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The Ashes: England set for Gabba defeat

PUBLISHED: 08:14 26 November 2017

England's Joe Root leads his team off at the close of play after day four of the Ashes Test match at The Gabba (pic Jason O'Brien/PA)

England's Joe Root leads his team off at the close of play after day four of the Ashes Test match at The Gabba (pic Jason O'Brien/PA)

PA Wire/PA Images

England could perhaps cite one moment of minor controversy as mitigation as they moved to the brink of a resounding defeat in the first Ashes Test at the Gabba.

By stumps on day four, in pursuit of just 170 to win after England were dismissed for 195 in their second innings, Australia put themselves bang on course to wrap up their long-accustomed Brisbane victory.

David Warner (60 not out) and his debutant opening partner Cameron Bancroft (51 not out) both bagged half-centuries as the hosts closed on 114-0 after England had hinted at a more substantial target on the back of a half-century from captain Joe Root (51).

Moeen Ali’s dismissal, stumped after the tightest of third-umpire rulings amid mutterings about a bulge in the hand-painted popping crease counting against him, did not help England, who lost their last five wickets for 40.

But they were in trouble long before their all-rounder departed the scene.

Warner and Bancroft were then in no initial hurry on the home straight, but shut England out nonetheless in an assured century partnership.

A session earlier Nathan Lyon, and wicketkeeper Tim Paine, had done for Moeen – along with an element of batsman error – as the off-spinner joined seamers Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood with three wickets.

England’s second innings was a flawed one, of transient promise but not fulfilment.

Root played well, especially having needed concussion tests to resume his innings after being hit on the helmet by Starc the previous evening.

But in departing to the very next ball, his 104th, after reaching his half-century – trapped lbw across his stumps to pace as in the first innings – Root had not done nearly enough.

Mark Stoneman and Dawid Malan were already gone by then, both caught at slip by Root’s opposite number Steve Smith when the impressive Lyon found telling turn and bounce from around the wicket.

It was Moeen’s controversial and marginal mid-afternoon departure that prefaced England’s final descent, though.

The whys and wherefores were pondered all round the Gabba, and doubtless far beyond into another hemisphere, after third umpire Chris Gaffaney ruled Moeen had nothing grounded behind the slightly wiggly whitewash line when Paine took off the bails.

The other suspicion, though, was that Moeen could have relatively easily helped himself and his team by making sure he knew where his back foot was as he reached forward and missed an off-break.

Chris Woakes and Jonny Bairstow responded well initially to the setback, keeping their composure in a seventh-wicket stand which was handy but no more, before the former was bounced out by Starc.

When Bairstow, like Moeen, fell short of his half-century with a misjudgment – upper-cutting Starc straight to third man – England’s last two wickets were sitting ducks, and duly delayed Australia by just eight more balls and one run.

The tourists’ failure to exert any pressure with a more substantial total was then put into stark context by Warner and Bancroft.

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