HOBART: Australian batter Marnus Labuschagne is cleaned up by England pacer Stuart Broad during the fifth Ashes Test on Friday.—AFP
HOBART: Australian batter Marnus Labuschagne is cleaned up by England pacer Stuart Broad during the fifth Ashes Test on Friday.—AFP

HOBART: Travis Head returned from Covid-19 to smash a belligerent century as Australia recovered from 12-3 to reach 241-6 at stumps on a rain-hit first day of the day-night final Ashes Test against England on Friday.

Head, who scored 152 in the opening Test at Brisbane, counterpunched England’s early success with an aggressive 101 off 113 balls as Australia came back strongly after losing the toss at the Bellerive Oval. Cameron Green contributed an authoritative 74 and Marnus Labuschagne scored a rapid 44 before rain arrived around half an hour after tea and prevented further play.

Head entered with Australia in serious trouble after a brilliant spell of swing and seam bowling from Ollie Robinson (2-24), one of the five changes England made, and Stuart Broad (2-48) on a lively green wicket.

Alex Carey will resume on 10 on day two with Mitchell Starc, who was yet to open his account.

“Anything over 300 and I think it’s going to be a great start,” Head told reporters. “The conditions, pink ball... it’s [pitch] probably more bowler-friendly.

“So anything over 300 and batting as long as we possibly can tomorrow is going to be key and when we bowl, making sure we identify the moments with the ball.”

England’s seamers blew away Australia’s top order in a frenetic first session, vindicating captain Joe Root’s decision to field under an overcast sky.

Australia dropped Marcus Harris to accommodate both fit-again Head and Usman Khawaja, who scored twin hundreds in the last Test in Sydney batting in the middle order.

Ollie Robinson broke through in the sixth over when Zak Crawley took a catch at second slip to send back David Warner for a 22-ball duck.

Crawley spilled Labuschagne off Robinson before the batsman had scored, diving to his left in what could have been a regular catch for Root at first slip.

Khawaja edged Stuart Broad to depart for six, and Crawley made no mistake when Robinson induced an edge from Steve Smith, who fell for a duck.

Labuschagne went on the attack, flicking Chris Woakes for a six before a bizarre dismissal. The right-hander shuffled outside the off stump and overbalanced. Broad’s delivery clattered onto his stumps.

Head raced to a 112-ball century but fell immediately afterwards, offering a leading edge to Robinson at mid-on trying to hit Woakes over mid-wicket. Head’s second century of the series contained 12 boundaries.

Mark Wood bounced out Green for 74, the all-rounder’s second fifty of the series, before rain interrupted play.

England, who have already lost the Ashes after losing the first three Tests at Brisbane, Adelaide and Melbourne before the draw in Sydney, suffered another injury blow after Robinson suffered a back spasm that limited his bowling to only eight overs.

“Those things can come and go. We’re hoping with treatment overnight, he can come back tomorrow, be fit enough to bowl tomorrow,” fast bowling coach Jon Lewis told reporters.

“We bowled fantastically well up front but felt movement went out the ball completely after about 20 overs,” he said in his assessment of their bowling effort.

Sam Billings made his Test debut for England replacing the injured Jos Buttler behind the stumps.

Scoreboard

AUSTRALIA (1st innings):

D. Warner c Crawley b Robinson 0

U. Khawaja c Root b Broad 6

M. Labuschagne b Broad 44

S. Smith c Crawley b Robinson 0

T. Head c Robinson b Woakes 101

C. Green c Crawley b Wood 74

A. Carey not out 10

M. Starc not out 0

EXTRAS (B-3, LB-2, W-1) 6

TOTAL (for six wkts, 59.3 overs) 241

FALL OF WICKETS: 1-3 (Warner), 2-7 (Khawaja), 3-12 (Smith), 4-83 (Labuschagne), 5-204 (Head), 6-236 (Green).

TO BAT: P. Cummins, N. Lyon, S. Boland.

BOWLING: Broad 18-4-48-2 (1w), Robinson 8-3-24-2, Wood 11.3-0-79-1, Woakes 12-1-50-1, Root 10-1-35-0.

ENGLAND: R. Burns, Z. Crawley, D. Malan, J. Root (captain), B. Stokes, O. Pope, S. Billings, C. Woakes, M. Wood, O. Robinson,S. Broad.

UMPIRES: Rod Tucker and Paul Wilson (both Australia).

TV UMPIRE: Paul Reiffel (Australia).

MATCH REFEREE: David Boon (Australia).

Published in Dawn, January 15th, 2022

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