Australia restored the 'fortress Gabba' pride with a facile win over England in the Ashes 2021-22 series opener on Saturday. Chasing a nominal target of 20 runs, the Aussies wasted no time and reached the target in 5.1 overs to register a 9-wicket win on Day 4 of the first Test at a venue where they were stunned by a second-string Indian side earlier in January. The win helped Australia open their ICC World Test Championship points account.
England, resuming at the overnight score of 220/2, lost Dawid Malan to Nathan Lyon, who's sitting on 399 Test wickets for an eternity. Cameron Green, who almost got Joe Root with the final delivery on Day 3, got the England captain soon and England were in familiar territory. Star all-rounder Ben Stokes became a victim of Australia's well-planned play with skipper Pat Cummins squaring him up for 14. Jos Buttler scored 23 off 39 for the day's highest score even as Lyon returned with figures of 4/91 in 34 overs.
It sure was the 'moving day' everyone was talking about. Root and Malan were primed for a big stand, but they could add only three to their overnight stand of 159 runs for the third wicket. Then for all their optimism and hopes, the English innings collapsed to hand Australia a comfortable win with more than a day to spare. And the star of the match was Travis Head, who hit 152 of 148 balls. But a sensational Test captaincy debut for Pat Cummins! The pacer first took a fifer to trigger England's first innings collapse, 147 all out, then took two more in the second.
For England, the absence of James Anderson and Stuart Broad proved detrimental with Ben Stokes operating in very limited spells. The second AUS vs ENG Test at Adelaide Oval starts December 16. This will be a pink-ball Test. Meanwhile, Bellerive Oval, Hobart will host the series finale, starting January 14 next year. This is also a day-nighter. Catch Day 4 highlights and cricket scores of the first AUS vs ENG Test match here:
8:39 AM IST: Result
Bowling change and Marcus Harris hits the first ball for a four. Australia won by 9 wickets. AUS 425 & 20/1 (5.1); ENG - 147 & 297.
8:36 AM IST: Some Joy For England
Ollie Robinson on with his third over. Marcus Harris plays the second ball to sweeper cover for a three. Six to win. A single to square leg. Almost an overthrow from Mark Wood and Ben Stokes' having a laugh. One more single. Four to win. But Robinson gets Harris for 9 off 23. Australia need 4 runs. Marnus Labuschagne is the new man. AUS - 16/1 (5)
8:32 AM IST: Need 9
Chris Woakes on with his second over. Four dots, then Alex Carey guides the fifth to square for a couple. Australia need 9 runs. AUS - 11/0 (4)
8:28 AM IST: Need 11
Ollie Robinson continues. Marcus Harris flicks the third ball to square leg for a single to open his account. Six from the over, including a three. Australia need 11 runs. AUS - 9/0 (3)
8:22 AM IST: Need 17
Chris Woakes making things interesting. England takes review for an LBW against Alex Carey. Inside edge. A single from the over. Australia need 17 runs. AUS - 3/0 (2)
8:19 AM IST: 18 More
Chris Woakes shares the new ball. Australia need 18 runs.
8:12 AM IST: Chase Begins
Ollie Robinson with the new ball. And he starts with a no-ball. Alex Carey takes the strike. Marcus Harris is his opening partner. Target was a grand total of 20 runs. Now after that front foot encroachment, 19.
7:32 AM IST: Innings Break
Cameron Green cleans up the tail. His second. Chris Woakes (16 off 47), caught behind. England all out for 297. Australia need 20 runs to win the Ashes 2021-22 series opener.
And it's also lunch.
