Australian batsman Usman Khawaja says Test skipper or white-ball skipper Aaron Finch needs to come out and explain Justin Langer's exit as head coach.

Khawaja, who returned to the Test side during the Ashes after more than two years outside the team, was named in Australia's squad for next month's Pakistan Test series.

The 35-year-old admitted he was sad for "the person" when Langer resigned as Australia head coach amid a messy exit with talk of a player revolt.

Langer spent almost four years in the head coaching role but resigned on Saturday, rejecting a six-month contract extension.

The 51-year-old's exit comes after leading Australia to a 4-0 Ashes triumph and a stunning T20 World Cup victory which has raised eyebrows, yet there have been rumblings of internal issues.

"I just came back in the team two months ago. I've been a little bit out of it, a little bit disconnected, but there's obviously a lot of ex-players coming and talking about the playing group," Khawaja told reporters on Tuesday.

"At some stage, one of the captains, probably Finchy or Patty, will probably have to stand up and answer some questions just to get rid of all the speculation that's going around. To just put an end to it all."

Khawaja said Langer had tried to take on player feedback and insisted "always got along with him".

But several key members of the Australian side, including Cummins, failed to publicly back Langer for a contract extension in the lead-up to Saturday's announcement.

"It's part of speculation which I don't think is really healthy. I just don't want to add to it," Cummins said on Thursday when asked about a contract renewal for Langer.

"That's Cricket Australia's job. It's not my job. I've really loved my time working with JL and we've had an evaluation process. I've been part of that, a lot of other players and staff have been part of that.

"Just like when we get evaluated. I've got huge respect for JL, really like working with him. But it's not my call."

Joe Root declared England must make decisive changes to their Test cricket programme following their Ashes humbling – but warned that things will not "change overnight".

Australia clinched a 4-0 series victory on Sunday after another batting collapse from the visitors saw them slump to a 146-run defeat in the fifth Test in Hobart.

England had looked in a promising position to claim a first win of the series after Mark Wood's career-best 6-37 helped to dismiss the hosts for 155 in the second innings.

Rory Burns and Zak Crawley mounted a good start as they chased a target of 271, but Cameron Green (3-21) sparked another rout.

The tourists proceeded to lose all 10 wickets for 56 runs as they were bowled out for 124.

It was a pitiful end to a dreadful series from England's perspective and another indication of their problems in the longest format.

They have won only one of their past 14 Test matches since last February and, when they return to Australia in 2025, it will have been 14 years since they last won an Ashes Test away from home.

Speaking to BT Sport, captain Root said: "A number of things have to change. In the short term, guys have to learn quickly. If you want to survive at this level, you have to learn quickly. What they are lacking is the opportunities to do that at the level beforehand.

"We need to sit down and have a clear look at what direction English cricket needs to take, what direction English Test cricket needs to take to improve and improve quickly. That is not going to change overnight."

He added: "It has been a frustration throughout. We have played good cricket in parts but not managed to string a whole game together.

"We have to learn from these experiences and get better, not come away and make the same mistakes. That is the challenge moving forward."

Australia skipper Pat Cummins, meanwhile, declared his side want to make their mark on foreign soil after a resounding victory.

"It is pretty crazy," he said. "As a professional cricketer, these are the series you have in your diary a couple of years out, so to come out with so many positives and winning 4-0, I am pumped.

"It feels like we are really building to something big. Now we want to share our wares overseas."

England fought back with the ball after another batting collapse, but Australia remained on top after 17 wickets fell on a dramatic second day of the final Ashes Test.

Australia resumed on 241-6 in their first innings and were bowled out for 303 during Saturday's opening session, Stuart Broad taking 3-59 and Mark Wood 3-115 at Blundstone Arena.

The tourists then crumbled from 78-2 to 188 all out in reply, Chris Woakes top-scoring with 36 as the excellent Pat Cummins (4-45) and Mitchell Starc (3-53) did the bulk of the damage, with the ball zipping around off the seam and swinging prodigiously.

Australia were reduced to 5-2 in their second innings before closing on 37-3 in Hobart, leading by 152 runs and favourites to win the series 4-0.

Wood dismissed Starc and Cummins early on as Australia got the day's play under way, but Nathan Lyon struck the pacemen for three sixes as he held up England with a quickfire 31 and Alex Carey made 24, with Australia adding 51 runs for the last two wickets.

There was a sense of deja vu as England were two down early in their reply, Rory Burns run out without scoring on his return to the side and Zak Crawley caught by Travis Head at short leg to become Cummins' first victim.

