Ashes 2nd Test: Labuschagne, Warner help Australia take control against sloppy England on Day 1
Marnus Labuschagne and David Warner both ground out gritty 95s as Australia seized control of the second Ashes Test on Thursday, surviving an onslaught from veteran English seamers Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad.
The visitors came into the day-night Adelaide Test on the back of a nine-wicket defeat in Brisbane but confident they could get back into the five-match series.
But even with the greatest wicket-takers in English history back in the side they struggled to make inroads with the pink ball as the home team compiled 221 for two by the close.
A consolation for England is that the world’s premier Test bowler, Australia skipper Pat Cummins, was ruled out less than three hours before the start over a Covid scare.
The tourists did snare an early breakthrough with Broad getting Marcus Harris for three, before Warner and Labuschagne put on 172 for the second wicket.
Warner looked destined for his 25th Test century as he began to open his bat, but fell in the nervous 90s for the second Test in a row, caught by Broad off Ben Stokes.
Labuschagne almost did the same, also on 95, when wicketkeeper Jos Buttler dropped a sitter off Anderson – much to the delight of the partisan crowd.
“There’s a bit of disbelief -– it is my job to capitalise on that now, I gave him a chance… I’ve got to make sure tomorrow no chances,” Labuschagne, who rode his luck more than once, said of Buttler’s costly mistake.
Labuschagne hung on to the close of play, surviving 275 balls to remain unbeaten, while Steve Smith – captaining the team in the absence of Cummins – was 18 not out in front of 32,328 fans.
Broad took 1-34 while Anderson bowled a very tidy 18 overs for 29.
“I thought we stuck at it well but they played particularly well in the first two sessions,” said England assistant coach Graham Thorpe.
“But we would have obviously loved to have more wickets down. It’s not a case of feeling sorry for ourselves, we just need to do very similar things tomorrow,” he added.
There was drama before a ball was even bowled. Cummins was at a restaurant on Wednesday evening when a person at the neighbouring table was identified as positive for coronavirus.
Cummins returned a negative test but under South Australia state’s strict bio-security rules he must now isolate for seven days.
“Super frustrating but Covid has thrown us all some curve balls over the last couple of years. Will be cheering along!” he tweeted as the match began.
– Fiery spell –
Fellow quick Josh Hazlewood is also missing, injured, leaving Australia with the inexperienced Jhye Richardson and Michael Neser to spearhead the attack with seasoned campaigners Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon.
Smith took over the captaincy for the first time since being axed over the Sandpaper-gate ball-tampering scandal in 2018. He won the toss and opted to bat.
England controversially left out Anderson and Broad, who had 1,156 Test wickets between them, from their heavy defeat in Brisbane.
But they returned at the expense of Mark Wood and spinner Jack Leach, bowling in tandem once more in a fiery opening spell.