7:26 AM IST: Four For Lyon
Nathan Lyon exposes the gap between bat and pad as Mark Wood (6 off 13) goes for an expansive drive. England batter pays the price. Bowled. Jack Leach is the last man. England lead by 18 runs. ENG - 296/9 (101.4)
7:21 AM IST: 100 Overs
Nathan Lyon with the 100th over of the innings. Two singles. His figures: 3/90 in 33. England's first innings lasted 50.1 overs. So, improvement for the visitors. They lead by 13 runs. ENG - 291/8 (100)
7:12 AM IST: Eight Down
What a time to play the reverse sweep. Can't blame him either. A thickish edge and Ollie Robinson is gone for 8 off 17. Third wicket for Nathan Lyon. Travis Head takes the catch at backward point. Mark Wood joins Chris Woakes in the middle. England lead by 8 runs. ENG - 286/8 (97.5)
6:58 AM IST: England On Par
Chris Woakes gets a streaky four off Pat Cummins, to third man. And England go level with Australia, batting twice. Meaning, Australia will also need to bat again. ENG 278/7 (94.4)
6:42 AM IST: Seven Down
Josh Hazlewood gets his first. Faint nick and easy take for the wicketkeeper. Jos Buttler goes for 23 off 39. 5/53 so far this morning! Ollie Robinson is the new man. England trail by 10 runs. ENG - 268/7 (91.1)
6:27 AM IST: Stokes Goes
Pat Cummins strikes. He squares up Ben Stokes and induces outside edge. Cameron Green takes the catch. Stokes goes for 14 off 49. Chris Woakes is the new man. England trail by 12 runs. ENG - 266/6 (88.4)
6:17 AM IST: Drinks
Power outage at The Gabba. But Ben Stokes and Joe Root rebuilding England innings. They trail by 18 runs. ENG - 260/5 (87)
5:52 AM IST: Stokes Four
Ben Stokes hits Nathan Lyon for a four. He moves to 9 off 29. England trail by 33 runs. ENG - 245/5 (82)
Australia taking the second new ball.
5:33 AM IST: Lyon Again
Nathan Lyon gets his second. Steve Smith takes a good catch at slip to end Ollie Pope's knock. He goes for 4 off 6. 3/11 in the morning for England. Jos Buttler joins Ben Stokes. England trail by 44 runs. 234/5 (77.3)
5:27 AM IST: Root Goes
Cameron Green strikes. And a big one. Joe Root (89 off 165), caught behind. Ollie Pope joins Ben Stokes in the middle. England trail by 49 runs. ENG - 229/4 (76.1)
5:25 AM IST: Lyon Continues
A reinvigorated Nathan Lyon probing Ben Stokes. A single from his 27th over. England trail by 49 runs. ENG - 229/3 (76)
5:15 AM IST: 400th For Lyon
Finally, Nathan Lyon gets a wicket. 400th for him. Long time coming. Marnus Labuschagne takes a good catch at silly mid-off to end the 162-run stand. Dawid Malan goes for 82 off 195. Ben Stokes joins Joe Root in the middle. England trail by 55 runs. ENG - 223/3 (73.4)
4:58 AM IST: Players Are Ready
Pat Cummins with the first over of the day. David Malan takes the strike.
Meanwhile, the fifth Test match has been moved to Hobart. It will be another pink-ball Test.
Day 4 Preview
At the close of play on Day 3, England were 220/2 with Dawid Malan and skipper Joe Root unbeaten on 80 and 86 runs respectively. They have together faced 294 balls in an unbroken third-wicket stand for 159 runs. But the visitors, still 58 runs behind, will need to keep their heads down as another batting collapse will give Australia a chance to go for the kill. someone from the visiting camp will need to do a Travis Head. The match still has more than 180 overs remaining.
England batters to come: Ben Stokes, Ollie Pope, Jos Buttler, Chris Woakes, Ollie Robinson, Mark Wood, Jack Leach.
For Australia, an early wicket on Day 4 will help their cause. After getting two early wickets, Aussies toiled hard against a determined English pair. Root, who's yet to hit a Test ton in Australia, looked in fine touch and if the visiting skipper continues in that vein, it will be very difficult for Australia to force a result. Settling for a draw after taking an innings lead of 278 runs will be demoralising for the hosts.
For the record, Root has scored 1,541 Test runs in 2021 -- the most by an Englishman in a calendar year, going past Michael Vaughan's 1,481 in 2002. With games at Adelaide and Melbourne coming before the end of the year, Root may well break Mohammad Yousuf’s world record of 1,788.
In contrast, Aussie spinner Nathan Lyon is having a tough outing. He is still waiting to be the third Australian bowler to reach 400 Test wickets. But it's taking some time. The off-spinner claimed his 390th Test wicket in January 2020, then his 399th in January this year. And he has gone wicketless, again.