behind their hosts at the Gabba.

The English reply did not get off to a particularly auspicious start, with Rory Burns only narrowly saved from making a pair by a review for lbw that went his way. It proved to be a short-term reprieve only for the English opener, who gloved a rip-snorting delivery from Pat Cummins through to Alex Carey to cost England their first wicket. Haseeb Hameed, who had been playing fluently, followed him not long after, strangling a misdirected Starc ball down the leg-side.

But Root and Malan offered up very little encouragement to the Australian bowlers. Root, in particular, played in his typically busy style, doing his best to prevent the bowlers from settling and striking some excellent shots to the boundary as his partnership with Malan blossomed. The England captain is clearly central to this batting line-up but on day three at the Gabba he wore that responsibility lightly. That is an encouraging sign indeed for England.

Malan, meanwhile, justified the faith showed in him by the selectors, who restored him to the team largely due to his perceived ability on fast bouncy pitches. That had looked misguided after a tentative first innings which brought just six runs, but he played with far greater authority at the second time of asking, despite playing and missing more than once. He did struggle with cramp as the day came to an end, but will surely back himself to recover ahead of the start of play on day four.

As for the Australians, concerns will surely be growing at their inability to arrest momentum shifts and take wickets on placid pitches. It was exactly that which cost them against India last season, as they were repeatedly unable to apply the coup de grace to their opponents from what looked like a promising position. Another indifferent display from Starc who went for 60 runs in his 14 overs will also be troubling the Australian brain-trust. For Nathan Lyon, meanwhile, the wait for a 400th wicket is growing increasingly painful.

That being said, Australia remain in the lead and if they are not quite in charge, they are still certainly in the better position. The new ball is just ten overs away and the Australian attack will doubtless be hopeful that they can break the game open when it arrives. They may also be hoping that the Gabba pitch remains as placid over the next two days of play. If it does, then as encouraging as Malan and Root’s partnership has been, it will surely still be Australia who head to Adelaide with a 1-0 lead.

Regardless, day three has breathed life into a match (and perhaps even a series) that looked almost a done deal. England, after a wretched start, have justified cause to believe that they can compete with their opponents and quality to add to their attack in James Anderson and Stuart Broad. Both will surely play in Adelaide and both will enjoy using the pink ball under lights. There might just be a long way to go in this Ashes series yet.

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