England crumble as wickets tumble in Ashes bungle at Adelaide Oval

The Ashes
England

England’s middle order failed again on the third evening of the second Ashes Test as a century stand between Joe Root and Dawid Malan gave way to a third collapse in as many innings.

The tourists enjoyed what was probably their best session yet in an increasingly trying series as Root (62) and Malan (80) batted with positivity and purpose at the start of the day, en route to a 138-run partnership.

But things took a dire turn for the worse after the break, with Australia putting together a sequence of four for 19. Both set batters failed to convert their half-centuries before Ollie Pope and Jos Buttler were dismissed with conspicuous ease.

By the second interval England had run aground on 197 for six, 276 behind.

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England resumed on 17 for two, with both openers cut off under lights the previous evening, and Root and Malan successfully shook off the prior tribulations to dominate for more than two hours.

Malan saw an early inside edge skim past his stumps but aside from that, it was a serene passage of play with Root opening his boundary account with a trademark steer through backward point and Malan hitting his way through the gears with three fours in four balls.

There was a clinical straight drive, a scything cut and a hefty thick edge the cleared the slips by several feet.

When Mitchell Starc responded with a rapid bouncer, Malan merely arched his back, bent his knees and gracefully evaded. The arrival of Nathan Lyon’s spin changed the dynamic, but fortune favoured England as Malan drove straight into the midriff of Marnus Labuschagne at silly mid-off and Root’s top-edged a sweep.

Both times the ball landed safely and the danger level dialled down as they found ways to keep the scoreboard moving.

Australia betrayed some impatience when they hopefully reviewed Michael Neser’s optimistic lbw appeal against Root on 34. The ball started hitting the middle of the bat as Australia failed to generate chances or cap the scoring, with both men reaching their half-centuries as they retreated to the pavilion at 140 for two.

With a mountain to climb to make a contest of the game, England needed another similar session to really leave their mark on the opposition but instead went painfully into reverse gear.

All-rounder Cameron Green landed a major blow by dismissing Root for the second innings in a row, seemingly knocking the captain’s equilibrium with his high trajectory and springy bounce. A little edge pushing away from his body sailed into the safe hands of Steve Smith and the spell was broken.

Over the course of the innings Root had overtaken the best ever scoring year’s Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar and Michael Clarke to go fourth on the all-time list with 1,606 in 2021 but the Holy Grail of an away Ashes century continues to elude him despite eight scores of 50 or more.

That amped up the pressure on Malan but he could not carry the fight, cutting Starc powerfully for four to reach 80 then attempting more of the same to a straighter follow-up and nicking off.

The double blow meant there was much required of Pope and Buttler but both faltered. Pope was worked over by Lyon, reprieved on DRS for an erroneous bat-pad catch only to fall two balls later when he scampered down the pitch and clipped a sharp catch to short-leg.

Buttler came to the crease needing to make up for two costly drops of centurion Labuschagne behind the stumps but made a bad performance even worse with a 22-minute duck. Starc sensed vulnerability outside off stump and sprung the trap masterfully. Shaping the ball across Buttler, he drew the flashy drive and skimmed the edge to warm Warner’s hands at first slip.

Ben Stokes was gritting his teeth at the other end and hanging on, taking 24 balls to get off the mark and finishing the session with 12 off 71 while Chris Woakes injected some life into proceedings with a sparky 23no.

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