Ashes: England on verge of crushing first Test defeat by Australia

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Josh Hazlewood celebrates after taking the key wicket of Joe Root
First Ashes Test, Gabba, Brisbane (day four of five)
England 302 & 195: Root 51, Hazlewood 3-46, Starc 3-51, Lyon 3-67
Australia 328 & 114-0: Warner 60, Bancroft 51
Australia trail by 55 runs
Scorecard

England are on the verge of losing the first Ashes Test after Australia dominated the fourth day in Brisbane.

Needing 170 to win, the home side require only 56 more on Monday, reaching the close on 114-0, with David Warner 60 not out and Cameron Bancroft unbeaten on 51.

Such a modest target was the result of the good work of their bowlers, who dismissed England for 195.

The tourists had opportunities to set Australia a more challenging chase, but Joe Root (51), Jonny Bairstow (42) and Moeen Ali (40) failed to make telling contributions following good starts.

After Moeen was controversially stumped off the bowling of Nathan Lyon, England’s tail was blown away by vicious fast bowling from Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins.

Then, any hope that the visitors could make Australia uncomfortable was withdrawn by Warner and Bancroft, who blunted the new ball and punished the bowling later in their innings to raise the chances of a four-day finish.

They ran out of time, but on Monday Australia will go 1-0 up in their quest to regain the Ashes and preserve an unbeaten record at the Gabba that stretches back to 1988.

See-saw Test takes decisive turn

Ashes: Joe Root out next ball after making half-century

Australia’s hold on an absorbing series opener only began to strengthen midway through the afternoon.

Before then, like the previous three days, the even nature of the contest was gripping, except this particular instalment was played out in front of a much emptier Gabba.

With Australia strangely reluctant to use the aggressive, short bowling that served them so well on a thrilling third evening, first Root, then Moeen and Bairstow looked to have the opportunity to bat England into a strong position.

But whereas home captain Steve Smith ground out 141 not out on day three, England have had seven innings of 38 or more in the match, but no individual score above 83.

And with the tourists lacking the pace to prevent Australia’s tail from adding 119 runs for their last three wickets in the first innings, England’s lower order have twice been blown away in a style reminiscent of the 5-0 defeat down under four years ago.

James Anderson did at least take the new ball for England, allaying any fears that he was carrying an injury after he did little bowling on the third afternoon.

England crumble after Moeen line call

Moeen Ali is stumped but was his foot behind the line?

Moeen and Bairstow’s partnership of 42 was a counter-attack, the sixth-wicket pair particularly pressurising Lyon, who had earlier frozen Mark Stoneman and Dawid Malan.

When Lyon turned an off-break past Moeen’s forward defence, Tim Paine’s lone appeal for a stumping looked innocuous but was still referred to the third umpire.

After numerous close-up replays from different angles, Chris Gaffaney decided there was enough evidence to suggest Moeen had no part of his foot behind the crease line.

If that was debatable, what seemed more controversial was the line itself.

Repainted numerous times throughout the match, the part of the crease where Moeen was batting had become thicker, meaning he had to be further back to be in his ground and giving more leeway to the wicketkeeper.

From there, Starc and Cummins took over as England lost their last five wickets for 40 runs, their last four for 10 and their last three for one.

Chris Woakes fended a Starc short ball to second slip and Bairstow ramped the same bowler to third man.

Broad, concerned about the bouncer, edged a Starc yorker behind and Ball could only flap a Cummins bumper to fly slip.

After also losing their last six first-innings wickets for 56 runs, England’s lower order can expect to be peppered for the rest of the series.

Australia chip away

Stuart Broad unsuccessfully appeals for a wicket as Australia’s openers made a confident start

Apart from the charge that resulted in them taking England’s last three wickets for just one run, Australia chipped away at, rather than dismantled the tourists.

Root and Stoneman had done well to take England to 33-2, a lead of seven, on the third evening and they arrived on Sunday morning with a greater intent to score.

Lyon, though, was excellent once more, finding turn and bounce to render both Stoneman and Malan shotless and having both left-handers caught at slip.

Captain Root registered a busy half-century and seemed to be carrying his team’s hopes, only to play across the line to Josh Hazlewood to be lbw for the second time in the match.

When Australia’s chase began after tea, there was the prospect that Warner would look to complete victory with a day to spare.

But he and Bancroft were patient against the new-ball threat of Anderson and Broad, only opening their shoulders when England turned to the back-ups.

Moeen was pummelled for almost six an over and had to be withdrawn, Woakes and Ball went at more than four an over.

The Australia openers shared a century stand in their first Test together, Bancroft making a maiden half-century on his debut.

It was only the returns of Anderson and Broad that prevented Australia from claiming the extra half an hour and ensured the game would reach a fifth day.

England’s Barmy Army fans tried to lift their side

The top seven must get big scores – analysis

Former England captain Michael Vaughan on Test Match Special:

Can England see the positives and do better in the next Test? Do I see this England line-up getting 400? No, I don’t.

If England can only get 302 on this pitch – it will get difficult on quicker pitches.

The art of playing at this level is understanding that you can’t allow bowlers to bowl – it’s a learning curve for Stoneman and Malan.

I can see the tail being blown away every time. The top seven of the order will have to get big scores.

I also look at England’s bowling attack – where are the 20 wickets going to come from?

However, last time here it was ugly, but this time they competed.

How’s stats?!

  • This was the first time Moeen Ali had been stumped in international cricket.
  • This would be Australia’s second-highest successful Ashes chase at the Gabba (target of 188 achieved in 1982-83).
  • James Anderson’s bowling average in the fourth innings v Australia is only 65.57.
  • David Warner played attacking shots to 36.0% of the deliveries he faced; Cameron Bancroft attacked 6.7% of the time.

More on the Ashes series



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