Crucial wickets from Nathan Lyon and Josh Hazlewood contained England’s batting to just a 97-run lead by lunch on the fourth day (0:56)
England 302 and 5 for 119 (Root 51) lead Australia 328 (Smith 141*, Marsh 51) by 93 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Josh Hazlewood claimed the massive scalp of Joe Root for 51, after Nathan Lyon had struck twice in the midst of another exemplary spell of offspin, as Australia tightened their grip on the first Test at the Gabba. By lunch, England had inched along to 5 for 119, a lead of 93, with Moeen Ali and Jonny Bairstow left with the task of shoring up the innings.
It proved in the end to have been a dogged morning’s work from Australia, even if it was far removed in character from their high-octane exploits on the third evening of this contest. And Lyon was instrumental in turning the tide of the session, with his probing line and sharp turn casting particular doubt in the minds of England’s left-handers.
For much of the first hour of the morning, as Australia’s quicks initially struggled to recreate that third-evening ntensity, England appeared to be instigating another momentum swing in what has proven to be a see-sawing contest.
Root, who had to undergo a concussion test before the start of play after taking a savage blow to the head from Mitchell Starc, was especially lively from the outset – working the angles to rotate the strike and picking off two boundaries in the opening three overs from Starc and Josh Hazlewood.
And, at the other end, Mark Stoneman continued what has proven to be a very encouraging maiden Ashes Test, keeping his counsel as the quicks tempted him outside off. The pair extended England’s third-wicket stand to 45 – riches compared to the position England could have been in had either man allowed his resolve to crumble on the third evening during the fiercest examination of the Test to date.
But, having had one genuine let-off on 23, when the extra pace of Pat Cummins lured him into a loose cut past the outstretched hands of gully, Stoneman had no answer to the wiles of Lyon. Settling into a mesmerising rhythm on and around the left-handers’ off stump, Lyon eventually cornered his quarry with the ball that slipped straight on. Stoneman, stuck on the crease, poked forward to be scooped low at slip by Steven Smith.
Dawid Malan showed some intent in the early moments of his innings, advancing out of his crease to push Lyon to get off the mark with a confident single to mid-on. However, that proved the exception to an otherwise timid stay, as Lyon soon claimed his second left-hander of the innings, this time with a sharp tweaker that turned and bounced and burst off the edge for Smith’s second grab of the morning.
Moeen Ali, another left-hander, was then greeted with a brace of snorters as Lyon continued to find finger-licking assistance outside off. But Moeen managed soon enough to turn the tables on England’s tormentor, cutting a rare short ball through point for four before flicking him off the pads in the next over.
And, with Root growing in confidence, slotting Hazlewood for two fours in an over, the prospect remained of a further revival, especially when he brought up his fifty from 103 balls. But, one ball later, Hazlewood had his revenge, curling an inswinger into Root’s crease-bound pads and sending him on his way lbw for 51.
It was a crushing moment for England’s captain, and his team’s prospects. Root almost pleaded with Moeen, the non-striker, to give him some reason to use up a review, but they wisely opted against it in the end – the ball was only ever careering into the top of middle and leg. It was another fine cameo from Root, but yet another example of his failure to convert starts into finishes. Smith’s sensational century merely underlined that fact.
Source: ESPN Crickinfo