Australia closed in on victory on day four of the second
Test in Adelaide, picking up four wickets before the close of play after
setting England a target of 468 in the fourth innings. Mitchell Starc landed
the killer blow in the final over of the day, nicking off Joe Root on 24 to end
any English hopes of salvaging a draw.
Australia resumed the day 282 runs in front and stretched
that lead to 467 before declaring for the second time in the match. However, it
wasn’t plain sailing for the hosts at the start of play as England enjoyed a
fruitful afternoon, picking up three wickets for just ten runs to start the
day. James Anderson removed the night-watchman Michael Neser with a superb
delivery that swung in late and knocked over middle-stump before Stuart Broad
sent back Marcus Harris thanks to an excellent diving catch from Jos
Broad should have had Steve Smith off his very next
delivery, only for Buttler to drop his third catch of the Test behind the
stumps. Smith was saved by umpire’s call off his second delivery as well but
couldn’t make his luck count as Buttler atoned for his earlier error, taking a
fine one-handed diving catch to remove the Australian captain on six.
Things slowly started to unravel for the visitors after the
opening hour as Marnus Labuschagne and Travis Head launched a counter-attack.
With Joe Root off the field, England turned to Ollie Robinson for some
part-time spin, with the fast-bowler sending down three overs of off-breaks to
aid the over-rate.
Labuschagne and Head shared a brisk 89-run partnership, and
both batters reached their half-century before perishing in the deep. Australia
limped to 230 for nine before the declaration eventually came just as twilight
England had 130-odd overs to survive for a draw, but the
visitors suffered an immediate setback as Haseeb Hameed became the 49th
English batter to fall for a duck in 2021, edging behind to an excellent
delivery from Jhye Richardson that reared up off a good length. Dawid Malan
creamed his first delivery to the boundary with an excellent cover drive and
shared a promising partnership with Rory Burns that lasted nearly 20 overs.
However, Malan was denied a third consecutive half-century by a Michael Neser
inswinger before Richardson ended Rory Burns’ resistance on 34.
England were poised to end the day with seven wickets in the
bank, but Mitchell Starc landed the knockout punch in the last over before
stumps. Having been painfully struck on the box in Starc’s previous over, Root
edged to Steve Smith at first slip to leave England on the brink of defeat in
the second Test.