Joe Root (34) and Dawid Malan steadied the ship, with left-hander Malan having a slice of fortune when he nicked Cameron Green behind with 13 to his name and Australia did not review.

Malan (25) was on his way after edging Cummins through to Carey, ending a third-wicket stand of 49, and England capitulated yet again, with Root trapped lbw by Australia's outstanding captain.

Lyon took a brilliant catch to get rid of Ben Stokes for four, before debutant Sam Billings (29) and Woakes offered some resistance, but Cummins ended another abysmal England innings by bowling Wood.

The tourists dazzled with the ball under the lights, with Warner bagging a pair and Marnus Labuschagne and Usman Khawaja departing, but Steve Smith (17no) and nightwatchman Scott Boland prevented further damage from being done.


Magnificent Cummins shows he's the best in the world

Cummins produced another exhibition of pace bowling as he exploited England's batting frailties yet again.

The Australia skipper was relentless and would have deserved a five-wicket haul, snaring Root with a brilliant delivery that nipped back sharply to claim the scalp of the England captain for the first time in the series.

He was supported well by Starc, Green (1-45) and Boland (1-33), who had Woakes dropped by both Warner and Khawaja early in the all-rounder's knock.


Woe for Warner as Broad strikes again, Robinson returns

It was an all too familiar story for Warner as he fell to Broad for the 14th time in Test cricket, Ollie Pope taking a stunning diving catch at point to remove the opener.

Not since Warner failed to score in both innings of the Old Trafford Ashes Test in 2019 had an Australian suffered the misery of getting a pair.

Woakes snared Labuschagne and Billings took a second Test catch when Khawaja gloved a brute of a rapid short ball from Wood. Ollie Robinson was unfortunate not to take a wicket when he returned to bowl after suffering back spams on day one as England finished a disappointing day strongly.

Australia captain Pat Cummins wishes the weather had been on his team's side after England frustrated their hosts to draw the fourth Ashes Test in Sydney.

James Anderson batted out the final over of the day – and the 102nd of England's second innings – at the Sydney Cricket Ground to ensure the tourists reached 270-9 at stumps and avoided a series whitewash.

With the Ashes already lost after a dismal opening three Tests, Joe Root's team performed resiliently to restore some pride heading into the final match in Hobart.

They relied on some good fortune, too. Rain delayed the restart in the second session on Sunday, further stalling Australia after they had clinched the important wicket of Zak Crawley (77), who became England's third-youngest opener to score a half-century in an away Ashes series, just before lunch. Rain also effected play earlier in the match.

Cummins, meanwhile, held on late to declare on day four despite Australia having built a towering lead, with Crawley and Haseeb Hameed only facing 35 minutes at the crease late on Saturday.

"Obviously, [we were] really keen [for the win]," Cummins said at the post-match presentation.

"But I think it was a great game of Test cricket, we got close. A bit less weather might have got us there but it was a really hard-fought match – that's why we all love it. We'd have loved to go up 4-0, but it was a good match.

"The weather forecasts are hopeless, I learned that this week. I think day four was meant to rain all day. I was ready to follow-on, we'd have had a full day of sunlight yesterday to bowl in."

Asked about his late declaration, Cummins added: "Being in a position to get up close to 400, I think we needed that.

"The wicket wasn't playing many tricks, we’ve got some class batters. Today was good fun, I felt really lucky to have genuine bowlers plus Smithy [Steve Smith] and Marnus [Labuschagne] to throw the ball to. It felt like we were right in with a shot."

Australia were led in the fourth Test by the magnificent Usman Khawaja, who marked his first appearance in their red-ball side since the 2019 Ashes series with a hundred in each innings.

He became just the third player to score a hundred in each innings of an SCG Test, and the first since former Australia captain Ricky Ponting in 2006, also against England.

"Two hundreds, no it can't [get much better]," Usman said.

"It was a terrific game. We'd have loved to win but it was a great game, a great fight from England, Test cricket at its best, right down to the wire. It could have gone either way – we couldn't ask for much more."

Khawaja has already said he does not expect to be in Australia's team for the final Test, with Travis Head expected to return from a coronavirus-enforced absence, but the 35-year-old knows he has a big role to play over the next 12 months.

"I'm enjoying the game, love the game. There's lots of ups and downs. I fully know I could go out next time I play and get two ducks, it's just the way this game is," he continued.

"That's why we love it. It's such a hard game. It's really satisfying. There's nothing harder that Test cricket, when you perform like that you know you've done something right.

