England captain Joe Root had a day to forget after he copped a rocket to his nether regions with his Poms on the cusp of defeat.
Australian needs just six more wickets to go 2-0 up in the Ashes after it continued to assert its dominance on Day 4 of the second Test at the Adelaide Oval.
Australia was far from convincing with the bat, suffering a mini-collapse in the afternoon, with Marcus Harris, nightwatchman Michael Neser and Steve Smith all falling cheaply early on.
But it mattered little, as half centuries from Marnus Labuschagne and Travis Head steadied the ship as the Aussies declared at 9/230 with a healthy 467-run lead.
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England was 4/82 on stumps after its brittle top-order showed little resistance to Australia’s bowlers under lights in the evening session.
Jhye Richardson bowled superbly and claimed two wickets, while Neser and Mitchell Starc picked up one each.
The only concern for Australia came when Starc appeared to tweak his back while smacking a ball for six late in the batting innings.
The extent of his injury is unclear, but the pace spearhead brushed it off to inflict serious pain on England captain Joe Root, who just can’t take a trick at the moment.
He missed the start of the day’s play after being struck in the nether regions during a warm-up net session and Starc hit him in the same area again in a case of awful luck.
Late on Day 4, attempting to keep his side in the game, Root copped a thunderous delivery from Starc to the most sensitive part of the body.
Root was in serious pain and immediately went down on all fours, where he stayed for over a minute.
His batting partner at the other end Ben Stokes grimaced while Starc and Nathan Lyon barely disguised their wry smiles as the Root winced in pain on the ground.
“Geez, he looks in a world of hurt here,” Ricky Ponting said on Channel 7.
“We’ve been saying abdominal issue all day but we don’t think it was. We think it might have been slightly lower than the abdominal.”
A photo of the exact moment Root copped his low blow — taken by Daniel Kalisz of Getty Images — was shared widely on social media and summed up the pain England and its supporters have felt so far this tour.
“If that’s got him in the same spot. That’s really, really hurt him.” Australian great Greg Blewett added.
“Yeah, he’s still in a world of pain Joe Root. He’s in all sorts here. If he was tender before that, it’s not what you want.”
Matters only got worse for Root moments later when he was dismissed for 24, nicking a full-length ball from Starc through to wicketkeeper Alex Carey.
His dismissal leaves England requiring a mammoth 386 runs to win on the last day with just six wickets in hand.
Burns out, Smith makes up for shocker
England opener Rory Burns was dismissed for 34 after he edged a ball off Jhye Richardson to Steve Smith at second slip.
Smith will be feeling relieved after he dropped a sitter off the bowling of Nathan Lyon earlier.
Richardson has bowled superbly and now has two wickets, while England is three wickets down and still needs almost 400 runs to pull off an improbably victory.
Steve Smith’s horror blunder
Australian captain Steve Smith has hardly put a foot wrong in the field this Test, but all good things must come to an end.
The 32-year-old has dropped a regulation catch at first slip off Nathan Lyon’s bowling in the evening session, gifting England No. 3 Dawid Malan and extra life on 19.
Lyon found the left-hander’s outside edge, and the Kookaburra flew to Smith at a comfortable height – but the chance was put down.
“Finally the edge comes, and it’s spilt,” Fox Cricket commentator Mark Howard cried.
Former Australian Test batter Greg Blewett said: “I don‘t believe it, I don’t think Steve Smith believes it. That’s a regulation catch! What has happened there? He is a dynamite catcher Stephen Smith.”
Thankfully for Smith, Australian debutant Michael Neser removed Malan the following over, trapping him LBW for 20 – a review couldn’t save Malan on this occasion.
Australia now require eight wickets for victory, with England captain Joe Root the new man in the middle.
Aussies strike early in fourth innings
This Test match could be over fairly soon.
Australian seamer Jhye Richardson has claimed his first Test wicket in almost three years, removing England opener Haseeb Hameed for a duck.
The West Australian quick generated some extra bounce off the deck, and the ball ballooned off Hameed’s glove towards the slip cordon.
It marks England’s 49th Test duck in the calendar year.
Quartet of Aussies depart before declaration
After steadying the ship for Australia, Marnus Labuschagne has fallen shortly after bringing up his half-century at Adelaide Oval.
The Australian No. 3 claimed an unwanted piece of history when he was caught by Stokes off the spin bowling of Dawid Malan, giving the England batter his first Test wicket.
Alex Carey, Mitchell Starc and Jhye Richardson were each dismissed while hunting quick runs before the declaration came in the 61st over.
Head scores rapid fifty
Australian vice-captain Travis Head has brought up his eighth Test fifty, reaching the milestone in 49 balls at Adelaide Oval on Sunday.
