England Collapse (Again) To Hand Australia Victory – First Ashes Test Day 4 Recap

Nathan Lyon celebrates the wicket of Dawid Malan during the First Ashes Test.
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Joe Root and Dawid Malan’s impressive resistance on day three at the Gabba had provided England with a route back into the First Ashes Test after a disastrous opening two days in Brisbane. But, as it so often has in the past for the English in Australia, things unravelled quickly thereafter. Malan was the first to fall, inside edging Nathan Lyon onto this pads to leave Marnus Labuschagne with a simple catch. He had added just two runs to his overnight score.

Root followed him back to the dressing room not long afterwards, edging a fine Cameron Green delivery through to Alex Carey. He had managed to add only three runs. If England were still, just about, in the game on the face of it with six wickets in hand and the deficit standing at just over 50 runs, they also seemed to have been struck a body blow with the loss of their captain. Such resistance as was offered in his absence was fleeting at best.

Ollie Pope got himself in a horrible tangle trying to cut Lyon and spooned an easy catch to Steve Smith. Pat Cummins squared Ben Stokes up and the England all-rounder was on his way. Jos Buttler played some attacking shots and managed to reach the 20s, only to tamely edge Josh Hazlewood through to Carey. Ollie Robinson, meanwhile, suffered the indignity of top-edging a Lyon delivery into the hands of Travis Head whilst trying to play a reverse sweep.

England did manage to force Australia to bat again, and even took Carey’s wicket, but unsurprisingly a lead of 19 was never going to pose a serious challenge to the Australian batting line-up. No, this was a chastening defeat for England, with this collapse significantly undermining the positivity that had emerged in the wake of their efforts on day three. How much damage it has done to their prospects over the rest of this series remains to be seen, but it is hard to imagine the team arriving in Adelaide with much confidence.

One imagines that the mood in the Australian camp will be rather different. Last summer against Australia, all-too often they found it impossible to reverse momentum shifts when games started going against them, but, albeit against weaker opposition, they have answered that charge here and in fine style. Lyon, in particular, will surely be delighted by his efforts. Having finally taken that elusive 400th wicket, he looked a far more threatening bowler.

Attention will now duly turn to Adelaide, where England’s chances will rest on the damage they can do when the pink ball swings under lights. That may suit some of the England seam attack, particularly if James Anderson and Stuart Broad are restored to the team. But it should not be forgotten that the Australia’s three front-line quicks, Cummins, Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc, all average under 20 with the pink ball on home turf and last year bowled India out for 36 at the Adelaide Oval.

There is still far too much cricket to play to declare that England are out of this series, but it would not be much of an overstatement to say that the series could hardly have started in a worse fashion. Australia have their tails up and England are displaying familiar weaknesses. They have also now seen their run of Test matches without a win in Australia stretch to 16 matches. If they are to keep this series competitive, they will need to snap that particular streak and fast.

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