England were battling to stay in the second Ashes Test after Australia removed both openers in a fiery spell under lights on day two to leave the visitors reeling.
The home team declared their first innings on a commanding 473-9 in Adelaide, leaving England to face a trying 40 minutes against a swinging pink ball.
They didn’t fare well with under-pressure Rory Burns lasting just three balls against a rampant Mitchell Starc, edging a rising delivery to Steve Smith at second slip after making just four.
Haseeb Hameed hung on slightly longer before Michael Neser, in for skipper Pat Cummins – who pulled out of the Test at the last minute over a Covid scare – bagged his maiden Test scalp.
Hameed, on six, chipped to Starc at mid-on with Neser mobbed by his teammates.
— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) December 17, 2021
Once again, England’s fate rests with skipper Joe Root, who was unbeaten on five alongside Dawid Malan on one as they reached stumps at 17-2 after lightning forced an early halt.
England crashed by nine wickets in the first Test at Brisbane and if they go 2-0 down in Adelaide the Ashes are as good as gone with Root’s men needing to win all three remaining Tests.
Earlier, Marnus Labuschagne top-scored with a magnificent 103 while David Warner (95) and Smith (93) provided vital support after Australia resumed from their overnight 221-2.
Ben Stokes was the pick of the England attack with 3-113, while Jimmy Anderson took 2-58.
No 3 Labuschagne completed his epic century after setting himself up by batting almost all day on Thursday, bringing up his sixth Test ton and first in an Ashes series off a dogged 287 balls.
But he struggled when Ollie Robinson was brought into the attack and he was trapped lbw, adding just eight runs to his overnight 95.
“It was nice to get that hundred, obviously got a few chances there but that’s how it goes sometimes, you ride your luck,” Labuschagne said. “It feels like you have to grind for every run that you’re out there.”
Smith struck a fine 93 to help Australia reassert control after Travis Head and Cameron Green were out in quick succession after Labuschagne departed.
The stand-in captain was England’s key tormentor at the last Ashes in 2019, on his return from a ball-tampering ban, and he kept his cool in sweltering Adelaide.
He was ably supported by Alex Carey, who is in the team as replacement wicketkeeper for former skipper Tim Paine, who quit on the eve of the Ashes over a text-message scandal.
Smith came to the crease when Warner was out and barely put a foot wrong, dishing out particular punishment to Chris Woakes, crunching three boundaries in one over then smacking him for a big six.
He looked destined for a 28th Test century but was dismissed lbw to an Anderson ball that pitched up – the English veteran’s first wicket of the tour.
Carey fell soon after for 51, his maiden Test half-century, chipping to Hameed at cover off Anderson.
Temperatures in Adelaide peaked at 37°C as England toiled, desperately needing wickets to stay in the game.
They were rewarded for their persistence by getting not only Labuschagne but Head, who was high on confidence after an impressive 152 in the first Test at Brisbane.
But he was undone by Root’s part-time spin, with the England captain finding turn and bounce, beating Head with a delivery that left him sprawled on one knee in disbelief, out for 18.
Green only lasted five balls, out for two with a fuller delivery from Stokes clattering into his off-stump.
Tailenders Starc and Neser rubbed salt into English wounds in a quickfire 58-run stand before the declaration.
© Agence France-Presse