Captain Joe Root and Dawid Malan scored defiant half-centuries in a stirring, unbeaten partnership as England rallied from a position of peril to win their first day of the Ashes at the Gabba on Friday (December 10). Coming together at 61 for two, Root and Malan pushed England to 220 for two at stumps on day three, having cut Australia’s lead to 58 runs and raised a sliver of hope of saving a match that looked beyond them by the end of day two.
Root was 86 not out and number three Malan on 80 in a 159-run stand that thwarted Australia’s bowlers for much of two sessions after the hosts were bowled out for 425 in the morning.
“Brilliant,” said Malan. “We were staring down the barrel a bit after the first day and the way they batted was superb. So to get us into this position today has been fantastic, it gives us a little bit of hope that if we can bat through tomorrow we can post a score (then) we can potentially bowl them out.”
— Cricket on BT Sport (@btsportcricket) December 10, 2021
Along the way Root set an England record for the most Test runs in a calendar year, reaching 1,541 to eclipse former skipper Michael Vaughan’s mark of 1,481 set in 2002. The skipper now has three of the nation’s top five-calendar year totals, with 1,477 in 2016 and 1,385 in 2015.
On the cusp of his half-century, Root was all but bowled by Nathan Lyon after missing a sweep-shot but the Yorkshireman whacked the spinner to the fence on the next delivery to bring up his fifty. Malan’s heart was in his mouth entering the final hour when he pulled Australia captain Pat Cummins in the air to backward square leg but fielder Marcus Harris lost the ball in the sun and it fell just short. Lyon put in a big 24-over shift but the spinner finished the day still wicketless for the match and one short of his milestone 400th victim.
There were other worries for Australia, with opener David Warner staying off-field with bruised ribs after taking blows during his first-innings 94. “Our feeling in the dressing room … is very calm,” Australia number three Marnus Labuschagne said.
“Test cricket is a grind, it’s meant to be hard. For us, it’s just a day in the office and (we) review our plans. Come up with some ideas and get those last eight wickets.” he added.
Malan and Root had resumed at 107 for two after tea, with openers Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed again failing to establish a platform. Burns’ nightmare test continued as he was caught behind for 13 off Cummins, making a hash of a cut shot. He had been bowled first ball of the series on Wednesday by Mitchell Starc and then dropped Warner in the slips on Thursday.
Hameed was caught behind by Starc for 27, poking needlessly at a leg-side glance before Root and Malan steadied England. Australia may have expected to be in a more dominant position after Travis Head finished with a magnificent 152 from 148 balls. The middle-order batsman partnered with tail-enders Starc and Lyon to add a valuable 82 runs in what was a dreary morning for England’s bowlers, who seemed tired from a long day in the sun on day two.
Ben Stokes, who struggled in the field after jarring his left knee on Thursday, was cleared to bowl but ended up blasted over his head for six by Head on his second delivery. Wood, the pick of England’s bowlers, finished with 3-85 after dismissing a slogging Lyon for 15, while fellow quick Robinson also grabbed three wickets.