Australia take 115-run lead but late wickets under lights keep tourists interested
Australia 303 and 3 for 37 (Smith 17*, Boland 3*) lead England 188 (Cummins 4-45) by 152 runs
By the close, the hosts had extended their lead – which was 115 runs after England’s first innings – to 152, but Stuart Broad, Chris Woakes and Mark Wood had given the tourists some reason to hope after claiming cheap top-order wickets as Australia finished on 3 for 37 in their second innings with Steve Smith unbeaten on 17 and nightwatchman Scott Boland on 3.
Australia’s quicks managed to keep the pink ball talking for an extended period under the lights on a day when 17 wickets fell in Hobart. Cummins took 4 for 45 and Mitchell Starc 3 for 53 with No. 8 Woakes England’s top-scorer with 36, followed by Joe Root’s 34 and Sam Billings, whose 29 on debut was solid.
Broad and Woakes took advantage of the conditions to reduce Australia to 2 for 5 in the fourth over, with David Warner making a pair after falling to his nemesis Broad for the 14th time in Tests thanks to a brilliant diving catch by Ollie Pope at point and Marnus Labuschagne strangled down the leg side off Woakes to give Billings his first Test catch.
At the start of the day, Australia added 62 runs for the loss of four wickets with Alex Carey unable to convert his start of 24 and Nathan Lyon making a bright cameo worth 31 off just 27 balls, including three sixes off Wood, before he was last man out with the hosts first-innings total on 303.
England’s reply started in calamitous style when Rory Burns was run out for a duck, called through by opening partner Zak Crawley for a single that was very risky at best and found short of his ground by a direct hit from Labuschagne in the covers. Debate raged over whether the run was on and whether Burns had done enough to make it home after a slight hesitation two-thirds of the way down the pitch and failing to dive, but the outcome was beyond question.
Crawley followed for 18 when he provided Cummins’ first wicket, well caught by Travis Head leaping high at short leg, and England were two wickets down by the dinner break.
From there it became an all-too-familiar tale for England’s batters as they fell woefully short of the 300-mark needed to challenge Australia and which has eluded them all series. Each time a partnership looked like forming, it was prised apart by Australia’s bowlers.
Joe Root and Dawid Malan put on 49 runs before both fell in quick succession during a passage of play which also claimed Ben Stokes as England lost three wickets for seven runs in the space of 21 deliveries.
Malan was fortunate, on 13, when Australia shunned a review after having a caught-behind appeal turned down off the bowling of Cameron Green, with replays suggesting an edge. But Malan was eventually out to a leg-side strangle off Cummins, who then trapped Root lbw, before Mitchell Starc had Stokes superbly caught by Lyon at point.
Pope fell fishing unnecessarily outside off stump at a Boland delivery to send an edge through to wicketkeeper Carey, leaving it to Billings and Woakes to construct England’s second-highest stand of 42 for the seventh wicket.
Green accounted for Billings, caught by Boland at long leg, and Woakes finally fell to Starc, having survived two dropped catches in the slip cordon and initially being given not out when the Australian fielders believed he’d been caught down the leg side. The hosts reviewed and the DRS revealed the tiniest hot spot as the ball passed the bat and Woakes was gone after a valuable knock in the context of England’s innings, as they quickly subsided to 188 all out. But England needed more from someone, anyone.
It came from their seamers, with Broad and Woakes making early inroads before Wood snared the wicket of Usman Khawaja with a spicy bouncer which caught the glove as Khawaja took evasive action and sailed through to Billings.
Olllie Robinson had come in further down England’s batting order than usual at No. 11, indicating that the back spasms which restricted him to bowling a solitary over across the last two sessions on Friday would keep him out of the attack during Australia’s second innings. But he did come on late in the evening session to relieve Woakes and bowled four overs.
Billings said after play that the ball had become soft and the seam had flattened out early in Australia’s first innings, where Head starred with a century, by way of explaining England’s struggles to get much from it after the first 20 overs or so on the opening day. While the contrasting bowling performance on Saturday gave England something to aim for, their inability to make enough runs could well come back to bite them once more.
Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo