On a day where 17 wickets fell, Australia are in a decent, if not slightly unstable position. They have a relatively healthy lead, but also the knowledge that a batting collapse could give England renewed hope.
This match may end in less time than the Boxing Day Test did – but where that was one-way traffic, the unpredictability of parts unknown in Tasmania has yielded an oddly compelling contest.
After a stunning opening few overs on Friday had many questioning if Hobart would ever get another Test match, the consensus of discontent has given way to one of intrigue, as a Test like no other so far this summer continues to unfold.
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Australia were dismissed for 303, ticking past that milestone score largely thanks to Nathan Lyon’s 31 off 27 – which would be 27 more deliveries faced than he would end up bowling later that day as the home side opted for pace, pace and more pace.
In response, the positive news for England was they recorded their third-highest total of the series. The bad news is it was still under 200.
In a series where Australia, and in particular Marnus Labuschagne, have repeatedly punished England for lapses in the field, the visitors were unable to do likewise when they had a bit of luck go their way.
Both Rory Burns and Dawid Malan remained despite appearing to edge deliveries behind to Alex Carey, as Australia declined to refer both incidents.
They punished the hosts’ hesitance by combining for an extra 12 runs.
Joe Root was dismissed by his opposing captain as the quicks ripped through the tail, and Ben Stokes was the victim of a stunning Nathan Lyon catch as the top order fell to pieces again.
Some spirited fireworks from debutant wicketkeeper Sam Billings and fast bowler Chris Woakes saved them from a particularly embarrassing total, but it was still well short of where they needed to be.
Nathan Lyon takes absolute screamer
David Warner and Usman Khawaja strode to the crease for the second time in as many days – and, again, neither would last the session. It was a brutal pair for Warner while Khawaja departed for 11, with Labuschagne also out cheaply.
Steve Smith and nightwatchman Scott Boland navigated their way to stumps, the latter particularly brave in the face of some fiery bowling late.
A lead of 151 with seven wickets in hand should probably be enough for the Aussies, barring a catastrophe.
The scoreboard reads 3-43, and England will be mindful of the fact that 3-12 quickly turned to 4-204 when they squandered a brilliant start on day one.
It may not be enough to win the match, but they will need to come out on day three with enough swagger and purpose to prevent that from happening again.
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