Thursday, 27 January 2022

Buttler rescues England after familiar collapse puts Australia on top


LONDON: Jos Buttler scored a superb half-century to rescue England after Australia all-rounder Mitchell Marsh’s four wickets provoked a familiar collapse on day one of the fifth Ashes Test.

England had taken control of proceedings in south London, moving to 103-1 and 170-3 in the afternoon session thanks to Joe Root’s fifty and 47 from opener Rory Burns. But Marsh, playing his first match of the series, ripped through England’s middle order as Root’s side lost five wickets for 56 runs to slip to 226-8. Buttler led England’s fightback in the dying light, however, finishing unbeaten on 64 to take the home side to 271-8 at the close of play.

Australia have taken an unassailable lead in the series but are aiming to become the first touring side to win the Ashes on these shores in 18 years, while England will secure a draw with victory this week. Tim Paine surprisingly elected to bowl after winning the toss this morning but he did not have long to wait before Pat Cummins, the No. 1 Test bowler in the world and leading wicket-taker in this series, made the breakthrough.

Joe Denly was the man to go, with England’s makeshift opener attempting a drive but only managing to nick behind to Steve Smith, who completed a juggling catch at the third attempt. That brought Root to the crease and the England skipper, with the help of the solid Burns, kept Australia at bay for the remainder of the morning session. Root’s innings was far from chanceless, however, and he survived the first of his three dropped catches when Peter Siddle failed to take a straightforward chance at fine leg. Shortly after, with Root on 25, an enthusiastic Paine dived across David Warner at slip, only to palm the ball to the boundary, handing the England batsman another lifeline.

It was a hat-trick of escapes for Root just after lunch, with the diving Smith unable to hold on to what would have been a fantastic grab. Australia were not deterred by their shoddy fielding display, however, and broke the growing Burns-Root partnership when the former was surprised by Hazlewood’s bounce and offered a simple catch to Marsh on the leg-side.

Ben Stokes, England’s Headingley hero, fell in a similar manner. Marsh was the bowler this time and a mistimed pull went straight up in the air, allowing Nathan Lyon to complete the dismissal. This was no time to panic, however, with a well-set Root passing fifty and finding support from wicketkeeper-batsman Jonny Bairstow. The pair had spent almost 20 overs at the crease and added 40 to the total when Root, on 57, was bowled by a brilliant Cummins delivery.

Three overs later Bairstow was following his captain back as he was trapped LBW by Marsh, who then nicked off Ashes debutant Sam Curran to leave England 199-6.

That became 205-7 when Marsh took his fourth scalp of the day to dismiss Chris Woakes, returning to the England side in replace of Craig Overton. Jofra Archer was unable to stem the tide, becoming Hazlewood’s second victim, but Buttler found a durable partner in his Somerset team-mate and close friend Jack Leach.

With England on the verge of being bowled out, Buttler decided to take the attack to Australia and his courage and skill paid off superbly as he smashed Hazlewood for three sixes. Buttler’s first fifty of the series – and first against Australia in Tests – came off 52 balls and the World Cup star was still unbeaten at the close of play, with England somewhat recovering to finish on 271-8.

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