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Australia Overcome Epic Jos Buttler Rearguard to Seal Win

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Australia overcame an epic Jos Buttler rearguard in the final session of the day-night Test at Adelaide Oval to complete a hefty victory that puts them 2-0 up in the series and on the brink of retaining the Ashes. England took the game further than many had expected, largely through the efforts of Buttler during self-denying innings of 26 from 207 balls, but must now attempt to become only the second team in Ashes history to win from two down. A late show of character from the England lower order could not disguise Australia’s dominance. Needing to take six wickets on the final day, they struck twice in the first hour and seemed on course to wrap things up before the floodlights would be needed. But from the flotsam and jetsam of the innings, Buttler and Chris Woakes lashed together with a stand worth 61 in 31.2 overs to help keep the tourists afloat. Jhye Richardson was the bowler to step in and play match-winner for Australia, a maiden five-wicket haul finally breaking English resolve. His slippery nip-backer with the second new ball accounted for Woakes, after a gutsy 44 from the No. 8, and then with Buttler’s marathon effort threatening to put the result into question, Richardson came back again after the tea interval. Buttler’s dismissal hit wicket, stepping back literally onto his off stump, was heartbreaking but the win was no more than Australia deserved.

Things would surely have ended several hours earlier had Alex Carey not failed to move for a regulation outside edge from Buttler’s eight ball. Mitchell Starc had removed Ollie Pope in his first full over of the morning – after taking the key wicket of Joe Root moments before the close on day four – and he could have handed Buttler a pair, only for the ball to disappear between keeper and first slip. But Buttler grew into his innings, and although Ben Stokes fell lbw to Nathan Lyon after a dogged stay, England’s seventh-wicket pair succeeded in transferring some pressure back on to the home attack. Woakes might have been run out on 15, Marcus Harris’ under-arming past the stumps from silly mid-off, but was otherwise solid and stand-in captain Steven Smith belatedly ran through his options, bringing on Cameron Green as well as the leg-spin of both himself and Marnus Labuschagne, as Australia awaited the second new ball. It did not bring immediate dividends, as Buttler and Woakes raised only England’s fourth 50-plus stand of the series. But with the last ball of the 88th over, Richardson ripped one through Woakes, finding the perfect length to keep him stuck on the crease and enough inward movement to beat the inside edge and clonk the top of the middle stump.

Buttler was by now in the zone, however, dealing calmly with the threat of Starc and Lyon – two bowlers who had dismissed him a combined seven times previously in Tests. In complete contrast to his limited-overs batting persona, he played barely a shot in anger, and England chewed through another chunk of the day as Buttler and Ollie Robinson got to within sight of going in at tea seven down. Lyon struck again to bring Australia closer, however, as Robinson prodded to slip on the back foot. Stuart Broad almost contrived to get himself out in a different way from each of his first three deliveries – a thick edge just evaded Travis Head in the gully, the next beat Broad on the inside but cleared the stumps, and he then survived an lbw review having played no shot – and the umpires were satisfied enough that a result was on the cards to delay the interval by 15 minutes. Broad stuck to his task and delayed Australia further by successfully overturning an lbw decision after Paul Wilson missed the intervention of an inside edge. But there was no grand finale written in the stars, even though the floodlights were ongoing into the final session, with some 26 overs left in the day. Buttler had played the second-longest innings of his Test career when Richardson pushed him back by a fateful few millimeters. It took only a moment for the Australians to notice that one of the zing bails had been dislodged, Buttler turning in disbelief before walking from the ground with a hollow look on his face.

Buttler had batted for more than four hours, his strike rate of 12.56 the third-slowest in Test history for an innings of 200 balls or more. Rarely is Buttler mentioned in the same category as a wicketkeeper as Jack Russell, but this was an innings to rank alongside Russell’s famous show of gumption at Johannesburg in 1995-96. Except, on that occasion, Russell was keeping a senior batter company, as Mike Atherton saw England through to a draw. Buttler had no such support, with Root’s side have squandered their best opportunity to bat their way to safety on the third day. It was left to Richardson to pick off the final wicket, James Anderson fending a lifter to gully, as Australia completed the victory that had always seemed in their grasp – never mind what (the) Buttler scored.

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