Australia smashed England by nine wickets to win the first Ashes Test at Brisbane’s Gabba on Saturday, reinforcing their dominance at a ground where the tourists last tasted victory in 1986.
Pat Cummins’ side was set a target of just 20 for victory after bowling out Joe Root’s England for 297, with Nathan Lyon taking 4-91, including his 400th Test wicket.
England was skittled out for 147 in their first innings with Australia making 425 in reply. The victory gave Australia a 1-0 lead in the five-match series.
On Friday, England fought back on day three with Dawid Malan and Joe Root scoring their respective half-centuries. At stumps, the visitors posted 220/2, trailing by 58 runs.
They stitched a 159-run partnership for the third wicket, setting the scene for an intriguing day four with eight wickets in hand. Malan remained not out ion 80 not out while Root was unbeaten on 86. It was the day where England finally managed to claw their way back into the match after Australia took a lead of 278 runs.
The tourists were 61/2 after 21 overs when Root joined Malan in the middle. Australia skipper Pat Cummins had taken the first wicket, with Rory Burns trying to cut but the short ball took the glove edge behind keeper Alex Carey. Haseeb Hameed looked set for a big score before getting strangled down leg off Mitchell Starc in the 21st over.
From that point, the fightback began with Root and Malan adding 46 runs off 90 balls till tea came. Malan was tentative in the beginning and Root took 20 balls to hit his first boundary of the innings, a clip through midwicket off Josh Hazlewood.
Though the duo had their own shares of luck and survival, especially for Malan against off-spinner Nathan Lyon, the duo turned the tide in the final session, playing with fluency and positivity as pitch started to become very good for some scintillating strokeplay.
The partnership grew in confidence and runs as England made 113 runs in the final session but did not lose a single wicket. Add to it, Root went past former skipper Michael Vaughan for most Test runs by an England player in a calender year.
Starc, Cummins (with his short-ball plan) and Lyon along with other bowling options in Cameron Green and Marnus Labuschagne weren’t able to trouble Malan and Root much. But now it seems that the second new ball could provide Australia with a much-needed breakthrough and could begin with Hazlewood, who was given just eight overs in the final session.
Earlier, Travis Head, resuming from his overnight score of 112, started off in his aggressive fashion on day three with a pull-through square leg off Chris Woakes. Starc gave him good company by smashing boundaries against Woakes, Ollie Robinson and Mark Wood.
Head was eventually bowled for 152 off 148 balls by a cracking yorker from Wood, becoming the last wicket to fall as Australia was 425 all out in 104.3 overs. Head’s stands with Starc (85 runs) and Lyon (29 runs) were crucial for the hosts in stretching their lead to 278 runs, something which may not turn out to be enough if Root and Malan’s association continues on Saturday.