England continued to chip in with wickets at regular intervals in the second session, bagging yet another session on the second day of the Boxing Day Test. Despite that, Australia managed to take a lead and went to Tea at 200 for 6, ahead by just 15 on Monday (December 27). Alex Carey and Cameron Green batted 60 balls for the 20 they put together but managed to keep England at bay, who piled on the pressure led by veteran pacer James Anderson, who has conceded just 24 runs in his 19 overs for three wickets.
Harris, who was batting for his place in the side, survived a leg-before shout when on 36.
Thereafter, he steered Australia close to England’s total, scoring his first fifty in 17 innings and his first Ashes one. After Australia had lost both Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith cheaply, Australia needed a partnership to steady the ship. Travis Head and Harris put their heads down and ground it out together in the middle for a 61-run stand for the fifth wicket.
Mark Wood tested the batsmen cranking up the speeds at one end, but Jack Leach gave away freebies at the other, as the partnership built. The offspinner tossed one up to Harris, drawing a huge miscue, Buttler missed a stumping chance, but Harris couldn’t survive Anderson’s brilliance off a delivery on a good length, that nibbled away just enough to drawing the poke for an edge on 76. Ollie Robinson reaped rewards for his accurate lines and lengths as a delivery shaped away to get the outside edge off Head’s bat to break the stand, while Anderson, in his 11 overs, bowled 63 dots in 66 balls with figures of 2 for 3.
England were impressive in the opening session with some brilliant bowling that left Australia in a spot of bother. James Anderson and Mark Wood led the visitors’ fightback picking up three wickets in the morning session. England’s pacers had a good morning with the bowlers bowling with accuracy, hitting the pitch hard and beating the batsmen a number of times by varying their lengths. Robinson was quick to get rid of the nightwatchman Nathan Lyon in the fourth over. Mark Wood struck straightaway too, undoing Labuschagne with raw pace forcing the batsman to play a delivery that he would’ve normally left, as the pace on the delivery hurried him up on the back foot as the ball kicked off up a length. Labuschagne copped his first single-digit score of an Ashes innings.
Anderson troubled Smith from the outset with his offcutters that were coming into the right-hander. England stuck with bowling a good length to Harris, making him play, while Smith, meanwhile, looked unsettled with indecisive pokes as the bowlers got some seam movement. Eventually, it was a loose poke that did him in as he hung his bat out to one that nipped back in to chop on for 16. It was the eighth time that Anderson accounted for Smith in Tests, opening up Australia’s middle order.
A couple of family members in the England camp had tested positive for COVID-19 in the rapid-antigen tests. While there was a cloud of doubt over play, the ECB issued a statement that play would go on, with sessions pushed back by 30 minutes each. Cricket Australia eventually confirmed four positive cases in the England camp raising serious questions regarding the future of the series.
Here are the brief scores: England 185 (Joe Root 50, Ben Stokes 25, Jonny Bairstow 35; Mitchell Starc 2-54, Pat Cummins 3-36, Nathan Lyon 3-36) trail Australia 200/6 (David Warner 38, Marcus Harris 76; James Anderson 3-24, Ollie Robinson 2-52) by 15 runs.