Jos Buttler is well known for his clean-hitting and he is not someone who would hang around the park and spend time at the crease for saving a Test match. If he faces at least hundred balls, be sure, he would end up scripting a cracking innings – guess what, he faced 207 balls and scored 26 runs today on the final day wicket in the second Test in Adelaide and exhibited an epic vigil to show his teammates the importance of occupying the crease if the intention is a fighting one – and even a swashbuckler can switch gears and build a wall.

Buttler knew the ship was sinking; still, he tried his best to save the Test and lift the spirit of the team that has gone down 2-0 in the ongoing Ashes series.

The demise of Buttler was a sad one, but his fight back should be a lesson for his team and others, who undermine the value of defiant resistance in the five-day format.

Joe Root won the toss and decided to bowl first.

On Day 1, Australia marched into a commanding position at the end of day one in Adelaide, the top-order grit of David Warner and Marnus Labuschagne denying England any scope of exploiting the pink ball.

The withdrawal of Pat Cummins, after Australia’s new captain, was forced into isolation by South Australia’s Covid-19 regulations, forced a last-minute rejig of the home XI but thereafter proceedings followed a familiar script.

With James Anderson and Stuart Broad back in harness after being left out at the Gabba, England made a disciplined start.

Broad’s first ball to Warner since dominating the Australia opener during the 2019 Ashes – seven dismissals from 104 balls – brought an optimistic lbw appeal, and Harris was also in the crosshairs, given out lbw in the sixth over only to be saved by a review.

Harris did not last much longer, falling to a superb diving catch from Buttler.

England knew the importance of trying to remove Warner early, having squandered several chances in Brisbane, and reviewed for a catch in the slips off Broad – the DRS showed the ball beating the inside edge before deflecting straight off the thigh pad. Root burned another review a few overs later when Woakes struck Warner on the front pad.

Third umpire Paul Reiffel deliberated at length over replays trying to discern an inside edge before deciding they were inconclusive, only for ball-tracking to show the delivery had pitched outside leg regardless.

Both Warner and Labuschagne began to open up as the ball and the England attack lost their hardness, although it was not until the 41st over that Australia’s run rate rose above two runs an over.

After resuming on an ominous 221 for 2, Australia blazed courtesy of a brace of sparky innings from Steve Smith and Alex Carey built on the first-day efforts of Warner and Labuschagne – who duly brought up his sixth Test century in the first half-hour then survived England’s second wicket with a no-ball of the series before departing soon afterwards for 103.

But it was the twin departures of Smith, lbw for 93, and Carey, caught at the short cover on the stroke of tea for 51 – both off the tidy but largely unthreatening James Anderson – that set the stage for a contemptuous finale.

With the storm encroaching on the horizon, and the clear ambition of a lengthy stint of bowling under the floodlights, Australia’s lower-order emerged after the interval with a licence to plant their collective front dogs and swing for the hills.

Starc was the relative anchorman, serving up a run-a-ball 39 not out with a host of long-levered swipes through the line, but it was the debutant Neser who seized the moment with a breezy 35 off 25 balls that was ended by Ben Stokes.

Starc essayed three meaty fours in the same over, before Jhye Richardson set the seal with murderous clout for six over midwicket and runs continued to flow until Australia declared at 473 for 9.

England ended the day at 17 for 2.

On Day 3, Australia opted to turn the screw on England after taking a huge first-innings lead.

Starc and Nathan Lyon shared seven wickets as England were unceremoniously bundled out following a century stand between Joe Root and Dawid Malan that had briefly raised English hopes, with Australia extending their lead to 282 after braving a half-session of batting against the pink ball under lights.

Steven Smith’s decision not to enforce the follow-on meant the Test continued to follow the template set in the day-night game at the same ground in 2017-18 – on that occasion, England had been dismissed for 227 in response to 8 for 442 declared. But at this point the course diverged, as England’s seamers were unable to make any inroads with the new ball.

Their only success came via a run-out, and that after David Warner and Marcus Harris had put on 41, Australia’s highest Ashes opening stand since the 2017 Boxing Day Test.

After a wicketless afternoon session – the first time a visiting team had achieved that in a day-night Test in Australia when facing a minimum of 15 overs – the reversal in fortunes following the dinner break was swift. Root took his tally of half-centuries without converting in Australia to eight, his departure precipitating a slide of 4 for 19 during what was supposedly the most benign time of the day for batting.

On Day 4, Australia maintained their vice-like grip on the second Test, ripping out four England wickets before the close of day four at Adelaide Oval.

Half-centuries from Travis Head and Labuschagne had enabled the home side to declare their second innings 467 runs ahead, and with more than four sessions still to play – and although England fought to see out the night under lights, the dismissal of Joe Root from what became the final ball of the day was a telling blow to their hopes.

On Day 5, as usual, the wickets kept on tumbling – apart from the Buttler fight, there was nothing significant.

With a 275-run win over England in the second Ashes Test in Adelaide, Australia extended their perfect record in day-night Tests, winning all nine they have played so far. Australia played six of those of nine at the Adelaide Oval, including two against England.

Terrible time for Joe Root as the skipper who has digested 23 Test defeats as captain for Joe Root, the most for an England captain, surpassing Alastair Cook’s 22 losses – Eight of those 23 defeats came in the Ashes, the joint-third-most for a captain.

His captaincy has come under fire from critics.

“Root is an excellent batter but a poor captain. It would not be unfair to describe him as an ordinary and unlucky captain. Rarely do you find a long-term captain who is lacking in imagination but is also lucky. A fortunate captain is usually lucky because the players believe he is some kind of miracle-worker and things tend to work out because of the team’s belief,” wrote Ian Chappell in ESPNcricinfo.

“He is not an inspirational captain and this is indicated by the number of times his team work their way into a decent position but can’t finish the job. This happened again when, where after conceding 425 in Brisbane, England repeated their mistakes in Adelaide to leak 473 for the loss of nine. Another sign of Root’s inadequacy was the number of times he put an English fielder in a catching position following an uppish shot going to that area. A good captain – as Richie Benaud regularly said – is two overs ahead of the game, otherwise, he’s behind in the match. A responsible leader has a team of competitors who want to play for their skipper.”

While talking to BT Sport, Root said, “The reason it’s disappointing because we made the same mistakes. I think we could have bowled a lot fuller, and with the bat, we need to be better, make bigger scores and apply better. The second innings is the attitude and desire we need. It’s frustrating because we know we are better. Easy to look at selection and tactics, but we’ll address those ahead of the next game.”

“You try to find what you think will exploit the conditions, it’s not just the wickets, the ball under lights. We thought there would be more movement. A stat saying, least amount of movement at the ground, which was remarkable. We weren’t brave enough at times to get the ball up there and get them driving. Lessons learnt, we have to be better in the next game.”

Until and unless, Root gets his tactics right and inspire his boys, it would be another bashing for England.


Note: Input from ESPNcricinfo

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