Australia may have missed an opportunity to ram home their dominance over England’s beleaguered batsmen after the revitalised tourists mounted a fightback with a swinging pink ball under lights on the third night of the second Test.
Australia had led by 215 runs on Monday after wrapping up England’s first innings for 227 soon after the dinner break but captain Steve Smith chose to bat again rather than enforce the follow on.
In a dramatic final session they then found themselves 4-50, with Peter Handscomb (3 not out) and nightwatchman Nathan Lyon (3 not out) clinging on until stumps.
Australia will resume on the fourth day at 4-53, but with a commanding advantage of 268. The hosts are still very strong favourites to take a 2-0 series lead as England have not chased more than 250 to win in Australia since 1928. But whether Smith would have been better off sending his fast bowlers in for the kill against England in the night session rather than batting again was a point of debate.
A tense evening continued after the final ball when Handscomb and England captain Joe Root exchanged words as they walked off the ground and umpire Aleem Dar stepped in between them to intervene.
Root had appeared unhappy that England had missed the chance to bowl one last over at the Australian pair, complaining that Lyon was wasting time by calling for treatment after being hit in the thigh by a delivery from Chris Woakes.
The bowler himself took it in his stride. “It was a bit of time wasting,” Woakes said. “It’s within the rules. If we were in the same position I don’t see why we’d try and do anything different.
“It’s all part of the game. When it’s moving around a little bit under lights I suppose you wouldn’t want to face another over. I don’t blame him.”
James Anderson was the ringleader for the suddenly upbeat tourists, claiming 2-16 in an 11-over spell. He removed Cameron Bancroft, caught behind for four, then Usman Khawaja, leg-before for 20. He also had Smith given out without scoring only for the ball-tracking technology to overturn the umpire’s decision when the ball was shown to pitch fractionally outside leg.
Smith rode his luck but it ran out when he was on six and trapped in front again by Woakes. He reviewed the decision again but this time he had to go.
Woakes (2-13) also chimed in with the scalp of David Warner, who nicked off and was caught by Root in the slips for 14.
Australian quick Mitchell Starc said the bowling attack had not been consulted on the decision whether or not to enforce the follow on and it was Smith’s call.
“That’s why he’s the captain. He makes the decisions,” Starc said.
“I think there’s pros and cons to both. You don’t look past the fact there are still two full night sessions if England really want to win this game. We obviously had a tough session with the bat there but there is a lot of cricket to go. We’ve got a lead of 260 odd and a lot of batting in the sheds. We’re still very much in the driver’s seat.”
The evening session took some of the shine off what had been a fantastic day in the field for Australia in which Lyon became the world’s leading wicket-taker this year and took a classic return catch.
A superhero with the ball in 2017, Lyon didn’t need a cape to get airborne in the midst of England’s miserable first innings.
The man teammates call the GOAT, as in Greatest (Australian off-spinner) Of All Time, reacted sharply as Moeen Ali bunted the ball back to the left of where Lyon had ended up in his follow-through. Leaping and throwing out his left hand, Lyon was able to complete a spectacular grab. Who said goats can’t fly?
Starc, not to be outdone, then pulled up from his bowling stride to take a screamer himself – a juggling, right-handed effort to stop a full-blooded Jonny Bairstow drive – and it seemed as if this Australian side could do anything. Tim Paine got in on the action, too, gloving the sharpest of chances while ‘keeping up to the stumps to Lyon.
Lyon (4-60) collected the final two wickets to bring his total since January 1 to 55 and surpass South Africa’s Kagiso Rabada as the most prolific bowler in the world in the calendar year.
England’s batsmen including Root failed to display the prudence required to mount a fightback and by late afternoon Australia were toying with them.
“No, no, you don’t want to go down that end,” Lyon quipped to all-rounder Craig Overton as the debutant thought about a single from the last ball of one of the spinner’s overs. The reason for the gentle advice was that Starc (3-49) was about to steam in from the other end and quite likely to dig another ball in short, as Pat Cummins (2-47), Josh Hazlewood (1-56) and the left-armer have taken a liking to doing to their lower order.
Overton, England’s top scorer with 41 not out, and Woakes (36) could hold their heads high, though, after keeping the Australian quicks at bay amid the bouncer barrage with a 66-run partnership for England’s eight wicket.
Woakes and Anderson then did the business with the ball to give England a lifeline.
“We’re behind in the game but we’ve fought back and shown some good character,” Woakes said. “We’ve put some pressure back on Australia.”
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.