"There's a lot of cricket coming up. Fingers crossed we stay healthy. The guys have played unbelievably before this game, 3-0 up. We couldn't have asked for much more from this series and hopefully the next game we can win that, and then win a few games away."

Debutant Scott Boland was "speechless" after his remarkable 7-6 spell locked in Australia's Ashes series victory over England with an emphatic win at the MCG.

Australia retained the Ashes by winning the third Test in Melbourne by an innings and 14 runs with right-arm fast bowler Boland making history in an astonishing spell.

Boland claimed four wickets in 11 balls on the third day, dismantling England's line-up as they were skittled for 68.

Australia clinched victory inside 81 minutes on the third day led by Boland's heroics, winning the game inside two days and one session.

"I'm speechless," Boland told Fox Sports after the game. "Coming in today I thought we had a pretty good chance of winning but never thought it'd be over before midday."

Boland, 32, had played 80 first-class matches prior to his Test debut, with his previous best-ever figures being 31-7.

"That's my best-ever figures," Boland said. "I got a couple of seven-fors in first-class cricket but nothing happened that quickly."

Boland, who was named Player of the Match, was fiercely supported by his home crowd, receiving wild applause every time he returned to the deep after each bowling over late on the second day and early on the third.

"They were amazing," he added. "They supported me so much from day one. Going down there just gives you a real big buzz."

Australia skipper Pat Cummins said Boland's success, having stepped up with Jhye Richardson, Michael Neser and Josh Hazlewood unavailable due to soreness or injuries, was a great sign for the hosts.

"It's a great sign for the health of Australian cricket we've got so many boys to pick from," Cummins said.

"Scotty came in, we were confident he'd do well, not quite this well, but we know whoever steps in is going to do a great job."

England only lasted 15.4 overs on the third day, with Australia retaining the Ashes within 13 days of cricket this series.

Australia lead all the key statistics, with the top four batting averages (Travis Head (62.0), David Warner (60.0), Mitchell Starc (58.5) and Marnus Labuschagne (57.25)) and top three leading wicket-takers (Starc (14), Nathan Lyon (12) and Cummins (10)) emphasising their dominance.

"I think we've been relentless with bat and ball when we've had to be," Cummins added. "The bowlers turned up and owned that good area around the top of off stump.

"The batters have really earned their runs. Some partnerships, Marnus [Labuschagne] and Davey [Warner] have earned the right to bat long, they've left well.

"When opportunities presented they've been brave and taken on the game. All round everyone has contributed."

Australia can claim a 5-0 whitewash with victories in Sydney and Hobart in the remaining two Test matches.

"I think any Ashes series is where you try to make a mark in your Test career," Cummins said. "Back to last series 4-0 and the one before that was 5-0, that goes down in history.

"We've got a chance to start cementing our identity and [it] can be the start for the next few years."

Australia took four late wickets amid a devastating spell with the ball to grab a stronghold on their way to sealing the Ashes after England had fought back on day two of the third Test at the MCG.

Mitchell Starc claimed the scalps of Zak Crawley and Dawid Malan in successive balls before Victorian debutant Scott Boland had Haseeb Hameed caught behind and bowled Jack Leach to leave the visitors reeling.

England were 31-4 at stumps, trailing by 51 runs as Australia, who lead the series 2-0, look to clinch the Ashes in Melbourne. Joe Root (12*) and Ben Stokes (2*) will resume at the crease on day three.

The visitors had rallied to keep the Boxing Day Test alive, having dismissed Australia for 267 led by veteran James Anderson with 4-33.

All this after drama forced the resumption of play to be delayed after a coronavirus scare within the England camp, before all the players were cleared for an 11am local start.

Australia had resumed at 61-1 after England were all out for 185 on the first day. Marcus Harris resumed at the crease and top scored with 76 on his home deck.

England had made good inroads into the Australia batting order at 110-4, dismissing number one Test batsman Marnus Labuschagne for 1 and vice-captain Steve Smith for 16 from Chris Wood (71-2) and Anderson respectively.

Harris was the only Australian to score more than 40, with Travis Head (27) getting a start before falling to Ollie Robinson (64-2), who had a hamstring scare but played on.

England appeared set for a nominal first-innings deficit before a late cameo from Starc (24*) and captain Pat Cummins (21) opened up an 82-run lead.

However, Australia turned the game in a stunning final 45 minutes with Cummins almost having Crawley caught behind for a duck when Alex Carey botched a chance, before the English opener went in the next over to Starc (11-2).

