Adelaide, Australia (AP) — Australia won the inaugural day-night Ashes test by 120 runs on the last day, with Josh Hazlewood striking twice in the first three overs and Mitchell Starc finishing off the tail as the pace attack crushed England’s slim hopes of a comeback victory.
That scenario relied heavily on England skipper Joe Root, on 67, posting a big score on day five at the Adelaide Oval.
But after watching night watchman Chris Woakes (5) feather a catch off Hazlewood’s bowling to wicketkeeper Tim Paine on the second ball of the day, Root was caught behind in the Australian paceman’s next over without adding to his overnight score as England slumped to 177-6.
Nathan Lyon dismissed Moeen Ali and England were bundled out for 233 when Starc (5-88) returned with the new ball to remove Craig Overton, Stuart Broad and complete a five-wicket haul when he bowled Jonny Bairstow for 36.
“We always had faith in the team, the belief,” Australia captain Steve Smith said. “It happened really quickly. I’m pleased for the boys. I thought they came out and showed some really good character this morning.”
Australia have now won all four day-night test matches they have played — three in Adelaide (vs. New Zealand, South Africa and England) and one in Brisbane, against Pakistan.
The third test starts Dec. 14 in Perth, where England are in danger of surrendering the urn after winning the Ashes on home soil in 2015.
Only one team has recovered from 2-0 down to win an Ashes series, and that was Don Bradman’s Australian lineup in 1936-37 on home soil.
The Australians clinched their last series in Australia with a win in Perth in 2013-14 before going on to complete a 5-0 sweep.
Root is confident his team can compete at the WACA, where England have only ever won one test match — in 1978.
“The way we went about it yesterday was exceptional and that has to be the benchmark going forward,” he said. “We showed a lot of character. The way the senior players stood up in the field especially, to bowl them out for what we did.
“Today was disappointing, I don’t think we did ourselves justice … but we’re still massively in the series.”
Two unconventional captain’s calls had big influences on the test, and neither for the benefit of their teams.
After losing the series-opener by 10 wickets in Brisbane last week, Root won the toss and sent Australia into bat at the Adelaide Oval — something last done by an Englishman in his position in 1982. It didn’t work then, and it failed this time, too, with Shaun Marsh’s unbeaten 126 — he was named man of the match — helping Australia post 442-8 declared in the first innings.
Australia then bowled England out for 227, setting up a 215-run cushion, but then Smith let the pressure off by not enforcing the follow-on and making a beleaguered England battling lineup bat again immediately under lights.
It backfired, with Australia struggling to 53-4 at stumps on day three, and eventually all out for 138 early on day four with Jimmy Anderson returning his best ever figures in Australia of 5-43. That let England back into the test.
Smith also wasted two umpire referrals within three balls and England rallied again, getting a glimmer of hope for victory, particularly with Australia having no further referrals available.
But the Australian fast bowlers snuffed out any hope with the early wickets, and now England head to Perth needing to avoid defeat to have any hope of retaining the Ashes.
Smith said he no longer needed to dwell too much on his decision regarding the follow-on.
“We’ve won the game — I would have thought about it had we lost,” Smith said of the follow-on decision. “Fortunately, we were able to hang in there and get the result we were after. It doesn’t make any difference anymore.”