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England’s batting struggles continue in fifth Test as Australia lead by 152 runs

Sam Billings provided a promising start to his Test career with runs and his first two catches behind the stumps

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Fire still burning bright for Stuart Broad after Sydney five-wicket haul

For the fifth time out of five in this Ashes, England were left chasing their tails having coughed up a huge first innings lead to Australia.

It didn’t matter that they had the best of the bowling conditions on day one, followed by the better of the batting conditions on day two.

England were still 115 runs adrift of Australia’s first innings total of 303 when they were skittled for 188 inside 48 overs, and that lead was extended to 152 by the close.

The home side had managed to add 62 to their overnight 241-6, before Nathan Lyon was the last man out in a spirited first hour of cricket, but things took a turn downhill from there for England.

England’s batsmen were undone by the Aussie bowlers once more
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Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

No England batsman scored more than Chris Woakes’ 36, and he was dropped twice including a simple chance at slip from his very first ball.

This was another day of pure torture for England fans who might have hoped against all hope that their batsmen might just find one final push at a decent first innings score and cross the 300 rubicon at least once this series.

Alas no, that remains a pipe dream thanks to the relentless excellence of Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc, not to mention the self immolating qualities of England’s batters.

And nothing says kamikaze better than the direct hit run out that accounted for Rory Burns when he was yet to score.

Rory Burns was run out by the barest of margins
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Philip Brown/Popperfoto/Popperfoto via Getty Images)

Zak Crawley pushed the ball into the off side, Burns wasn’t really looking for the run, but set off and then with the throw coming in from Marnus Labsuschagne stuck his bat out and was just short of the line when the bails came off.

The fact he didn’t get the dive out when it was so close was curious. Maybe he didn’t have the game sense to realise it was tight, or he just didn’t have the desperation for the situation or for his career to throw himself forward.

Either way it leaves his career hanging by a thread with a second innings score now simply a must.

Crawley again looked good until he was out, inside edging onto his pad for a catch at short leg and then for a brief time Dawid Malan and Joe Root provided memories of what might have been earlier in the series.

Remember when they had put on a couple of century partnerships in the first and second Tests that suggested England might be able to compete out here?

Well they were batting very nicely here and playing their strokes to good effect in adding 49 together, but when Malan was caught down the legside for 25 it sparked another collapse.

Four wickets were lost for just 32 runs as he, Root, Ben Stokes, and Ollie Pope all departed thanks to Cummins’ skill and Scott Boland’s accuracy.

Only debutante keeper batter Sam Billings and Woakes were able to put the brakes on and stop the procession from being terminal.

They got England past the follow-on target first, before steadily chipping away at Australia’s lead.

For Billings in his first ever Test innings, he showed plenty of heart and skill to keep the Aussies at bay and score 29, but when he looked well settled Cam Green got him with a short one, well held at long leg by Boland.

Billings looked good with the bat and with the gloves on debut
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Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Woakes and Mark Wood added a few extras at the back end of the innings, but not even that could cover up the fact that England’s batting was again below par, up against a decent bowling attack.

Conditions under lights were again favourable for the bowlers and England struck three times before the day was done.

Stuart Broad consigned David Warner to his second pair of ducks in Test cricket when he cut the ball to the diving Ollie Pope who took a stunning grab.

Woakes did for Labuschagne down the legside to give Billings his first catch in Test cricket, before Wood sent down a snorter to remove Usman Khawaja for just 11.

England will need much more of the same early on day three to make anything other than another defeat the most obvious result.

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