Travis Head Leads Aussie Recovery After A Bright Start For England

Head hit a 112-ball hundred as the hosts recovered to end the day 241/6
12:29, 14 Jan 2022

History was made as Hobart played host to their first ever Ashes Test.  

And it was a day of firsts at the Bellerive Oval as England blew away the Aussie top order to leave them precariously placed at 12/3 inside the first 10 overs of a rain-affected first day. 

But the returning Travis Head, who missed the fourth Test due to catching Covid-19, hit a counter-attacking 112-ball hundred as the hosts recovered to end the day 241/6.

England made a quintet of changes to the side which held on for a dramatic draw in the last over at the Sydney Cricket Ground. 

Sam Billings’ extraordinary nine-hour 500-mile drive to join the squad was worthwhile as he became the 700th Test cricketer to play for the country. The wicket-keeper was just about to fly home from the Big Bash before being called up after Jos Buttler was ruled out with a broken finger to make a dream debut. 

Last week’s centurion Jonny Bairstow missed out with the thumb injury he sustained during that courageous knock. But Ben Stokes, who made dual half centuries despite a serious side strain, is playing solely as a batter in the final game.

Rory Burns returned to open alongside Zak Crawley despite only being dropped after the second Test. James Anderson was rested as Ollie Robinson and Chris Woakes replaced the swing king and left-arm spinner Jack Leach.  

Justin Langer named just a solitary swap from the side which were denied a shot as a famous 5-0 whitewash last time out.  

As expected, Head came straight back in place of opener Marcus Harris whilst Usman Khawaja — who made hundreds in both innings at the SCG — moved to the top of the order. 

Captain Joe Root won the toss and unleashed his seamers on a green, seam-friendly pitch for the day-night clash. And they repaid the faith with three wickets in the first hour to leave the Aussies on the ropes for the first time in the series. 

Returning Robinson, who missed the last game with a shoulder concern, had David Warner caught in the slip cordon for a duck. And that perfect start could have been even better had second slip Crawley clung on to a tough chance diving to his left with No 1 Test ranked batter Marnus Labuschange on zero. The Kent batter dived across Root and denied him a comfortable catch. 

But veteran Stuart Broad dismissed in-form Khawaja and the hosts were in disarray at 12/3 when Steve Smith was the third victim caught in the slips for his first duck since the 2020 Boxing Day Test.

As with England’s dismal trip down under, the day slipped away at a rapid rate after their early inroads. 

Langer’s charges counter-attacked as Mark Wood and Chris Woakes leaked runs at a frustrating pace. The pair conceded 43 overs in their first five overs to relieve the early pressure.

A quick-fire 71-run partnership between Labuschange and Head, in just 74 balls, steadied the ship.  

Broad returned to get rid of Labuschange in the most bizarre dismissal you are ever likely to see. Burns being bowled around his legs first ball of the series was strange, but this was even more surreal. The No 3 shuffled across the crease and landed flat on his face as Broad’s delivery cannoned into the middle stump.

Head, who hit an aggressive 152 in the first Test, found a willing partner in all-rounder Cameron Green as they added 121 in quick fashion to pile the pressure on England’s four-prong seam attack.  

Their partnership swung the momentum in Australia’s favour before Woakes and Wood battled back from their early troubles to remove the set batters. 

Head’s match-changing innings came to an end when he was dismissed by Woakes for 101 and Green’s fine 74, the same score he made in the second innings in Sydney, was ended by the extra pace of Wood shortly before rain stopped play.  

Australia are in a strong position, and England will hope they can shoot the hosts’ tail out early on the second day before they get out in the distance. 

Chris Silverwood’s side are yet to pass 300 on the torrid tour and will need to restrict Australia to around that mark to have any reasonable hope of a shock win. 

Robinson added to England’s injury woes with a back issue on the opening day. If he’s deemed unfit to bowl it will leave the visitors with just Broad, Wood and Woakes as well as the part-time spin of Root and Dawid Malan with Stokes already unable to bowl.

England are 5/1 to win the 5th Test with Betfred*

*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject To Change

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