Aussies in command

Steve Smith acknowldges the crowd after getting to 50
Peter Argent (At Adelaide Oval)

The 2021-22 Ashes test series looks to be developing into a home team domination, after a second successive win by the Australian’s, taking a 2-0 lead into the Boxing Day test in Melbourne, this Sunday.

The Adelaide Oval Test event had its drama’s from the outset, with new captain Patrick Cummins sidelined, after he was ruled out due to being deemed a close contact of a COVID-19 positive person.

This meant Steve Smith was elevated to leadership duties for the first time since the South African ball tampering saga in March 2018, and Travis Head, became his deputy for the match, after just being reinstated into the team for the previous Test in Brisbane.

Cummins unavailability, gave an opportunity for Michael Neser, a South African born Queenslander to make his test debut, after more than a dozen tests as 12th man.

Young tyro Jhye Richardson also came back into the Australian side, with Josh Hazelwood injured in the first Test.

It proved to be a game for cricket the purists.

Smith won the toss and elected to bat in this return match at captain.

Day one was an old fashioned contest between bat and ball with no quarter given, and if they English side didn’t have “butter fingers”, they would have been in a better position than having Australia 2/221 at stumps, with Marcus Labuschagne becalmed for the final hour under lights on 95, and Smith not out 18.

In the oppressive heat of day two (Friday, December 17), the Australian batsman continued to work hard and build an imposing total.

Labuschagne was dismissed shortly after making his century, while Smith was dismissed for a sometimes dour, but still well-compiled 95.

Playing in his second test, local SA lad Alex “The King” Carey made his first half century at the level, with some enterprising hitting from tail enders Mitch Starc (39) and Michael Neser (35) ensuring the hosts could declare late on day two at 9/473, giving the Australian bowlers an hour at the English top order under lights.

The timing was perfect, as both openers were dismissed during this short session and England were reeling at 2/17 at stumps.

Michael Neser collected his first wicket at the level, having Haseeb Hameed caught off his second ball in Test cricket, and Starc dismissed the other English opener, Rory Burns in a short and productive session under lights on Friday.

On Saturday afternoon, both Dawid Malan (80) and captain Joe Root (62) produced a second century partnership of the summer, a third wicket stand of 138, but the English lost their final eight wickets for 86 runs, with only Ben Stokes (34) and Chris Woakes (24) showing any real resistance.

Starc finished with the excellent figures of 4/52, while off-spinner Nathan Lyon, at one of this favourite grounds secured the analysis of 3/58 and five wickets for the match to match Shane Warne for the most test wickets at this venue.

Baby faced all-rounder Cameron Green also chimed in with 2/24 from 10 overs.

Leading by a significant 237-run margin, Smith decided to bat again, instead of forcing the follow on on Saturday night.

The Aussies after being 1/45 at stumps on day three, took the game away from the English across the fourth day.

Led again by Man of the Match, Labuschagne and Head who both made 51, Australia declared at 9/230, with the English having a tricky period to negotiate before stumps on Sunday night.

With Root, after receiving a fearful blow to the “crown jewels”, being dismissed by Starc off the final ball of the evening, the visitors were in disarray at 4/82.

On Monday, against the odds the English dragged the game into a final session, and get to within 21 overs of claiming a remarkable draw.

Woakes top scored with 44, while Joss Buttler was defiant, making a 207-ball, 258-minute 26.

When Richardson dismissed number 11 bat James Anderson to take his prized fifth wicket for innings, it sparking emotive celebrations from the Australian team.

He finished with the great figures of 5/42 from 19.1 overs and the Aussies were victorious by 275 runs.

“(It was) more of a relief than anything,” the returning Richardson said in a post-game interview.

“Especially after the first innings having a bit of a tough time of it out there, to come out again and most importantly get the win.

“It’s nice to make a contribution as well, but there’s no better feeling than a Test win.”

The Aussie now enter the Boxing Day, Melbourne Test with a 2-0 lead in the five match Ashes series.

There was a Broken Hill connection with the Australian test team in this match, as perhaps the city’s greatest cricket export across the past half a century, Jeff Vaughan was the national fielding coach, travelling with the team.

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