Adelaide: Australia ground down a battling England to win the second Test in Adelaide Monday and go 2-0 up in the Ashes series, leaving the visitors’ dreams of winning back the hallowed urn in tatters.
England resumed day five of the pink ball Test in deep trouble at 82 for four chasing a massive 468 to win, needing a miracle to salvage a draw.
They gamely hung on into the final session, fighting a desperate rearguard action until ultimately crumbling to be all out for 192, crashing to a 275-run defeat.
Jhye Richardson was the pick of the attack with 5-42.
England slumped by nine wickets in the first Test at Brisbane and the loss this week means their hopes of winning back a trophy they last secured on Australian turf in 2010-11 are all but over.
Joe Root’s men will head to Melbourne for the Boxing Day Test starting Sunday knowing that the only instance of a team coming from 2-0 down to win the Ashes was Donald Bradman’s Australia way back in 1936-37.
With Root, the world’s number one Test batsmen, removed by Mitchell Starc in the final over on Sunday evening, England’s hopes appeared to rest with allrounder Ben Stokes.
The 30-year-old has so often rescued his team, with memories of his match-winning exploits against Australia at Headingley in 2019 to keep that series alive still fresh.
But trying to nurse England’s batting through 90 overs against Australia’s relentless bowling was too big a task, even for him.
He put his head down and lasted 77 balls for 12 runs before Nathan Lyon struck. The umpire initially gave the lbw shout not out, but Australia reviewed and it was shown to be plumb in front.
Ollie Pope lasted only seven balls, edging to Steve Smith at slip off Starc, out for four to go with his disappointing first innings’ five.
But Jos Buttler (26) and Chris Woakes (44) dug in, frustrating Australia in a 61-run stand before Jhye Richardson clattered Woakes’ stumps.
Ollie Robinson made a dogged eight before Smith took his sixth catch of the match to dismiss him off Lyon, then Buttler incredibly fell after surviving nearly 35 overs by stepping on his own stumps.
England’s chances of victory had been nigh on impossible – no team had ever posted such a big fourth innings score to win in Test cricket history, with the West Indies’ 418 for seven in beating Steve Waugh’s Australia at St John’s in 2003 the highest.
Their problems stemmed from losing seven wickets for 86 runs as they collapsed to 236 all out in the first innings in reply to Australia’s 473 for nine declared, with only Root (62) and Dawid Malan (80) showing any backbone.
They also blundered by leaving out Jack Leach, ignoring the warnings of Adelaide Oval’s head groundsman before the game that it would be a mistake to not play a specialist spinner.
Bowling coach Jon Lewis admitted they erred in picking an all-pace attack, conceding they misjudged conditions, expecting more swing and less spin.
“In hindsight, you might say we should have picked a different side,” he said, with returning veteran seamers Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad claiming just five wickets between them.
“But at the time, we felt like we picked a team that would win the game,” added Lewis.
While England struggled, Australia excelled under interim captain Smith after Pat Cummins was ruled out hours before the start over a Covid scare.
Workhorse Marnus Labuschagne again reinforced his status as one of the world’s premier batsmen, slamming 103 in the first innings and 51 in the second.
In contrast to England’s batting, Australia showed more depth with five of their top six scoring fifties. Opener Marcus Harris was the only failure.
And even with pace spearheads Cummins and Josh Hazlewood missing, Jhye Richardson and Michael Neser ably complemented the ever-dangerous Starc and Lyon, along with fast-improving all-rounder Cameron Green.
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Et harum quidem rerum facilis est et expedita distinctio. Nam libero tempore, cum soluta...