But the South Australian’s stay at the crease didn’t last much longer, with England seamer Ollie Robinson dismissing the left-hander for 51.
Head pulled a short delivery towards deep square leg, where Ben Stokes held onto a superb catch low to the deck.
Fox Cricket commentator Isa Guha called it an “absolute stunner”, while former Australian batter Mark Waugh said it was a “catch and a half”.
Cameron Green joins Marnus Labuschagne in the middle as Australia’s lead approaches 400.
Ashes centurions rebuild innings
Marnus Labuschagne and Travis Head have combined for a fifty-run partnership, with the pair rebuilding Australia’s innings after the hosts lost 4/14.
Smith’s luck runs out
Australian captain Steve Smith has been dismissed 6, with England seamer Ollie Robinson snaring the key wicket.
Smith looked to glance a delivery into square leg, but only managed a thin edge down the leg-side that was taken one-handed by Jos Buttler – who can only seem to hold onto screamers at Adelaide Oval.
South Australian batter Travis Head joins Marnus Labuschagne in the middle.
Chaotic start to day four
There’s plenty happening early on day four of the Adelaide Test.
Australian nightwatchman Michael Neser was clean-bowled by England veteran James Anderson for 3, bringing first innings centurion Marnus Labuschagne to the middle.
The following over, seamer Stuart Broad caught the edge of opening batter Marcus Harris, with gloveman Jos Buttler taking a superb one-handed catch.
Harris made his way back to the pavilion for 23, bringing Australian captain Steve Smith to the middle.
However, Smith should have been sent packing the very next ball, with Broad finding yet another outside edge. However, Buttler botched a regulation chance behind the stumps, and Smith somehow avoided the dreaded golden duck.
But the drama wasn’t done there.
The following delivery, Smith was struck on the front pad and Broad steamed towards the slip cordon with a trademark celebrappeal. Stand-in captain Ben Stokes called for the review when the on-field umpire shook his head.
Hawkeye replays showed that the ball would have crashed into off stump, but the right-handed Smith was saved by an “umpire’s call” for the impact.
“I reckon they’re stiff they’re England, that looks plumb to me,” former Australian batter Greg Blewett said on Triple M commentary.
Two lucky escapes for Smith in two consecutive balls.
“Not sure I‘ve seen a luckier start to a Test innings than what I’ve just seen these last two balls,” former Australian Test captain Ricky Ponting said on Channel 7.
England captain suffers abdomen injury
The bad news keeps on coming for England, with their captain Joe Root struck down with an abdomen injury ahead of day four.
On Sunday afternoon, the ECB confirmed that Root sustained the injury during warm-ups before play, and would not take the field when day four gets underway at 3pm AEDT.
“England captain Joe Root will not be on the field at the start of play today after being hit in the abdomen during throw downs in the warm-up before play,” ECB said in a statement.
“He is currently being assessed by the England medical team.”
Root has reportedly since been sent for scans.
England did not select a strike spinner for the day-night fixture at Adelaide Oval, with Root serving as the side’s lone tweaker in the first innings.
Australian off-spinner Nathan Lyon proved there was plenty of turn and bounce on offer in Adelaide, and the loss of Root could prove a frustrating blow for the visitors.
Wife catches Smith in the act
Steve Smith was at his eccentric best in the early hours of Sunday morning as the clock ticked towards 1am.
The captain’s wife Dani Willis posted a video on Instagram showing the right-hander shadow batting in his hotel room, testing out a new piece of willow.
We’re not sure whether Willis was also providing her thoughts on the bat, or if Smith was simply getting in the way of the Seinfeld episode on their TV.
Ashes Test struck by fresh Covid drama
Adelaide Oval confirmed a member of the venue’s broadcast crew has tested positive to Covid-19 ahead of day four of the second Ashes Test between Australia and England.
The ground’s media centre on the fourth floor of the southern stand was deep-cleaned on Sunday after a broadcaster returned a positive Covid-19 result as part of scheduled testing. According to reports, ABC and BBC commentators have been told to stay in their hotel.
Australian players were entering the venue when News Corp broke the story.
“SA Health are aware and we have begun to trace and notify this person’s close contacts,” Adelaide Oval’s official Twitter account posted on Sunday afternoon.
“In accordance with our pre-planning we undertaking a deep clean of the relevant areas and are facilitating alternative facilities for relevant officials as required.”
Media have been required to undergo several Covid-19 tests and wear masks while covering the day-night Test match.
As reported by News Corp, the unidentified person is understood to have interviewed England batter Dawid Malan on Saturday. However, the broadcaster was wearing a mask during the interview, so there is no issue with the cricketer.
Fox Cricket presenter Kath Loughnan later reported that a second member of the Adelaide Oval broadcast staff had tested positive, and SA Health were working through close contacts.