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Ashes

Ruthless Australia seal 2-0 lead

Will Macpherson by Will Macpherson
@willis_macp 5 minute read

Australia’s bowlers were magnificent in killing England’s hope and wrapping up 120-run win and a 2-0 leading in the Ashes, writes Will Macpherson from Adelaide.

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On the fourth evening, England were confident. Probably more confident than the odds and the analytics suggested they should be, while Australia sent a member of the support staff to speak to the media – normally a sign that all is not quite right. James Anderson, looking pleased as punch, said he would happily have a bat if just 10 were required. Joe Root said England came to the ground on the final morning “expecting”.

In the event, Anderson came in with England requiring 130, and they ended up losing by 120. The miracle, it was abundantly clear, was off.

The miracle felt off when Josh Hazlewood, in a brilliant opening spell, did for Chris Woakes and Joe Root, both caught behind. Woakes was gone to the day’s second ball and Root insisted he review. Aleem Dar might have guessed and there was no Hotspot, but there was a spike on snicko and off he had to trudge. Root went to his and Hazlewood’s eighth of the day, feet leaden, but unlucky to edge through off the bottom of the bat. Australia can seldom have celebrated a wicket with such zest. Hazlewood was delicious; line, length and a load of nibble. It would take Australia 45 minutes to bowl a bouncer – they are more skilful than they shout about.

Nathan Lyon dismissed Moeen Ali, because that is what he does. Four times in the series now, and each time in a curious fashion. This time, having fidgeted his way through the spinner’s first over, he went for the big sweep and was out lbw. The difference between Moeen and Lyon might be the starkest in the two sides.

And then came the new ball. The old one, wanged down by the brilliant Pat Cummins, had battered into Craig Overton’s ribs and Mitchell Starc’s first ball with the new one cannoned into his pads. Plumb. Stuart Broad against Starc was a question of how and when, not if. The answer was ‘soon, and caught behind, stepping away’.

All this left Jonny Bairstow stood there, alone but for Anderson, raging against the dying light. Eventually Starc cleaned him up too, played on, but not before he had shown exactly why he should be batting at least one place up the order. Bairstow at No 7 is a folly, and one England must fix before Perth. He is their second batsman, and No 7 is not where the second-best batsman bats.

Australia have not bowled badly all series, but here they bowled really, beautifully, wonderfully well. Their best yet. England were not gutless or particularly witless or even especially bad. They were just brushed aside by a bowling attack that was too strong for them. In so many ways, that is more concerning than the margin of defeat and the series score. Is it possible to turn things around when the attack can be so flaming hot?

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