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Test delicately poised after day two, with Smith, Marsh rescuing the Aussies

Email The Ashes: Australia battles back in final session to leave first Test delicately balanced after day two By Andrew McGarry

Updated November 25, 2017 11:43:12

Photo: Skipper Steve Smith and Shaun Marsh rescued Australia from a poor position late on day two. (AAP: Jono Searle) Related Story: Vince shines but Aussies finish strongly on day one at the Gabba Map: Brisbane 4000

The first Ashes Test remains in the balance after a tight day two at the Gabba, with Australia edging back into contention late in the day after struggling early in the innings.

At stumps, Australia was 4-165, with skipper Steve Smith 64 not out and Shaun Marsh on 44 after a crucial unbeaten partnership of 89.

Focus on short ball short-sighted

Australia is obsessed with the short ball. The shadow of 2013-14 looms long over this series, and the comparisons will keep being made. In the lead-up to this series, we kept hearing about scary fast bowlers, bouncer barrages, and scared batsmen. The local paper started day one talking about Bodyline.
It turned out to be far more genteel than that. The Gabba pitch prepared in a cool and rainy month is damp and stodgy and doesn't have its usual spring. Short balls on the first day didn't achieve anything. Australia had to go back to more disciplined lines and lengths, and restrict England's scoring.
But on the second day, with the pitch a bit drier, the short ball had its moment. With attacking players in the middle order, Australia put catchers in the deep and offered the bait. Dawid Malan and Jonny Bairstow put their heads in the trap.
But having had their success with that method, the Australians couldn't put it away. They went as close to Bodyline as the rules permit, with two men square of the wicket and two behind square on the leg side, then persisted with a bouncer attack.
England's tail swung against it and got a number of shots away. While they were eventually dismissed, 52 runs were added with tailenders Broad, Ball, and Anderson at the crease.
It didn't make a whole lot of sense to have the world's best exponent of the yorker, in Mitchell Starc, bowling everything halfway down the track, especially after he just took two hat-tricks in a Shield match by bowling straight and full.
Analysis by Geoff Lemon

In contrast to day one, where rain delayed play for an hour and a half, day two at the Gabba was a more typical Queensland summer's day — hot and dry.

England began the day at 4-196, and the home side struggled to make an impression early on, as Dawid Malan and Moeen Ali accumulated steadily.

They made 40-odd runs in the opening hour of play, and as both batsmen looked comfortable against most of the bowling — with the exception of spinner Nathan Lyon — the tourists might have begun to dream of a total around the 400 mark.

There was an injury scare for Australia, when Shaun Marsh and Mitchell Starc collided going for a ball, with Marsh's spikes ripping Starc's trousers and cutting open his leg.

Starc went off for attention, but was unaffected and came back on the ground a short while later.

England was travelling well at 4-246 when the Australians finally made the breakthrough.

Mitchell Starc bends over to attend to a bandage on his left knee during day two at the Gabba. Photo: Mitchell Starc had to leave the field for treatment after having his leg cut open by Shaun Marsh's spikes. (AAP: Dave Hunt)

Malan had made his 50 and had reached 56 when he went one too many times for a pull shot and hit a Starc delivery in the air to Marsh who took a comfortable catch.

Seven balls later it was six-for, as Lyon finally took the wicket his bowling had deserved.

Lyon sent down a delivery that straightened and hit Ali in front.

The umpire's finger went up, and although England referred the decision, it came back to umpire's call and he was on his way for 38.

External Link: Ashes first Test manhattan

The new pairing of Jonny Bairstow and Chris Woakes were now at the crease, but Woakes lasted just four balls before Lyon bowled him through the gate for a duck and England was in a hole at 7-250.

The Australians had their tails up at this point, and five overs later Bairstow was gone as well, as the game shifted in favour of the home side.

Jake Ball — who was a late confirmation for the Test after proving his fitness to beat Craig Overton for a place as the fourth seamer in the English XI — came out firing, crunching three fours from one Nathan Lyon over.

Australia's David Warner dives for a catch to dismiss England's Jake Ball on day two at the Gabba. Photo: David Warner's stunning catch to dismiss Jake Ball gave the Australians the honours for the opening session. (AP: Tertius Pickard)

Eventually, however, he flicked at a ball from Starc, and David Warner flung himself sideways to take a screamer of a catch at leg slip to dismiss Ball for 14.

Stuart Broad and James Anderson held out for a further three overs, with lunch delayed given the nine wickets down.

Although Broad produced a few boundaries to get England to the 300 milestone, he then departed for 20, top-edging Josh Hazlewood to Peter Handscomb to end the innings.

Tourists make strong start to Aussie innings

Australia came out with momentum, having ripped through the England batting, but the tourists quickly hit back, with debutant Cameron Bancroft edging Broad to the keeper Bairstow for 5 as the home side was left 1-7 in the fourth over.

Usman Khawaja joined Warner at the crease, and they added another 23 runs before England struck again.

England celebrate the wicket of Usman Khawaja on day two at the Gabba. Photo: Moeen Ali rewarded England captain Joe Root for bringing him on, taking the wicket of Usman Khawaja (R). (AAP: Dave Hunt)

Skipper Joe Root had brought on Ali, and Khawaja's old issues against spin bowling were highlighted once again.

Ali had sent a few turning deliveries before firing in a faster, straighter delivery which pinned Khawaja in front and he departed for 11.

Smith and Warner tried to regain the momentum with some quick singles to keep the strike rotating.

They moved the score beyond 50, but Ball then struck for England, as his short ball to Warner was pulled ineffectually to Malan at short mid-wicket, and the Australian dangerman was gone for 26, the home side 3-59.

England bowler England bowler Jake Ball reacts after dismissing Australian batsman David Warner. Photo: England struck a big blow in the middle session, with Jake Ball (R) removing David Warner (L) for just 26. (AAP: Dave Hunt)

Australians steady by stumps, but game finely balanced

The Australians pushed on to be 3-76 at tea, and Smith and his men would have been hoping to consolidate and steady the ship.

Instead, the fourth wicket was down on the fourth ball of the final session — James Anderson sent down a yorker which struck Handscomb (14) on the back pad.

It wasn't given but Root used a review and was rewarded with the wicket, giving England something else to cheer about.

The wicket brought Marsh to the crease, the Western Australian looking to justify his controversial selection for the first Test with a big score.

The tourists were sensing an opportunity to push home the advantage, and an over-excited Broad prompted an unsuccessful LBW review when Marsh shouldered arms to a ball missing off.

Both batsmen were watchful, knowing that another wicket would be a big blow to the innings.

Marsh showed glimpses of his best form, with some excellent drives and pulls. But it was the skipper who was taking charge, with Smith reaching his 50 off 112 balls.

Root brought himself on in the final half-hour of play, but the home side made it to stumps without further loss, leaving the game still in the balance with three days left.

External Link: Ashes first Test scorecard

Topics: sport, cricket, ashes, brisbane-4000, qld, australia, england

First posted November 24, 2017 18:48:31

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