England plagued by missed opportunities as Australia build on lead

England gave David Warner three separate lives on his way to 94 not out at tea.

Rory Dollard
Thursday 09 December 2021 05:08
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England’s Mark Wood celebrates the wicket of Australia’s Steve Smith during day two of the first Ashes test at The Gabba, Brisbane (Jason O’Brien/PA)
England’s Mark Wood celebrates the wicket of Australia’s Steve Smith during day two of the first Ashes test at The Gabba, Brisbane (Jason O’Brien/PA)

A Ben Stokes no-ball kicked off a hat-trick of howlers for England as David Warner cashed in on mistakes to bat Australia into a handsome position on day two of the first Ashes Test.

After being bowled out for 147 on the opening day England needed a big response in the field but instead contributed to their own plight as the home side piled up 193 for three.

England gave Warner three separate lives on his way to 94 not out at tea – Stokes clean bowling him on 17 having overstepped, Rory Burns dropping him in the slips on 48 and Haseeb Hameed missing a close-range run out opportunity when he had 60.

It all added up to a demoralising time for a side already smarting by their batting exploits, with Warner and Marnus Labuschagne (74) putting on 156 for the second wicket.

Australia’s Marnus Labuschagne walks off after being dismissed (Jason O’Brien/PA)

Spinner Jack Leach chosen here ahead of Stuart Broad, was victimised to the tune of 50 runs in his first 6.1 overs but gave England a moment of respite when the otherwise imperious Labuschagne slashed to point for 74 deep in the afternoon session. When Mark Wood had England’s old nemesis Steve Smith caught behind for 12 just before tea, flagging spirits received another badly-needed boost.

Stokes’ flawed footwork still rankled though, with the revelation that his would be ‘dismissal’ of Warner was one of 14 no-balls he sent down in the morning, none of which were called in real time. It later transpired that the line technology which is supposed to flag front-foot errors had malfunctioned and was not being used by the third umpire.

England needed a strong start with the new ball, particularly with record wicket-takers James Anderson and Stuart Broad sitting on the sidelines, and Ollie Robinson gave them one. Bowling with calm skill and control on his first Ashes outing, he was into his third over when he nipped one away and had Marcus Harris nicking low to Dawid Malan at third slip.

It briefly looked like more could follow, with Mark Wood cranking it up to 94mph in his first over and causing Warner some clear discomfort. Stokes, returning here after a five-month hiatus, turned in a dramatic first over.

His second ball sailed agonisingly wide of Malan off Warner’s edge and his fourth snaked through the defences to clip the top of off stump. Stokes’ muted celebrations were a giveaway about what would come next, with a deflated Warner recalled to the crease when replays showed Stokes’ boot had landed well in front of the whitewash. Further analysis at the interval showed he was doing so habitually without being told until the moment it mattered most.

That was as close as England got to a second wicket before lunch, with Labuschagne leaving intelligently and punishing the bad balls as they crept in while Warner scrapped his way into the game.

England’s Jack Leach gave up 50 runs in his first 6.1 overs (Jason O’Brien/PA)

A competitive battle shifted dramatically into Australia’s favour when Leach entered the attack, with both men showing him thinly disguised disdain. His first three overs shipped 31, including two towering sixes from Warner and one from Labuschagne.

The latter won the race to 50 before lunch, slashing a becalmed Chris Woakes for four as they took the score to 113 for one. Warner should never have followed him to the landmark, nicking Robinson’s fourth ball after lunch straight to slip only for Burns to fumble the chance. Having been dismissed by the first ball of the series, this was another moment to forget.

Warner was scoring at a good rate but kept offering opportunities, not least when he turned on his heels having stepped down the track. He fell flat on his face, dropped his bat and gave Hameed a golden chance to take his stumps from short leg. Remarkably, he missed the target.

England settled into a hangdog phase as the runs kept coming for Australia, including a few more worrying blows off the embattled Leach. Just as it looked like there was nowhere to go, the Somerset man caught a break – Labuschagne carving straight to Wood square of the wicket.

That brought Smith to the crease but Wood got just rewards for his tireless efforts when he angled one in at good pace and saw a thin edge skip through to wicketkeeper Jos Buttler.

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