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Wickets fall as Cummins puts Australia above England

Pat Cummins overcame Joe Root in their one-on-one battle and almost ensured Australia would finish the Ashes with a 4-0 margin over England after the hosts dominated on the second night of the first Test in Hobart.

Cummins finished Root’s innings with a superb off cut and added three more wickets as Australia knocked out the tourists for 188 and despite losing three wickets before the stumps they still hold a 152 run lead when the third day begins Sunday afternoon.

On a bowler-friendly wicket, any win target over 250 is likely to be too much for England’s shaky batting line-up due to their poor returns throughout the series.

A late declaration in the fourth Test at the SCG helped England salvage a draw to give Cummins the first spot on his record in his first series as Test skipper. But the NSW pacemaker took it upon himself at Blundstone Arena to lead forward with the ball, taking 4-45 in 13.4 overs after Australia’s tail wag to take their first innings tally to 303.

Australia made it difficult for themselves on the court, not appealing or considering a few opportunities taken early on, then dropped a pair of holds into the slides.

The home side’s second innings started similarly to their first dig with wickets dropping.

David Warner perished for a duck, giving him the second pair of his career after Manchester in 2019, when he cut Stuart Broad to score early in the second innings before Marnus Labuschagne obediently gave up his wicket when his gaze on Chris Woakes gave new keeper Sam Billings his first catch in the Test arena.

Usman Khawaja (11) cut a rip-snorter from a Mark Wood bouncer as the hosts were down 3-37 before Steve Smith (17) and night watchman Scott Boland (three) managed to negotiate the rest of the awkward evening session despite a few anxious moments as the ball swung through the air and out of the seam.

England’s innings got off to a terrible start when Rory Burns, recalled after two Tests in the desert, was run out for a duck.

Replays said Burns nicked Mitchell Starc in the first round but the Aussies didn’t appeal but found their voice when a direct hit from Marnus Labuschagne caught the opener by a one-minute margin after he hesitated at the non-attacking end when called by Zak Crawley.

The Tourists fell to 2-29 in the eighth when Crawley edged Cummins to short-legged Travis Head with the first-inning Centurion juggling the hold and then celebrating with a “bin-lid” dance.

Dawid Malan, who also got a reprieve when he nicked Starc but Australia opted not to review the decision, left for 25, just short of a 50-run stand with Root, when he received a tickle on the side of Cummins’ leg.

He then retired his opposing skipper three points later when he returned the ball from the seam to rip off his front pad.

Root didn’t even bother to ask for a video review as he went 34 minutes to leave his team in peril at 4-81.

And it only got worse when Ben Stokes came and went for just four when he reduced Starc to a dive off Nathan Lyon on point, bringing Billings to the crease on his debut at 5-85.

Ollie Pope slashed Boland for 14 and the Victorian should have had a hat trick, but Woakes’ first-ball advantage was grassed by Warner on the first slip.

Khawaja compounded the error when he knocked down a harder chance on the third slide, also from Woakes, also bowling from Boland.

Cameron Green hung Billings for 29 when thin-legged Boland showed his teammates how to hold a chance before Woakes’ luck finally ran out when he floated out to Starc for 36.

Broad made another embarrassing batting effort only to be beaten by Starc for a duck before Mark Wood swung at Cummins for 16.

After an Aussie performance from Jekyll and Hyde on the first day, they did the same with the bat on the second afternoon.

Starc (three) and Cummins (two) were quickly taken out by Mark Wood as the hosts went from 6-241 overnight to 8-252 before Nathan Lyon stepped up the counterattack.

Lyon hauled Wood above the square-leg limit for three sixes, including two in a row, including one that left Blundstone Arena.

Alex Carey played Woakes on his stumps for 24 before Lyon (31) and Boland added 23 for the last wicket to take their tally to 303, more than any innings England have completed on this tour.

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