14 January 2022

Pace duo on song as England take first session in final Ashes Test in Hobart

14 January 2022

Stuart Broad and Ollie Robinson shared the spoils as England reduced Australia to 85 for four in the opening session of the final Ashes Test in Hobart.

The seamers took two wickets apiece to give the tourists a spirited start to the day/night clash, with Australia almost entirely reliant on a freewheeling stand of 71 between Marnus Labuschagne and Travis Head.

Zak Crawley had dropped Labuschagne on nought, diving across Joe Root in the slips, a mistake that cost his side 44 runs and nine boundaries as the hosts began to reclaim the momentum.

But Labuschagne had been unusually frantic at the crease and he fell just before the interval in bizarre fashion. Stepping outside off stump in exaggerated fashion in a bid to open up the leg-side, he got his feet in an ungainly tangle as Broad rattled the timber.

Labuschagne was completely unable to offer any sort of defence and ended up suffering the same fate as his middle stump, tumbling face first to the turf as he overbalanced. It was a dismissal faintly reminiscent of Rory Burns’ to the first ball of the series, but with an added layer of comedy.

For England it was an important moment that meant they had weathered the counter-attack and were in pole position to dictate terms at the Bellerive Oval.

Play had been pushed back half-an-hour to 3.30pm by rain and there were enough clouds still around for Joe Root to send Australia in. That meant an immediate outing for debutant wicketkeeper Sam Billings, one of five changes to the side which drew in Sydney, and a return to action for Robinson.

He struck first after sharing an immaculate new-ball stint with Broad, condemning David Warner to a 22-ball duck as he nicked to Crawley at second slip. Labuschagne should have fallen for the same score as Robinson probed away in the channel, but this time Crawley leapt in front of Root at first slip and fumbled the chance.

England did not let that moment rattle them, with Broad circling back to take Usman Khawaja’s edge on six – a sharp bump back to earth after his twin centuries at the SCG. Root was left alone to gather safely this time.

Robinson then ripped out Steve Smith, who also failed to trouble the scorers, finding a lethal combination and bounce and seam movement which allowed Crawley to redeem himself in the cordon.

After 10 overs, England were swarming, but Australia’s response was incoming. Labuschagne hared through the gears and started going after almost every ball. He fared particularly well in his head to head with Mark Wood, driving his 90mph offerings to the ropes with freedom. With Head (33no) more than willing to follow his lead, the ball was disappearing to all parts as Wood and Chris Woakes laboured.

In the end, Root went back to his senior man and Broad delivered as Labuschagne’s ugly stroke cost him both his wicket and a large share of his dignity.

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