Ashes: England’s nine-wicket defeat was predictable, but a relentless downturn after their fightback

It should not be. Presented with the chance to make Australia’s life uncomfortable on the fourth day of the first Ashes Test in Brisbane, England slipped weakly to a nine-wicket defeat – predictably enough after the events of the first two days, but a relentless downturn after their battle against it third.

Perhaps it was too much to expect that the resistance shown by Joe Root and Dawid Malan the previous afternoon would turn into a miracle. After all, England’s inequality had initially left them with a deficit of 278 – and you do not win many tests in Australia from there.

But there was a lack of intent the fourth morning, which could not simply be explained by the renewed expertise of the Australians.

Joe Root’s England escaped a nine-wicket defeat on the fourth day of the first Ashes Test

There was no intention the fourth morning - Jos Buttler trudges off after being fired

There was no intention the fourth morning – Jos Buttler trudges off after being fired

Joe Root and his English teammates retire after suffering defeat in the first Ashes Test

Root and his English teammates retire after suffering defeat in the first Ashes Test

Gone was the sound judgment and crisp stroke play that the night before had helped England to 220 for two on stumps. Instead came a litany of overwhelmed prods and plugs as the distance between the teams became even greater.

With the second new ball available 10 overs inside the day, the tourists needed Root and Malan to extend their third wicket stand well beyond its 159 overnight if they were to put Australia to a meaningful goal.

Instead, Malan could only add two singles to his 80s before being caught via bat and pad by Marnus Labuschagne at a silly time – eventually ending off-spinner Nathan Lyons’ long wait of 400 test wickets.

Only Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath have reached there before him to Australia. A relieved Lyon was bullied by equally relieved teammates.

Dawid Malan could only add two singles before being caught by Marnus Labuschagne (left)

Dawid Malan could only add two singles before being caught by Marnus Labuschagne (left)

Malan's wicket finally completed spinner Nathan Lyons' search for a 400th Test wicket

Malan’s wicket finally completed spinner Nathan Lyons’ search for a 400th Test wicket

If England could just absorb the loss of a wicket before the new ball, they could not afford two – especially when the other belonged to Root.

On Friday, he had looked like the almost genius who had already crossed six test centuries in 2021. Now he fiddled with one from Cameron Green, who he should have left alone, and was caught back to 89 – his best score in Australia, but still he is missing a hundred here.

When Ollie Pope apparently forgets that one of Lyon’s biggest weapons is his over-spin, which got into a jumble when he bumped into Steve Smith on the slip for four, England were 234 for five, after losing three for 11. Australia had not even taken the new ball.

A general sense of unhappiness was exacerbated by the loss of television’s world feed caused by a power outage in Brisbane’s television center. For about 25 minutes, the first ash test continued without the use of DRS. It was only a blind good fortune that the technology was not required.

Root fiddled with one from Cameron Green, who he should have left and was caught behind

Root fiddled with one from Cameron Green, who he should have left and was caught behind

All-rounder Ben Stokes was shot up by Pat Cummins and caught by Green in the gap

But it was not the first mistake that hit Gabba in this game, which led critics to double their insistence that Queensland – with its strict Covid restrictions – should never have hosted the first Test in the first place.

On the second day, it had emerged that the front-foot technology, which now routinely helps the third referee monitor no-balls, was defective. Then we were reminded that Real-Time Snicko was not available either, mainly due to the pandemic’s limitations on the movement of the engineers manning it.

If it was all farce-like, England’s batting was a little better. Ben Stokes was beaten up by Pat Cummins and caught by Green in the gap via the shoulder of the bat in 14 before Jos Buttler managed tame against Josh Hazlewood to retire to 23. Two potential game-changers away, like that. It summed up England’s morning.

Hazlewood had been an injury concern after bowling just eight overs of the innings’ first 83, but that seemed a little wrong with him now, just as there seemed to be a little wrong with Australia.

Josh Hazlewood had been a injury concern, but something seemed wrong with him after he got rid of Buttler

Josh Hazlewood had been a injury concern, but something seemed wrong with him after he got rid of Buttler

Cummins (center) celebrates after taking the wicket of key man Stokes on the fourth day

Cummins (center) celebrates after taking the wicket of key man Stokes on the fourth day

Ollie Robinson reverse-sweed Lyon directly to points for eight before Lyon spun an off-break through Mark Woods gate and on to the outside half of the off stump.

When Chris Woakes guided Green to Alex Carey, who had his eighth catch – a test record for a wicketkeeper on debut – England were all out with 297, after losing their last eight by 74. It was nothing short of weak.

Need 20 to take a 1-0 lead for Thursday’s pink-ball second Test in Adelaide, Australia chose not to risk David Warner’s sore ribs and promoted Carey instead. Robinson had Carey behind in nine with just four needed before the hosts knocked off their goal in 5.1 overs, with Marcus Harris square Woods first ball for four.

Since it is unlikely that Australia will not win another test in this series, England will likely need three wins from the last four to win the urn.

Based on the evidence for a test that actually lasted a little over nine sessions, it’s hard to come up with a more constructive message than “good luck with that”.

When Chris Woakes guided Green to Alex Carey, England were all out in 297 before lunch

When Chris Woakes guided Green to Alex Carey, England were all out in 297 before lunch

Ollie Robinson got Alex Carey behind in nine, but Australia came home within six overs

Ollie Robinson got Alex Carey behind in nine, but Australia came home within six overs

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