Root, Malan lead England fightback in first Ashes Test thumbnail

Root, Malan lead England fightback in first Ashes Test

Joe Root and Dawid
Malan put on a defiant unbeaten partnership of 159 to give England hope of
salvaging a draw in the opening Ashes Test at the Gabba on Friday.

A rejuvenated England were 220-2 at the close of play, with
skipper Root on 86 and Malan 80, only 58 runs behind Australia.

After England lost both openers in the session before tea,
Root and Malan looked increasingly comfortable on the third-day Gabba pitch as
they steadily wore down the Australian attack.

Root’s classy 86 not out is one short of his highest score
in Australia and took him past 1,500 runs in a calendar year, the most ever by
an Englishman, surpassing Michael Vaughan’s 1,481 in 2002.

Leading by example, the skipper barely offered a chance in
his innings, stroking 10 boundaries including a sublime reverse sweep off
spinner Nathan Lyon.

After England’s dismal start to the Ashes, when they were
bowled out for just 147 in their first innings, it was just what they needed.

“For him to carry on the form he had in our summer and
the early English winter is fantastic and it’s great signs for us as a team
that Joe’s playing well out here, and is leading from the front,” Malan
said.

Lyon, still searching for his 400th Test wicket, never
looked like breaking through.

The South African-born Malan scored his only Test century on
the last tour of Australia and although not as comfortable as his captain, he
also looked in control.

He did struggle with fatigue towards the close, however, and
went down with cramp.

‘It’s meant to be
hard’

Earlier, Travis Head scored a superb 152 to put Australia in
what seemed a commanding position after their first innings.

Australia were finally dismissed for 425 on Friday, 30
minutes before lunch, a handsome lead of 278.

England then survived a tricky period and went to lunch 23
for no wicket.

Rory Burns, who was out first ball of the series on
Wednesday when clean-bowled by Mitchell Starc, was lucky to survive the dreaded
pair when he was adjudged leg-before wicket on Starc’s sixth ball of the first
over of the day.

But after reviewing the decision, replays showed the ball
was just missing the top of middle stump, and a relieved Burns survived.

But he didn’t last long after lunch and gloved a ball to
wicketkeeper Alex Carey off Australian captain Pat Cummins.

Haseeb Hameed looked in great touch and eased to 27, but he
tried to glance a wide ball from Starc, only to get a faint touch to Carey.

Malan knows that plenty more work lies ahead despite
England’s improved showing.

“To come here today and do what we did after a day and
half of hard fielding is fantastic, but that’s only half the job.” he
said.

“We need another 250-300 runs tomorrow to put ourselves
in a good position.”

Australian batsman Marnus Labuschagne said that the hosts
needed to hold their nerve.

“Test cricket is a grind, it’s meant to be hard
otherwise it wouldn’t mean so much,” he said.

“For us it’s a day at the office. We’ll review our
plans and how we bowled today, and come up with some ideas and get those last
eight wickets.”

Superb Head

Head, controversially selected for the Test ahead of Usman
Khawaja, played a magnificent hand.

After blasting the third-fastest century in Ashes history in
the final session on Thursday, Head carried on where he left off on Friday
morning, flashing at anything wide and attacking English spinner Jack Leach
anew.

Head played and missed a number of times, but was rewarded
for his stroke play, his 152 coming from only 148 balls including four massive
sixes and 14 boundaries.

Head brought up his 150 with a pullshot through square leg
off Leach, whose Test future must surely be in doubt after going for 102 runs
in his 13 overs.

England didn’t help their cause with three dropped catches
in the session.

Chris Woakes put down a caught-and-bowled chance,
wicketkeeper Jos Buttler couldn’t handle a tough caught behind off Mark Wood
and Hameed grassed a chance in the deep, also off Wood’s bowling.

Wood was rewarded for his consistent high pace, taking 3-85,
including the wicket of Head, while Ollie Robinson was the most dangerous of
the English bowlers with 3-58.

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