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Ashes 2017: Australia on Brink of Victory After England Crumble

Reuters |November 26, 2017, 1:31 PM IST
Ashes 2017: Australia on Brink of Victory After England Crumble

Brisbane: A pulsating Ashes opener that had promised a grandstand finish will more than likely end early with a handsome win to Australia after Steve Smith's side pushed within 56 runs of victory at the close of day four on Sunday.

The teams will return to the Gabba on Monday to go through the motions, and Australia's openers David Warner and Cameron Bancroft will look to mop up the winning runs after protecting their wickets with aplomb after tea.

Australia were 114 without loss at stumps, with Bancroft (51 not out) having celebrated his maiden half-century in his test debut after vice captain Warner (60) raised his 25th as shadows crept across the ground.

The match was decided earlier, however, when England's middle order suffered a ruinous collapse after lunch for the second time in succession.

The loss of captain Joe Root for 51 some 10 minutes before the first break was a blow but there was still hope as Moeen Ali and Jonny Bairstow drove England to 155 for five.

From there it all went sour, as England crashed out for 195, a collapse triggered by a third umpire decision that may be debated for years to come.

Having breezed to 40, Moeen was beaten by spinner Nathan Lyon and wicketkeeper Tim Paine whipped the bails off in a flash with the all-rounder's foot planted squarely on the line.

Long, tortuous deliberations followed, as New Zealander Chris Gaffaney pondered various angles of replay footage.

None confirmed that any part of Moeen's foot was behind the line, so Gaffaney duly sent the batsman packing.

It was Lyon's third wicket of a brilliant test for the offspinner and England's breaking point after three-and-a-half days of mostly valiant cricket.

They lost 4-40 and their last three wickets for 10 runs as paceman Mitchell Starc awoke to trample all over England's wafer-thin hopes.

All-rounder Chris Woakes added 30 runs with Bairstow but his uneasy 57-ball innings felt on borrowed time.

He was dropped at short leg off Lyon when yet to score but caught easily in the slips by Smith for 17 after worked over by a short ball from Starc.

Left to dig in and carry the tail, Bairstow instead threw away his wicket for 42 with a ramp shot over the slips that went straight to third man.

Stuart Broad was Starc's third victim four balls later when he feathered a nick behind and England's capitulation was complete when a harried Jake Ball was out for one, fending away Pat Cummins to fly slip.

Smith's epic, unbeaten 141 on day three will take on an even greater significance when his team finishes the job, given the scant contributions of England's batsmen in their second innings.

Root made the only half-century for his team, but it will be marked down as a footnote in a match and an emphatic first-up defeat in his ongoing duel with Smith.

It was back to the old stagers James Anderson and Broad to try to pull off a miracle.

But they washed harmlessly against the wall of Warner and Bancroft, who began opening their shoulders after a mostly watchful first hour.

In the morning, it was Lyon who turned the screws with two wickets before Josh Hazlewood claimed the prized scalp of Root.

After England resumed the day on 33 for two, Lyon had opener Mark Stoneman caught for 27 by Smith at slip.

The spinner and captain combined again when Dawid Malan nicked behind to fall for four.

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