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The Ashes: Travis Head hits superb century as Australia counter-attack after England’s dream start

Written by corres2

Travis Head scored his second Test hundred on day one in Hobart

Travis Head led the way with a superb counter-attacking century as Australia recovered from 12-3 on a gripping first day of the fifth Ashes Test in Hobart.

England had made a near-perfect start to the match after opting to bowl first with Ollie Robinson and Stuart Broad dismantling the hosts’ top-order with the new pink ball as David Warner and Steve Smith both fell without scoring.

However, the home side rallied impressively with Marnus Labuschagne (44) and Head (101) beginning the fightback before the dinner break and Cameron Green (74) then joining the latter to continue charge in the middle session.

  • Australia close on 241-6 in Hobart
  • Alex Carey (10no), Mitchell Starc (0no)
  • Hosts slumped to 12-3 after being inserted
  • David Warner and Steve Smith fall for ducks
  • Travis Head (101) counter-attacks with 112-ball ton
  • Cameron Green (74) hit third Test half-century
  • Ollie Robinson unable to bowl after dinner due to back spasm
  • Sam Billings makes debut as one of five England changes

Head was dismissed after bringing up his fourth Test hundred and Green departed after tea with Australia having progressed to 241-6 when rain brought an enthralling day’s play to a premature close.

Dream start for England

England confirmed five changes to their XI from the draw in Sydney shortly before the toss, which was delayed by half an hour due to rain, with Sam Billings brought in to make his Test debut and Rory Burns, Ollie Pope, Chris Woakes and Robinson all returning.

When play began, England could not have asked for a better start as Broad and Robinson found prodigious movement off the seam with the new ball and had Australia reeling at 12-3 inside 10 overs.

The openers had battled through the first few overs before Warner prodded forward to Robinson and edged to Zak Crawley at second slip to depart for a 22-ball duck.

Ollie Robinson took two early wickets as Australia slipped to 12-3

Ollie Robinson took two early wickets as Australia slipped to 12-3

Robinson should have had Labuschagne in his next over, finding the edge again as the world No 1 Test batter, looking to get off the mark, advanced but this time Crawley shelled the catch as he dived in front of Joe Root, who would have had a regulation catch.

That was soon forgotten – at least for a time – as Broad drew Usman Khawaja, bumped up to the top of the order after his twin tons at the SCG to accommodate Head, forward and a located the edge with Root gobbling it up at first slip.

Five balls later, it got even better for the tourists as Robinson (2-24) squared up Smith and the ball flew off the shoulder of the bat to Crawley, who made no mistake this time.

David Warner and Steve Smith have played 72 Tests together and this was the first occasion that both have been dismissed for ducks in the same innings.

Labuschagne and Head battled through to drinks and then exploded into life, a flurry of attacking shots with Mark Wood and Woakes unable to maintain the pressure applied by the opening duo as the lavish seam movement dissipated.

With the disciplined line and length of the early overs nowhere to be seen, Labuschagne and Head cashed in and took just 7.1 overs to bring up their fifty partnership with the Hobart pitch seemingly transformed from a minefield to a featherbed.

The second hour was dominated by the home side and memories of Crawley’s earlier drop suddenly at the forefront of England minds as Labuschagne walked at Woakes, took the ball from outside off stump and whipped it over midwicket in a manner reminiscent of the great Sir Viv Richards.

Marnus Labuschagne was cleaned up by Stuart Broad before dinner

Marnus Labuschagne was cleaned up by Stuart Broad before dinner

All of which made the Australia No 3’s dismissal all the more puzzling. Again, he moved down the pitch and inched towards the offside but this time Broad (2-48) fired the ball in full and straight, Labuschagne lost his footing and ended up sprawled on the deck as the ball cannoned into middle stump.

Australia counter-punch as tourists toil

It was a much-needed breakthrough for England ahead of the dinner break but any thoughts of quickly running through Australia in the middle session were banished as Robinson struggled through the second over, his pace well down, before heading off the field.

England later confirmed the seamer had back spasms and he did not bowl again in the day, leaving the visitors with just fit three seamers available to them on an increasingly flat surface and Root himself was forced into action, his off-spin accounting for 10 of the 59.3 overs possible on day one.

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With England shorthanded, there was no let-up from Australia with Head in ruthless form, punishing the bowlers anytime they erred in their line or length while Green soon joined him, putting his height to good use as he got forward to hammer the ball through the covers time and again.

With tea approaching, Head moved into the 90s and having got away with a leading edge that looped over Woakes but fell short of Robinson at mid-on, he brought up his second hundred of the series with a two guided past gully.

He was gone next ball though as he chipped Woakes (1-50) tamely to mid-on and this time the ball did go to hand, bringing a 121-run stand to an end. A relief for England at the end of a session that saw them concede 130 runs in 28 dispiriting overs.

The pain continued after tea with Green growing ever more confident, driving both brutally and elegantly through the covers to move to within sight of a maiden Test hundred, leading England to turn to the short-ball ploy.

It is a tactic England have tried at various times during the series with little success but on this occasion, it did the trick. Wood (1-79) troubled him with a couple of bouncers before going around the wicket, banging in another one that Green top-edged straight to Crawley at deep wicket on the hook.

Cameron Green put on 121 with Head and went on to make 74

Cameron Green put on 121 with Head and went on to make 74

The rain started to fall soon after and after initially trying to play on, the umpires took the players from the field and despite it amounting to little more than drizzle, it was enough to prevent any further play.

England must now try to overcome the potential loss of Robinson and hope Wood and Woakes prove less expensive as they try to wrap up the Australia innings on day two.

‘Robinson needs to improve his fitness’

England bowling coach, Jon Lewis, speaking to BT Sport: “Ollie Robinson has a little back spasm and he is getting some treatment so we will see how he pulls up. He stayed out on the field so he is available to bowl when he comes good. Hopefully that will be tomorrow as be bowled fantastically this morning. He is definitely looking at improving [his fitness]. He will need to if he is going to consistently perform at this level. He needs to be a fitter bowler. We have been pretty frank with him and it is up to him to do the work. He needs to look after himself better than he probably has at the moment.”

Sir Alastair Cook, speaking to BT Sport: “It’s a big loss. We can see the potential in Robinson and what he brings to the side. You don’t want to compare him to Glenn McGrath but he gets nip from a length like McGrath used to. We have seen Robinson’s pace drop throughout the series and it is an element of his game that is easily fixable. With the intensity needed in Test cricket, he needs to improve his fitness, although today was about his injury.”

What’s next?

England Women begin their bid to regain the Ashes on January 20 with the first of three T20 internationals. The white-ball matches are followed by a standalone Test match and then three one-day internationals.

England last won the Ashes in 2014, with holders Australia’s triumphs in England in 2015 and 2019 sandwiching a drawn series in Australia in 2017.




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