England took three early wickets inside 45 minutes of play in the fifth Ashes Test, but has let its golden chance slip as Travis Head and Cameron Green take control for Australia.
Having been sent in to bat first by Root on a green wicket, Australia is 4-170 with Travis Head (67) and Cameron Green (32) at the crease.
England has come under fire for its bowling having let the score slip from 3-12 early.
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Captain Root decided to bring himself on to bowl inside 40 overs as his quicks struggled, particularly with Ollie Robinson and Ben Stokes now under injury clouds.
Former Australia opener Simon Katich said on SEN: “Joe Root must think he’s in a bad dream at the moment.
“He won the toss on a green-top. He never in his wildest dreams thought he would be bowling (himself) in the first 40 overs.
“The nightmare continues. You just have to feel sorry for him sometimes.”
After 33 overs, Chris woakes was being hit for 4.6 runs an over and Mark Wood a whopping 7.14.
Speaking of a Woakes delivery, Mark Waugh said: “That was poor, and I think it’s affecting England’s bowlers. They’re right off their game at the moment. Their line and length has gone out the window.”
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Earlier, David Warner endured the longest period of his Test career without making a score, surviving a tricky 22 balls before he was caught in the slips off Ollie Robinson for a duck. The duck is the first of Warner’s Ashes career in Australia, while it set an Australian Test record for the most balls faced for a duck.
Moments later, Usman Khawaja (6) — promoted to open the batting for Marcus Harris — was also caught in the slips off Broad’s bowling.
Then it was 3-12 as Steve Smith followed suit to Robinson for a second-ball duck to be the third Australian caught in the slips inside 10 overs.
It’s the first time both Smith and Warner have been dismissed for a duck in the same Test innings.
Root won the toss and elected to bowl first at Bellerive Oval, where James Anderson has been rested as one of five changes, while SCG century-maker Jonny Bairstow misses out through a thumb injury.
Australia later went on the attack with Labuschagne and Head opting to fight fire with fire.
Head became too carried away with the counterpunch however, attempting a wild pull shot from well outside the line to Chris Woakes, which he skied and was lucky to get away with.
“That’s a windy whoosh, isn’t it?” Mark Waugh said. “I’m not sure what he was thinking there.
“You’ve got to be positive but he’s got away with that one there.”
The duo then smoked Mark Wood for 15 runs in the 17th over, which saw Root become furious with his fielders for a sloppy display.
Labuschagne later charged down the wicket to Broad in perhaps the most symbolic display of the Australians’ one-day style batting in the first session.
Labsuschagne was leading a mighty Australian counter, taking the hosts to 3-83 after they had lost 3-12 inside 10 overs in a stunning collapse.
That’s when Labuschagne, who was on 44 from just 53 balls, lost his footing and was bowled by Broad as the Australian fell to the ground.
Michael Vaughan said in commentary: “I’ve never ever seen this in cricket, let alone Test cricket … where was he going?”
Meanwhile, Brendon Julian described it as a “horrible wicket”, while Mike Hussey said: “That is one of the most bizarre dismissals you’ll ever see in Test cricket.”
WEATHER UPDATES (as of 5.30pm AEDT)
Rain started to fall at Bellerive Oval an hour before the first ball of day one while the big covers were on the pitch as of 2.20pm.
There is rain on the forecast for Friday with the Bureau of Meteorology forecasting a 90 per cent chance of showers.
The possible rainfall is between one to three millimetres, with the rain most likely this afternoon and evening, according to BOM.
Australia XI: David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Cameron Green, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins (c), Mitchell Starc, Scott Boland, Nathan Lyon
England XI: Rory Burns, Zak Crawley, Dawid Malan, Joe Root (c), Ben Stokes, Ollie Pope, Sam Billings (wk), Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad, Ollie Robinson, Mark Wood
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Earlier, images were posted on social media days out showing plenty of grass on the wicket but with the expectation that it would look considerably different come the toss.
But when the covers were pulled back on Friday it appeared little had changed.
Speaking on Fox Cricket’s coverage of the BBL, Mel Jones remarked: “It is looking green, isn’t it? I wasn’t expecting that green.”
Andrew Symonds then added: “If you had have seen the photo I saw earlier this week of the ground, it seriously had two inches of water over it. So that (the pitch colour) does not surprise me, considering the amount of rain they’ve had down in Tasmania.”
Both commentators said whoever wins the toss will likely bowl first.
Brad Haddin then called out England after reports they were set to leave out veteran James Anderson out of the pink-ball Test, which has since been confirmed.
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“Jimmy Anderson is not playing on this wicket and there’s some pressure on these bowlers to get 20 wickets from England,” he said.
“If Joe Root wins the toss and bowls and they have a bad day with no Anderson in this team on that wicket, good luck.”
Shane Warne, however, said despite the covering of grass the pitch was still relatively flat.
“It looks quite green with a nice covering of grass, but it’s quite flat. So I think both captains if they win the toss would like to bat first, but I reckon they might want to lose it too because there might be a little bit in this early,” Fox Cricket’s Shane Warne said.
Meanwhile, Root said at the toss that it has been “challenging” what to elect to do first.
“I think throughout this whole series it’s been quite challenging to work out exactly what to do, but with the overhead conditions, a slightly tacky nature to the wicket and that live grass it’s a nice opportunity to bowl first,” Root said.
Australia captain Pat Cummins said he also would have elected to bowl first.
“We were probably going to have a bowl today. Pink ball traditionally you try and have a bat, but with a bit of weather (we were) going to have a bowl, but not too upset,” he said.
BOLAND TO PLAY AS BUMPER PAYDAY LOOMS
Australia’s two-Test hero Scott Boland is set for a huge pay rise, while he appears to have overcome injury to take his place in the fifth Ashes Test.
Boland was pictured marking his run-up at Blundstone Arena in a sure sign he won’t be carrying the drinks in Hobart.
Boland burst onto the scene at the MCG taking 6-7 in a man-of-the-match display and backed it up in Sydney to have 14 wickets from just two matches in a stellar start to his Test career.
The Daily Telegraph reported Boland’s heroics in Melbourne and Sydney have secured him a Cricket Australia central contract, which should be upgraded to a big money deal when the contract lists are confirmed in April.
Boland was considered an MCG specialist ahead of his debut, but after starring in Sydney as well and being picked for a day-night Test in Hobart, there is now a feel he can now play in all conditions at home and abroad capping a meteoric rise.
BIG GUN TO MISS FIFTH TEST AS ENGLAND DEBUT KEEPER
Pace legend James Anderson will miss out in the final Ashes Test in Hobart, while Sam Billings will become England player No.700.
Sydney Thunder player Billings, who drove 500 miles down the East Coast of Australia from his Big Bash duties to link up with the team, will take the wicketkeeping gloves from injured star Jos Buttler.
Despite Anderson’s game being suited to the pink ball and swing friendly conditions under lights, Ollie Robinson, who was rested in Sydney has come back into the side in his place.
The ageing Anderson only targeted three Tests this tour and his 1-88 at the SCG looks set to be his final bow in Australia.
Billings’ unlikely rise from white-ball cricketer to red-ball debutant has been welcomed by a jaded England camp, which lost the Ashes 3-0 before producing a spirited draw in Sydney.
Rory Burns has earnt a recall at the top of the order in place of Haseeb Hameed, who has struggled for runs since making two starts in the series opener in Brisbane.
Ben Stokes (side strain) and century hero Jonny Bairstow (chipped thumb), are both carrying injuries but only the former will be playing.
Sydney stand in keeper Ollie Pope comes in for Bairstow.
Chris Woakes will replace spinner Jack Leach to give England another seam bowling option.