Aussies move within 56 runs of victory in first Ashes test

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David Warner and Cameron Bancroft compounded an already exasperating day for England by sharing an unbeaten 114-run opening stand to move Australia within 56 runs of victory with a full day to play in the Ashes series opener.

Warner (60 not out) set about the run chase cautiously in the last session Sunday but picked up his scoring rate late to raise his 25th test 50 with a boundary. Bancroft, making his test debut, posted his first half century off 111 balls and remained 51 not out at stumps on day four.

England struggled after a contentious stumping decision against Moeen Ali in the middle session on day four and was bundled out for 195 after a late collapse of 4-10, including the last three wickets for one run in 10 deliveries.

Mitchell Starc picked up two wickets in the over that should have been the last before tea, ensuring the extra time that allowed Pat Cummins to take the last wicket and leave Australia with four sessions to chase 170.

Pacemen Starc and Josh Hazlewood and offspinner Nathan Lyon finished the innings with three wickets apiece, and Joe Root top-scored for England with 51.

“Obviously if we can knock off these runs tomorrow it puts us in a very strong position heading to Adelaide and England has to chase us from now on,” said Starc, who attributed his captain Steve Smith’s unbeaten 141 in the first innings as the match turner for Australia. “The way we were 4-70, to sort of scratch a way to a lead, then come out and bowl the way we did - it’s been great for our change room.”

England resumed the penultimate day at 33-2, a slender seven-run lead, and added 29 without too much trouble before Lyon took a pair of wickets to remove Mark Stoneman (27) and Dawid Malan (4), both caught by Smith in the slips.

Root batted doggedly, recovering after a being hit hard in the helmet on Saturday night, but lost his wicket nine minutes before lunch.

The England captain had just reach his 33rd test half century from 103 balls, but was trapped lbw by Hazlewood with the very next delivery.

Ali had moved quickly to 40 from 64 balls when he stretched down the pitch to defend a delivery from Lyon and wicketkeeper Tim Paine whipped off the bails, instantly making an appeal to the umpire at square leg.

Line call

The line call was referred to TV umpire Chris Gaffaney, who watched a succession of video replays from various angles before ruling Ali out because no part of his back foot was behind the painted crease.

That ended the 42-run sixth-wicket stand between Ali and Jonny Bairstow and exposed the lower order with England sliding to 155-6.

The decision divided critics, with some saying it was too close to call and the batsman should have been given the benefit of the doubt, but others saying it was accurate even if slightly harsh.

Ali said it was close, and he had to accept the umpire’s decision - particularly as he’d have liked the same outcome if he’d been bowling.

“We felt we had them under pressure at the time,” Ali said of his partnership with Bairstow. “Any sort of lead over 180, 190 is always dangerous and we felt that if we had carried on going at one point 220 or even further than that. So to get out was very disappointing.

“I thought the first three days we played well and we were in the game and then today we let ourselves down with the bat especially.”

No big partnership

The English were unable to mount a big partnership on a Gabba wicket that progressively got faster and bouncier over four days, and wickets fell too regularly.

Chris Woakes (17) edged Starc to Smith to make it 185-7 and with an interval approaching Bairstow, who had batted resiliently for 42, inexplicably lofted a short-pitch ball from Starc directly to third man.

Starc struck again four balls when Stuart Broad (2) was out after a video review on a caught-behind decision indicated he’d got the slightest hint of an edge.

Australia hasn’t lost a test match at the Gabba since 1988 and is growing in confidence to continue that streak. England holds the Ashes after winning 3-2 at home in 2015, but was swept 5-0 on its last tour to Australia in 2013-14.

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