England struggle after Root injury and dismissal on day four of Second Test
England captain Joe Root suffered two painful blows to the groin before a devastating late dismissal, as his bitter experiences of Ashes cricket in Australia continued.
Root nicked Mitchell Starc in the final act of the fourth day, crushing England’s hopes of building a huge defensive rearguard around their leader and star batter. They ended on 82 for four, 385 adrift and with three full sessions awaiting on a deteriorating pitch.
Root had suffered a traumatic day even before his dismissal, sent for precautionary scans after being struck in his unprotected nether regions while facing throw downs in the warm-ups and then suffering a brutal repeat deep in the final session. He was struck clean on the box at 85mph, buckling in pain and taking five minutes out before his ill-fated attempt to see out the day.
Pic of the day
— England’s Barmy Army (@TheBarmyArmy) December 19, 2021
It is hard to tell if the well-known England supporters’ club were referring to the match situation or the captain’s misfortune with this one-word post, but it fits just as well for both.
When Dawid Malan opened his account of Test wickets during a decidedly gentle passage of play in the middle of the day, he became the seventh England player in the match following James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Chris Woakes, Ben Stokes Ollie Robinson and Joe Root. Test Match Special statistician Andy Zaltzman was able to identify the last time the number of successful bowlers had been so high – 1965 against South Africa.
The increasingly-curious omission of Jack Leach and the temporary absence of Root saw England scrambling around for slow bowling options to hurry things along in the afternoon session but it was still a surprise to see Stokes persuade Robinson to take a turn midway through his spell. He has done so before for Sussex in the past but if England were honest, the sight of the 6ft 6in seamer lobbing down some vanilla off-breaks in sunglasses was hardly the kind of cricket the Ashes brand is built around.
Dancing with the stars
Usman Khawaja pulling out the shuffle for the Barmy Army! 👍👍 #Ashes pic.twitter.com/RD9b4Ws4ce
— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) December 19, 2021
If there was any doubt about how the mood in the Australia camp was after a dominant start to their biggest series, it was settled by a late cameo from Usman Khawaja. He has been overlooked twice in a row for the off-form Marcus Harris but still lit up a late substitute fielder stint with some fancy footwork after a group of fans in fancy dress implored him to perform for them while he marshalled the boundary rope.