Australia lead series 2-0 © Getty Images
Australia lead series 2-0 © Getty Images

Stuart Broad and James Anderson were at Steven Smith’s throat. The Englishmen used the same trash talk that they have been demeaning the Australians for. Aleem Dar was forced to intervene. No warnings were thrown. The cool Dar walled between Smith and Anderson to avoid sparks instead. Broad had been unsettling David Warner before that episode. In other words, England counterpunched Australia with the same weapon, but none of that caused even the slightest of panic in the Australian camp. They managed to throttle Smith to 40 with sledges, but Shaun Marsh fought tooth and nail. England had not prepared a potion to dismember him, and thus lost the plot there. Australia won by 120 runs, and are one win (or two draws) away from regaining the urn.

Win the toss, lose the plot

Joe Root became the first captain to win the toss and elect to field first in a day-night contest. Whatever stratagem he had panned out backfired. Australia declared on 410 for 8 courtesy Marsh’s maiden Ashes hundred.

Barring Cameron Bancroft, the top four batsmen all had starts. Warner and Usman Khawaja scored 40 and 53 respectively. Smith followed with a resilient 40. Smith lost his concentration thanks to Broad and Anderson’s sprinkling of sledges . Debutant Craig Overton made the No. 1 batsman in ICC Test Rankings his first international victim.

Despite the runs, England fought neck and neck. They did not let Australia build long partnerships. Australia were 209 for 5.

Shaun takes a long march

As the pink ball lost its vigour, Australia rushed through the gears. Lucky were they that the aggressive Tim Paine was at the middle. He added 85 with Marsh, of which 57 came of his bat.

Marsh took over the responsibility after Paine perished. Overton had set him up, making him pull to deep backward square-leg. Sensing urgency, Marsh stepped on the gas and walloped Broad for six downtown. He remained unbeaten on 126 as Australia declared at 442 for 8 when the Englishmen were tired and ball would do more under the lights.

England fall in the vicinity of Lyon

Overton continued having a memorable debut. At No. 9, after the mainstay batters failed terribly, Overton scored 41, the highest of the innings. The second-best was Alastair Cook, although he could have converted his 37 into a Cook-like long innings. Cook poked at Nathan Lyon’s off-spinner instead.

There were three consecutive caught-and-bowled dismissals, one of which saw Lyon fly to his left to take a one-handed snorter of a catch. Lyon finished with 4 for 60, also becoming the highest wicket-taker in Tests in 2017. Ravichandran Ashwin shared the top spot an hour later.

The dramatic collapse

Australia, like England in the first innings, batted with a new pink ball in the last session. Anderson and Chris Woakes removed the top four for 50 runs. They continued the good work next morning, polishing off Australia for 138. Anderson finished with a five-for, his first in Australia. He also became the first Englishman to 800 wickets across formats. So staggering was England’s bowling that no Australian could score over 20.

Root’s fight goes in vain, Starc rises over England

Root cannot suppress his inner-stickler for scoring runs. You may call him impatient when the situation demands him to remain solid at the crease, but that is how he approaches his game. And that very attribute helped him brave Australia on Day Four of the second Test. He remained unbeaten on 67, as England needed 178 more with 6 wickets in hand.

Josh Hazlewood took only 2 wickets in the match. He had dismissed James Vince in the first innings. But this time, he got the big fish. Root walked back without scoring a run on Day Five. Barmy Army sang Bon Jovi’s Livin’ on a prayer to motivate their team, but Starc’s five-wicket haul rose above England. Australia won by 120 runs.

Brief scores:

Australia 442 for 8 declared (Usman Khawaja 53, Shaun Marsh 103*, Tim Paine 57; Stuart Broad 2 for 57, Craig Overton 2 for 89) and 138 (Usman Khawaja 20; James Anderson 5 for 43, Chris Woakes 4 for 36) beat England 227 (Craig Overton 41, Nathan Lyon 4 for 60) and 233 (Joe Root 67; Mitchell Starc 5 for 88) by 120 runs.

Player of the Match: Shaun Marsh.

Full scorecard