Starc trapped Malan lbw next ball despite a review, before Boland was introduced to the attack, having Hameed caught by Carey before clean bowling Leach two balls later.

Starc misses rare Boxing Day hat-trick

Starc almost claimed the first Boxing Day Test Ashes hat-trick since Shane Warne in 1994 when he dismissed Crawley and Malan in successive deliveries. England skipper Root survived a close call on the hat-trick ball which had the MCG crowd on their feet as it whizzed past the bat.

Local hero fires up crowd

Local debutant Boland only managed one wicket in the first innings but received great support from his home crowd during his brief batting innings before a double strike with his only over after being thrown the ball late in the day.

Australia tightened their grip on the Ashes as another abject performance from England meant it was a brutal Boxing Day for the tourists in Melbourne.

On day one of the third Test, a must-win match for England, Joe Root's men were dismissed for 185 and saw Australia race to 61-1 at stumps.

Australia are seeking to secure a third consecutive men's Ashes series win on home soil, while England's mission is to somehow make the contest competitive.

After bruising defeats in Brisbane and Adelaide, the evidence of day one pointed to more incoming misery for Root and co.

Having made six and a duck in Adelaide, Haseeb Hameed again fell without scoring at the top of the England order as the opener perished to returning Australia captain Pat Cummins.

His edge through to Alex Carey in the second over gave Cummins a 100th Test wicket on home soil, and a 101st was not long in arriving as the skipper prised out England's second opener, with a gully catch accounting for the recalled Zak Crawley.

Crawley made 12, and his exit meant that, at 13-2, England were again looking for Dawid Malan and captain Root to perform a rescue act. They enjoyed a century alliance in Adelaide but here could only put on 48 for the third wicket, with Malan edging through to David Warner at slip to fall for 14 and give Cummins a third victim.

Root reached 50 but went no further, a promising innings ending in disappointing fashion as he tickled Mitchell Starc through to Carey. And although Ben Stokes made 25 and Jonny Bairstow 35, England needed more from their middle order due to the openers' failings.

Poor shot selection accounted for most of the England wickets, and the theme continued as Jos Buttler fell for three before tea, lobbing spinner Nathan Lyon to debutant Scott Boland at deep mid wicket.

Australia wrapped up the innings when Lyon had both Jack Leach (13) and Ollie Robinson (22) caught in the deep to secure figures of 3-36.

Paceman Cummins posted the same numbers as Lyon, and the Australia skipper, who missed the Adelaide tussle after being deemed a close contact of a COVID-19 case, would have relished the sight of his batsmen piling on the runs in their reply.

Blood drawn, but Aussies fight on

Australian only require a draw at the MCG to retain the Ashes, but their instinct will always be to go flat out for victory against the old enemy. Boland, a 32-year-old Melbourne native, made two catches and snagged a popular first Test wicket when he pinned Mark Wood lbw, and the day ended in English despair when an edge from Marcus Harris through the slip cordon ran away for four. Harris had treatment for a bloodied finger moments earlier after being hit on the glove by Stokes, but battled on.

Banishing MCG blues

Australia have lost two of their last three men's Tests on Boxing Day (W1), being beaten twice by India after having been undefeated in their seven Tests prior starting on December 26 (W5, D2). They have won only one of their last three Boxing Day Tests played against England (D1, L1). James Anderson gave England brief hope when he had Warner (38) caught low down by Zak Crawley before the close – the 10th time he has dismissed Warner in Tests – but this was emphatically Australia's day.

Victorian fast bowler Scott Boland has been confirmed for a shock debut in the Ashes Boxing Day Test at the MCG.

Australia captain Pat Cummins, who also returns to the XI after his COVID-19 scare in Adelaide, confirmed the decision on Christmas Day, with Jhye Richardson and Michael Neser dropping out due to soreness.

Boland, who plays his state cricket for Victoria at the MCG, took 8-89 in a match last month against New South Wales. The 32-year-old right-arm fast bowler has played 14 ODIs and three T20Is for Australia and has taken 91 wickets at 25.71 in 26 first-class games at the MCG.

"Really excited for Scott debuting here on his home ground," Cummins told reporters. "Jhye and Ness pulled up a little bit sore after Adelaide, so we made the decision to bring in Scotty. It's a luxury to have someone like him ready to go. He's fresh.

"We earmarked him as a chance for here and the SCG. We think he's really well suited. His record speaks for itself here in domestic cricket. Home ground and having someone fresh and ready to go were big factors."

