Shadows Lengthen On England As Head Shines

Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - Shadows lengthen on England as Head shines. Travis Head scored an unbeaten 95-ball 112 on Day 2

Shadows Lengthen On England As Head ShinesTravis Head scored an unbeaten 95-ball 112 on Day 2

Maybe Haseeb Hameed lost it in the air. Maybe he misjudged the flight and got into the awkward position that he'd end up in. Or maybe the young opener just lost the ball in the shadows. It was the penultimate delivery of the 72nd over of the day. And already, by then, England and their spirits looked to be lost in the shadows that engulfed the Gabba too.

It was arguably Jack Leach's worst delivery on a day he unfortunately dished out several other contenders that could lay claim to being worse. Short and sitting up to be despatched to the fence. Travis Head, who'd by then created plenty of boundary opportunities where there were none, was not going to miss out. Leach's shoulders had slumped even before the ball got to Hameed. By the time the ball bounced a few inches short of the fielder, struck his thigh and floated over the deep backward square leg boundary, it felt like England's shoulders had collectively slumped too. For good measure, the next delivery from Leach was equally poor, and easily picked off for another boundary by Head.

It was only going to get much worse for England and much more memorable for Head. It had been a day of many little quarters. Some, where Australia were in command, others where England had found ways to make a contest out of it, and most where both teams seemed to be jostling for some sort of control without grabbing it fully. That is till Head took over proceedings and the Gabba to produce his ultimate Test innings, at a time his place in the team was on the line and on a pitch where most others had struggled to find fluency.

As counterattacking knocks go, Head's 85-ball century seemed more brazen and audacious than calculated and risk-averse. It was more Rishabh Pant than Adam Gilchrist. He was prepared to live on the edge. But the fact that he did so when his team seemed to be tottering, only added to the outrageousness of his assault. It also meant it crushed the faint hopes that England may have briefly fostered of toeing their way back into the match.

Ollie Robinson had been the chief protagonist of that unlikely redemption story on Day 2 in Brisbane. He'd impressed in his first outing on Australian soil, finding just the length that he was built up to operate on. He began by beating the bat with his very first delivery of the day to Marcus Harris and continued to do so in every spell and literally every over he bowled on Thursday (December 9). His duel with David Warner was one that might have received a lot more attention if not for the one-sided state of the match when the destructive opener was in the middle. So would have his very-even tussle with Marnus Labuschagne, who looked the most assured of all the batters during his composed stay in the middle.

Robinson though could barely get himself through the crease when he was brought back for a potential spell at the end of that expensive Leach over to Head. His speeds had dropped to a trickle and his face had turned red after having bowled his heart out in the searing heat and humidity that had gripped Brisbane from the early hours of Thursday. And it seemed quite the effort for Robinson to even drag his weary body off the field at the end of that over.

At the other end, a battered and bruised Ben Stokes was ambling in off four paces and still giving it his all, like he can never stop doing. He'd turned on his knee an hour or so earlier while trying to stop a ball on the boundary and had looked in strife ever since. But he stayed put on the field and never stopped bustling in, even if his run-up had been halved by then.

There were other signs that England was beginning to lose their grip on their own performances, having lost that over the match a while back. Jos Buttler had started fumbling with the ball behind the stumps. There were overthrows being let through without the fielders being prepared to get into position to stop the ball. There had already been straightforward catches that had been grassed and a few other bloopers around the ground.

Despite Head's spirit-crushing performance in the final session of play, England actually gave a fair account of their cricketing spirit for a decent part of the day. And nothing quite exemplified more than Mark Wood's intense spells. The fiery pacer ran in all day long like his life depended and made life very uneasy for every Australian batter who came across him. Ironically, he troubled the two top-scorers, Head and Warner, the most with his perfectly-aimed short-pitched barrage. Unlike many raw pacers who've struggled to come to grips with the Gabba bounce, Wood got it absolutely right and had the left-handers hopping all day long, till the very end. It was a performance that will give England heart for the rest of the summer but will break their heart too for the position they find themselves in at the Gabba despite those efforts, which did result in that mini collapse of 4/29 on either side of the tea-break.

And with England staggering, Head was ready to turn his counterpunches into some heavy crosses and hooks. He was set to knock them out, which he did in sensational fashion. It's been a summer where he's already shown the next stage of his evolution as a batter. From someone who is known to move the game to being the pace-setter of the match. And England were no match to the frightening pace he set late on Day 2 of the opening Test.

And as the light faded, and the shadows lengthened around the Gabba, the signs didn't look ominous just for England's hopes in this opening Test but probably for the rest of their stay.

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