Agony for England as Joss Buttler drops Marnus Labuschagne TWICE in disastrous start to second Ashes Test

PINK balls and floodlights – the combination that was meant to give England a big chance of swinging their way back into the Ashes series.

Well, on day one of the Second Test, they managed a grand total of two wickets in 89 overs and looked often frustrated, sometimes demoralised and frequently lacked potency.

David Warner made 95 – his second score in the 90s in two innings – and Marnus Labuschagne 95 not out as Australia reached 221-2.

And, if that wasn’t bad enough, Jos Buttler self-inflicted further pain by spilling a straightforward chance to reprieve Labuschagne on 95 off Jimmy Anderson with 15 minutes remaining.

It was the second time Buttler dropped Australia’s No.3 – he put him down on 21 off Ben Stokes – after earlier holding a more difficult chance to dispatch opener Marcus Harris.

Australian TV coverage showed the exasperated England legend Ian Botham with his head in his hands following the second spillage.

Already 1-0 up in the series, the Aussies have seized a stranglehold and it will take something remarkable for England to force a victory from here.

Even the shock of losing captain Pat Cummins a few hours before the start did not upset Australia’s equilibrium.



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Ben Stokes managed to remove David Warner before his centuryCredit: PA

Cummings went for a meal in an Adelaide steakhouse on Wednesday evening and was identified as a close contact when a man sitting at a nearby table suddenly announced he had tested positive for Covid.

South Australia health protocols demand that Cummins self-isolate for seven days. Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon, two other key members of Australia’s attack, were in the same restaurant but chose to eat outside. They were in the clear.

It meant that Steve Smith captained Australia for the first time since being sacked and suspended for his part in the Sandpaper Scandal almost four years ago. 

Most of all, England’s attack looked samey – a collection of worthy but copycat 84mph bowlers.

England’s mantra during two years of planning for this series – yes, they really have been planning for that long – has been: “Never again will we play four right-arm fast-medium bowlers in the same team against Australia.”

Well, here they had five.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by England’s distorted optimism over the two day/night matches in this series. They have lost all three of their previous three overseas pink ball Tests while Australia are 8-0 at home.

It wasn’t as though England bowled badly but there was no variety to their attack. No spinner – apart from Joe Root’s offies, which were used mainly to quicken the over-rate – and no extra speed in the form of Mark Wood.

They have got their selection wrong for the second Test on the trot.

England will feel they enjoyed no luck but, well, you know, you make your own luck, don’t you?

Stokes was used in a type of enforcer role, constantly banging in the ball with a collection of fielders on the legside boundary hoping to pouch a mis-hit pull shot. 

Truth is, the ball hardly swung or seamed under the blazing sun of the first two sessions and, by the time the lights were turned on and the second new ball taken in what should have been prime bowling conditions, Australia were already in control. 

Stokes took one wicket when Warner slapped a long hop into Stuart Broad’s hands at cover while Broad himself removed opener Harris courtesy of Buttler’s fine diving catch down the legside,

But the wicketkeeper’s two drops of Labuschagne were grievous errors.

Broad, playing his 150th Test, and Anderson bowled well enough and beat the bat frequently enough to suggest that at least one of them should have played in the First Test, where conditions were much more swing and seam-friendly.

If he'd played in Brisbane, Broad would have had an early crack at Warner and he caused him plenty of early problems here. The Aussie left-hander needed 42 minutes to get off the mark.

But he gradually found some fluency and displayed few signs of the bruised ribs that threatened his participation in this match.

Smith received a mixed reception – maybe 70 per cent cheers and applause and 30 per cent boos – when he came out to bat. 

He and Labuschagne, who are like twins with their quirky techniques and twitchy mannerisms, have the power to add plenty more on day two.

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