NEVER has a Test match result meant so much to two captains.
Steve Smith and Joe Root have put their reputations squarely on the line in Adelaide — and one will be left with egg on his face when all is said and done.
Root’s surprise call to send Australia into bat generated just as much discussion as Smith’s decision not to enforce the follow-on after Australia led by 215 runs after the first innings.
Today we get a clearer view of who made a mistake. Play is scheduled to begin at 2pm AEDT.
Australia 8/442 declared and 4/53, Handscomb 3 Lyon 3. England 227.
Shane who? Lyon in roaring form
Nathan Lyon is in career-best form and Australia’s other three bowlers are arguably enjoying the benefits even more than the offspinner.
Lyon claimed four wickets on day three of the second Ashes Test in Adelaide, taking his tally to a world-best 55 for the year.
“I would go as far as saying that the Aussies have now got over losing Shane Warne,” English commentator David Lloyd wrote in the Daily Mail. “Of course, you can never replace a bowler with the powers to take 708 Test wickets but this bloke is doing a wonderful job.”
No Test bowler has been as productive in 2017 as Lyon, who at this point last year would have been axed if not for Steve O’Keefe’s calf injury.
Lyon has been arguably Steve Smith’s most potent weapon in Brisbane and Adelaide, backing up productive tours of India and Bangladesh, and some pre-Ashes niggle that upset past and present England players.
Aussie Test great Matthew Hayden tweeted Lyon is the best spinner in the world in all conditions — ahead of Indian stars Ravi Ashwin and Ravi Jadeja and Sri Lanka’s Rangana Herath.
Nathan Lyon atm— Matthew Hayden AM (@HaydosTweets) December 4, 2017
Lyon’s consistency and England’s hesitancy to attack him has resulted in some long spells. That has in turn helped Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins enjoy longer breaks.
“He’s bowling a lot more overs and taking a lot more wickets. He just has that belief in himself that he can get a wicket most balls,” Starc told reporters. “It allows the other three of us to rotate in shorter, sharper spells. Keeps us fresh and bowling fast.
“He’s putting the ball where he wants a lot of the time and he’s in the game all the time, he’s been phenomenal.
“It’s great to watch, great to be a part of and it’s helping all the bowlers out, it’s easier for everyone.”
Lyon’s efforts will also have been much appreciated by selectors, who would have harboured concerns about the workloads of Starc, Hazlewood and Cummins after failing to pick an all-rounder.
Lyon snared 4-60 in England’s first innings of 227 at Adelaide Oval. Alastair Cook and Stuart were out edging, Jimmy Anderson was LBW for a duck but the most impressive dismissal was that of Moeen Ali.
Lyon flung himself to the left to complete an astonishing one-handed catch and dismiss Moeen for the third time in the series.
Starc followed it up with an impressive catch off his own bowling as England slipped to 7-142 in their first dig.
“I guess a little bit (surprised by how quickly the wickets tumbled) ... we know the day is the easiest time to bat with the pink ball,” the left-armer said. “We’ve put a lot of balls in the right area, right lengths. Probably some loose shots by their guys.”
Still a few more Roots to get
Australia’s plans to nullify Joe Root have come off nicely, but the hosts are wary of declaring him a spent force in the Ashes.
The England skipper is rightly billed as one of the world’s premier batsmen but has yet to reach any great heights in the opening two Tests. Australia’s bowlers made no secret of their plans to target Root in the lead-up to his first Ashes series as captain.
The 26-year-old has had a recent tendency to be dismissed lbw and fell twice in that fashion in the first Test in Brisbane, something Steve Smith speculated would play on his counterpart’s mind.
Root would also be kicking himself with his dismissal to Pat Cummins in Adelaide, playing an expansive drive that resulted in a thick edge flying to third slip.
Paceman Mitchell Starc was pleased to see their plans bear fruit but cautioned that Root was good enough to bounce back.
“We’ve spoken a lot about him over the last few weeks in terms of plans and that sort of thing,” Starc said.
“He’s not in the runs yet but we know how good a player he is. “We’re going to have to get him out again a few more times this series, three more times at least, to win the Ashes.” While far from disastrous, Root’s scores of 15, 51 and nine haven’t been enough to carry an innings for his inexperienced batting order.
The classy right-hander will be desperate to contribute with England facing a hefty fourth-innings run chase in Adelaide.
“He’s (made runs) here before, he’s done it around the world,” Starc said. “He’s not someone you can take lightly with a couple of cheap dismissals.”
Bold England: ‘Anything is chaseable’
After being bullied by Australia for two and a half days, England’s cricketers are encouraged at finally fighting back.
And the tourists are imploring each other to continue to land blows on their Australian tormentors in a bid for a second Test miracle in Adelaide.
Australia bossed England until the dinner break on Monday’s third day of play, creating a 215-run first-innings lead.
But after Australia captain Steve Smith opted not to force the follow-on, England hit back to leave their hosts 4-53.
And while still 268 runs behind, all-rounder Chris Woakes says the character- laden fightback lifted English spirits.
“It’s great for us as a team that we did that,” Woakes said. “It’s important that we do try and push back. A positive thing for us as a side to believe that we can put Australia under pressure.
“Obviously we’re behind in the game. But it’s really good that we have fought back and showed some good character to get ourselves back in the game.”
England were sparked by Jimmy Anderson’s top-shelf spell of swing bowling. Anderson took 2-16 from 11 consecutive overs while Woakes chipped in with 2-13 to give the tourists an inner glow from a pink-ball night session.
While Woakes said England can’t let Australia substantially increase their lead, he believed any run chase was achievable.
“It’s still a good batting surface,” he said.
“We all know that it gets a little bit tricky under lights, the pink ball generally does move around a little bit more and you have to get through those sessions.
“We obviously have to make use of those sessions when it’s in normal daylight. It’s always going to be tricky under lights but if you can get though those (sessions) and get batsmen set, anything is chaseable.”
- Shane who? Lyon roaring
- Still a few more Roots to get
- England: ‘Anything is chaseable’
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