Travis Head led the way with a superb counter-attacking century as Australia recovered from 12-3 on a thrilling opening day of the fifth Ashes Test in Hobart.
England had made a near-perfect start to the game after opting to play first with Ollie Robinson and Stuart Broad dismantling the hosts’ first order with the new pink ball as David Warner and Steve Smith both went down without scoring.
However, the home side rallied impressively with Marnus Labuschagne (44) and Head (101) starting the fightback before the dinner break and Cameron Green (74) then joining the latter to continue charging mid-session.
- Australia closes 241-6 in Hobart
- Alex Carey (10no), Mitchell Starc (0no)
- The hosts fell to 12-3 after being inserted
- David Warner and Steve Smith fall in love with ducks
- Travis Head (101) counterattacks with a ton of 112 balls
- Cameron Green (74) hit the third test in half a century
- Ollie Robinson unable to bowl after dinner due to back spasm
- Sam Billings makes his debut in one of five England changes
Head was dismissed after kicking his fourth test hundred and Green left after tea with Australia after progressing to 241-6 when rain ended a thrilling day prematurely.
Dream start for England
England confirmed five changes to their XI since the draw in Sydney shortly before the draw, which was delayed by half an hour due to rain, with Sam Billings brought in to make his debut to the test and Rory Burns, Ollie Pope, Chris Woakes and Robinson all back.
When the game started, England could not have asked for a better start as Broad and Robinson found prodigious movement with the new ball and wobbled Australia 12-3 from 10 overs.
The openers had battled through the opening overs before Warner headed for Robinson and edged Zak Crawley on the second slip to go for a 22-ball duck.
Robinson should have had Labuschagne in his next course, regaining the advantage as the World No. 1 hitter in the Test, looking to get off the mark, moved forward, but this time Crawley bombarded the catch as he dove in front Joe Root, who would have had a regulation catch.
This was soon forgotten – at least for a while – when Broad lured Usman Khawaja, climbed to the top of the command after his two tons at the SCG to accommodate Head, forward and located the edge with Root the gobbles up at the first slip. .
Five balls later it got even better for the tourists as Robinson (2-24) took on Smith and the ball flew off the shoulder of the bat to Crawley, who made no mistake this time .
David Warner and Steve Smith played 72 Tests together and it was the first time the two had been sent off for ducks in the same innings.
Labuschagne and Head fought until the drinks and then exploded into life, a flurry of attacking shots with Mark Wood and Woakes unable to keep up the pressure applied by the opening duo as the sumptuous stitching move wore off.
With the disciplined line and length of opening overs nowhere to be found, Labuschagne and Head cashed in and took just 7.1 overs to conjure up their fifty partnership with the Hobart ground seemingly transformed from a minefield into a featherbed .
The second hour was dominated by the home side and memories of Crawley’s earlier fall suddenly into the forefront of England’s minds as Labuschagne walked in Woakes, took the ball from outside the stump and whipped it into the middle of the wicket in a way reminiscent of the great Sir Viv Richards. .
It all made the Australian No.3’s sacking all the more confusing. Again he moved up the pitch and moved forward for offside but this time Broad (2-48) fired the ball straight in and Labuschagne lost his footing and found himself lying down on the bridge as the ball headed towards the center stump.
Australia strikes back as tourists struggle
It was a much-needed breakthrough for England ahead of the dinner break, but any thought of a quick drive through Australia mid-session was banished as Robinson struggled through the second, his pace much slower, before leave the field.
England later confirmed the setter had back spasms and did not play again that day, leaving the visitors with just three in-form setters at their disposal on an increasingly flat surface and Root he himself was forced into action, his off-round accounting for 10 of the 59.3 overs possible on day one.
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With England shorthanded there was no letting up for Australia with Head in ruthless form punishing bowlers whenever they got their line or length wrong while Green soon joined him , putting his size to good use as he moved forward to hammer the ball. the covers over and over again.
Approaching tea, Head went into the 90s and got away with a leading edge that looped over Woakes but didn’t reach Robinson halfway through he raised his second hundred from the series with a ravine with two guided passages.
He was off to the next ball as he chipped Woakes (1-50) obediently halfway through and this time the ball went handheld, ending a 121-point stand. A relief for England after a session that saw them concede 130 points in a daunting 28 overs.
The pain continued after tea with Green growing increasingly confident, driving both brutally and elegantly through the covers to move within sight of a first Test hundred, leading England to turn to the short ball ploy.
It’s a tactic England have tried a number of times throughout the series with little success but on this occasion it did the trick. Wood (1-79) bothered him with a few bouncers before rounding the wicket, hitting another that Green edged straight towards Crawley at the deep wicket on the hook.
Rain started to fall soon after and after initially trying to keep playing the referees took the players off the field and although it was just drizzle it was enough to stop any play additional.
England must now try to get over the potential loss of Robinson and hope Wood and Woakes prove less costly as they try to wrap up the Australian innings on day two.
“Robinson needs to improve his physical condition”
England bowling coach Jon Lewis speaking to BT Sports: “Ollie Robinson has a little back spasm and he is receiving treatment so we will see how he copes. He has remained on the pitch so he is available to play when he is good. Hopefully tomorrow as he will be played fantastically this morning He is certainly looking to improve [his fitness]. He will need it if he wants to perform regularly at this level. He needs to be a fitter bowler. We have been quite frank with him and it is up to him to do the job. He has to take better care of himself than he probably does right now.”
Sir Alastair Cook, addressing BT Sports: “It’s a big loss. We can see Robinson’s potential and what he brings to the side. You don’t want to compare him to Glenn McGrath, but he gets pinched by a length like McGrath used to We’ve seen Robinson’s pace drop throughout the series and it’s an element of his game that’s easily fixable. today it was about his injury.
England Women begin their attempt to regain the Ashes on January 20 with the first of three T20 internationals. White ball matches are followed by a stand-alone test match and then three one-day internationals.
England last won the Ashes in 2014, with reigning Australian triumphs in England in 2015 and 2019 sandwiching a draw streak in Australia in 2017.