|First Ashes Test, Brisbane (day four of five)|
|England 147 (Cummins 5-38) & 297 (Root 89, Malan 82, Lyon 4-91)|
|Australia 425 (Head 152) & 20-1|
|Australia won by nine wickets|
England’s hope evaporated into a crushing nine-wicket defeat by Australia on the fourth day of the first Ashes Test at the Gabba.
After the optimism of their third-day fightback, England meekly lost their last eight wickets for 77 runs in the morning session, including the crucial departures of Joe Root for 89 and Dawid Malan on 82.
Malan was Nathan Lyon’s 400th Test wicket, the off-spinner going on to claim 4-91 as England were bowled out for 297.
Australia were left with only 20 to chase, which they completed soon after lunch in the Brisbane sun to give Pat Cummins victory in his first Test as captain.
The home side go 1-0 up in the five-match series and continue their 35-year unbeaten run against England in Brisbane.
England have now lost 10 of their past 11 Tests in Australia and won only one of 10 matches since they beat India in the first Test in February.
With England needing to win the series in order to regain the Ashes, Root’s side have almost no margin for error in the remaining four Tests.
The second Test in Adelaide, a day-night match played with a pink ball, begins on Thursday.
Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that the fifth Test, originally scheduled for Perth, will instead be held in Hobart, also as a day-nighter.
England engineer their downfall
Given their wretched record at the Gabba and disrupted preparation, England needed everything to go right for them if they were to leave Brisbane with a result.
Instead, they were as good as beaten when they were bowled out for 147 by tea on day one. On top of that, David Warner was dropped and bowled off a no-ball as he made a crucial 94 in Australia’s first innings.
The only time England had the better of Australia was when Root and Malan were compiling their 162-run partnership on the third evening.
Questions will be asked of the decisions England made. They chose to bat in ideal conditions for bowling and left out pace bowler Stuart Broad in favour of spinner Jack Leach, who was crashed for 102 runs in his 13 overs.
In fairness, the way the pitch behaved suggests Australia would have faced some uneven bounce and turn from Leach if England had been able to post a challenging target in the fourth innings.
Ultimately, toss and selection decisions count for little when the batting collapses in both innings and chances are not taken in the field.
Now there is huge pressure on England in Adelaide, when Broad and James Anderson will surely return in a bid to exploit the pink ball. Lose there and the Ashes will almost certainly be gone.
The optimism Root and Malan created on Friday lasted less than four overs into Saturday, when the advancing Malan turned the ball into his pad to be caught at silly point, making Lyon the 17th man in Test history to reach 400 wickets.
The hammer blow for England was the loss of prolific captain Root, who was drawn into edging a delicious outswinger from Cameron Green, ensuring his wait for a Test hundred in Australia continues.
From there, England subsided to the ruthless Australians in a collection of loose strokes, poor technique and timid prods.
When Ollie Pope inexplicably tried to cut his first ball from Lyon and was caught at slip, England had lost 3-11, after which came a bizarre period of about 30 minutes when global TV pictures from the Gabba were lost.
England did not lose a wicket in that time but, when they returned, Ben Stokes was squared up for the second time in the match to be caught off a leading edge from Cummins’ bowling.
Jos Buttler nicked Josh Hazlewood, both Ollie Robinson and Mark Wood fell trying to attack Lyon and Chris Woakes gave an edge off Green.
All alright for Australia
Three weeks ago Australia’s joy at winning the T20 World Cup was shattered by the resignation of captain Tim Paine in a texting scandal, with the former captain going on to pull out of the series altogether.
Now they are 1-0 up and surely contemplating repeating the hammerings dished out on three of England’s last four tours down under.
Cummins marked his captaincy bow with seven wickets, Travis Head repaid his selection with 152 and Paine’s replacement Alex Carey took eight catches behind the stumps, a record for a Test debutant.
One concern for Australia will be the fitness of Warner, who was struck in the ribs while batting in the first innings and subsequently did not field or bat in the second.
Carey took his place as opener but edged Robinson behind just before Marcus Harris hit the winning runs.
‘We know where we need to improve’
England captain Joe Root, speaking at the post-match presentation: “It’s frustration. We worked hard to get back in the game. We hoped to post some sort of total today. The pitch was a little uneven and cracks were appearing. but we couldn’t get through that initial phase.
“Our selection? It’s easy to say with hindsight. We wanted variation in our attack, move through different gears. I thought our bowlers were excellent, but we have to be better in the field. Likewise with the bat.
“We showed fight and character for some of the second innings and know where we have to improve.”
Australia captain Pat Cummins: “I am really proud of everyone. It was a complete performance. The bowlers did their thing on day one, Marnus and Davey with their big partnership, and the way Trav (Head) played is the sign of a positive, brave side.
“I was really happy with how everyone stuck to it [on day three]. We turned up today knowing we were ahead of the game.
“Trav can take the game away within a couple of hours. Everything we say to Trav is go out and play your own way. He has a bright future ahead.”