WA’s Jhye Richardson ended a 1050-day Test wicket drought and knocked over England’s openers as Australia went a step closer to a 2-0 Ashes lead in Adelaide.
Australia need six more wickets to win the pink-ball Test as England, resuming on 4-82 after Mitchell Starc got the prized scalp of captain Joe Root final ball, chase a record fourth-innings target of 468.
After stand-in skipper Steve Smith declared Australia’s second dig on 9-230 to give his bowlers four-and-a-bit sessions to get the job done, Richardson provided the perfect start by dismissing Haseeb Hameed for a six-ball duck and followed it up with Rory Burns’ scalp for 34.
With new ball in hand, the whippy right-armer capped off a wicket-maiden with a brute of a delivery which caught Hameed’s glove on the way to ‘keeper Alex Carey’s safe hands.
Richardson then broke a frustrating third-wicket stand between Burns, who produced the most significant knock of his tough series, and Root on his way to figures of 2-17 from eight overs.
After surviving 95 balls and having a caught-behind decision against Cameron Green overturned, Burns edged one to Smith who took a screamer in the slips.
It’s been an excellent return for the Fremantle product in his first appearance Test since the home series against Sri Lanka in 2018-19 after a horror run with shoulder issues.
In-form left-hander Dawid Malan (20) was the only other wicket to fall, debutant seamer Michael Neser’s second of the match.
Earlier, Mitchell Starc appeared to tweak something in his lower back while whacking Root over mid-wicket for six, receiving on-field treatment, but showed no signs of discomfort while bowling a blistering seven-over spell.
Root also had an injury scare, going for scans after he was hit in the abdomen while batting in the warm-up which caused him to miss the first 80 minutes of play.
A 142kmh Starc thunderbolt in the box then floored him with less than three overs left in the day, causing a delay of several minutes as he got checked out.
“Geez, he looks in a world of hurt here. We’ve been saying abdominal issue all day but we don’t think it was,” Australian great Ricky Ponting said during Channel 7’s Ashes coverage.
“We think it might have been slightly lower than the abdominal. If that’s got him in the same spot. That’s really, really hurt him.”
WA allrounder Green finished Australia’s second innings unbeaten on 33, scoring some confidence-boosting runs after a couple of low scores, while run machine Marnus Labuschagne and local lad Travis Head scored half-centuries.
The 198cm Green’s steep bounce and consistently-quick pace once again troubled Root after getting the world’s top-ranked batter twice already.
Vice-captain Ben Stokes, not out on three off 40 balls, holds the key to England salvaging anything on the final day.
Pressure is mounting on ex-West Aussie opener Marcus Harris after he failed for the third time this series, brilliantly caught down the leg-side by gloveman Jos Buttler again for 23.
Harris has scored just 38 runs in four hits at an average of 12.66 as Queensland veteran Usman Khawaja firms as a potential replacement for the Boxing Day Test at the MCG.