20 Dec 2021

Australia on verge of second Ashes test win

5:57 am on 20 December 2021

Mitchell Starc removed England captain Joe Root with the last ball of day four to put Australia firmly on course for victory in the second Ashes test in Adelaide.

Mitchell Starc of Australia celebrates taking a wicket.

Mitchell Starc celebrates taking a wicket. Photo: AAP IMAGE

Australia declared their second innings on 230-9 before the tea break, setting England an improbable victory target of 468.

The touring side were 82-4 at stumps, losing Root in the final over and staring at a second successive heavy defeat in the five-match series.

Ben Stokes, whose batting heroics secured England's most successful Ashes run chase at Leeds two years ago, was on three with his team still 386 short of their target.

Australia showed their intent by removing opener Haseeb Hameed for a duck before tea and sent back Dawid Malan, who made 20, after the break.

England settled briefly as Rory Burns, who had managed 17 runs in his three previous innings on this tour, held firm before departing for 34, caught by Steve Smith in the slips off a Jhye Richardson lifter.

Starc floored Root with a painful blow to his abdomen before dismissing the England captain to cap another satisfying day for Australia.

"Root is a huge wicket, he is in fantastic form," Australia vice-captain Travis Head said. "I have a lot of sympathy for him. We got told to give him some space (on the pitch).

"Starc on that line is never pretty and unfortunately with the day he (Root) has had it wasn't a great time to get hit."

Head expects spinner Nathan Lyon to play a big part on Monday.

"It's a big day tomorrow," he said.

Earlier, Marnus Labuschagne followed his first innings century with a fifty and Travis Head made 51 as Australia declared on 230-9.

England claimed three wickets in the first session but Labuschagne and Head settled any nerves in the Australia camp before stand-in captain Smith declared.

West Indies hold the record for the highest successful fourth innings chase of 418 achieved against Australia in 2003.

England's most successful Ashes chase came at Leeds two years ago when they reached their 359-run target thanks to Stokes's superb century.

It took 12 balls for an English wicket to fall with Richardson removing Haseeb Hameed caught behind for a duck.

Starc was treated for a back injury incurred while batting but showed no ill-effects.

Stokes temporarily took over England captaincy as Root had a hospital scan after being hit in the abdomen during Sunday's warm-up and he limped off the field following his dismissal to complete a depressing day for his team.

England fast bowling coach Jon Lewis praised Root's character and resilience.

"Joe is a leader and a strong leader in this group," Lewis said. "Since he got hit he stood up, he could have had a nightwatchman."