Cummins explained that Richardson, who took a second-innings five-wicket haul to earn Australia victory in the second Ashes Test and a 2-0 series lead, was carrying a minor leg injury.

"He's pretty sore," he said. "We were umming and ahing. He had a bit of bowl-out yesterday.

"We felt seven days off, give him enough rest. He's got a small leg injury which is nothing major but we felt rather than risk a longer term injury, give him a week off."

Josh Hazlewood remains unavailable due to a side injury but is in the mix to return for the fourth Ashes Test in Sydney starting January 5.

Joe Root says the England captaincy is "not a dictatorship" as the tourists prepare to try and keep the Ashes series alive in the Boxing Day Test at the MCG.

Root called on his attack to be "braver" by bowling fuller lengths after Australia went 2-0 up with a resounding 275-run victory at the Adelaide Oval.

England start the third Test in Melbourne knowing they must win to have any chance of regaining the urn and captain Root does not see a problem with himself and the bowlers having a difference of opinion.

"I like to give our bowlers, especially the senior ones, that responsibility," Root said. "They [James Anderson and Stuart Broad] have more than 300 Tests between them and over 1,000 wickets, and they know what they are doing.

"It's working alongside them, it's not a dictatorship. Every now and again, you don't always agree on everything and that's fine.

"Ultimately, it's about coming to a point where you get the results we want. Unfortunately, in the last game, we didn't quite get there."

Root will break former Pakistan batter Mohammad Yousuf's record of 1,788 Test runs in a calendar year if he scores 159 or more in England's last match of 2021.

England must raise their game in the field, having dropped at least five catches in four of their past five Tests. They put seven chances down in Adelaide.

Australia have lost two of the previous three Boxing Day Tests, both of those defeats coming at the hands of India.

 

England set to ring the changes

The tourists are set to wield the axe after two heavy defeats, with Zak Crawley, Jonny Bairstow, Jack Leach and Mark Wood potentially getting the nod.

Rory Burns is reportedly in danger of being dropped and fellow opener Haseeb Hameed is also under pressure, while Chris Woakes looks likely to miss out after he went for 149 runs and took only one wicket in the second Test.

Ollie Pope has also been out of sorts early in the series, failing to reach double figures in his past three innings after starting with 35 at the Gabba.

Crawley has not played for England since a drawn Test against India at Trent Bridge in August.

 

Cummins returns, Labuschagne on top of the world

Pat Cummins returns to skipper Australia after missing the last Test due to coming into close contact with a positive coronavirus case at a restaurant in Adelaide.

Australia now have the number one Test bowler in the world in Cummins and the best batter on the planet, with Marnus Labuschagne taking that mantle from Root.

Labuschagne is the leading run-scorer in the series with 228 at an average of 76 following his maiden Ashes century in the second Test.

Josh Hazlewood is set to miss out again due to a side injury, so Jhye Richardson should get another opportunity after claiming a maiden five-wicket Test haul on his Ashes debut last week.

Australia have named an unchanged 15-man squad for the remainder of the Ashes ahead of Test matches in Melbourne, Sydney and Hobart.

Pace pair Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood will re-join the squad after both missed the second Test in Adelaide.

Cummins was ruled out after being a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case, while Hazlewood missed due to a side injury.

The duo will come back into contention to replace Jhye Richardson and Michael Neser who stepped up in their respective absences in Adelaide.

Opening batsman Marcus Harris has been retained in the squad despite managing only 38 runs in four innings during the series. Usman Khawaja remains the back-up batsman in the squad and could still displace Harris.

The Australians will have rest days on Tuesday and Wednesday before assembling in Melbourne on Thursday ahead of the Boxing Day Test from Sunday at the MCG.

Australia leads the series 1-0 and is in a strong position to claim victory on the final day in the second Test in Adelaide on Monday.

Australia Test squad: Pat Cummins (c), Steve Smith (vc), Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Marcus Harris, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Michael Neser, Jhye Richardson, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, David Warner

Mitchell Starc says he and Nathan Lyon may have also missed the second Ashes Test if they had not snubbed Pat Cummins at an Adelaide restaurant.

Australia captain Cummins was force to sit out the match at Adelaide Oval after the paceman was deemed to be a close contact with a positive coronavirus case at a restaurant.

Fellow fast bowler Starc and spinner Lyon dined at the same establishment, but were considered to be casual contacts with the person who had the virus.

Starc took 4-37 and Lyon claimed 3-58 as England meekly collapsed from 150-2 to 236 on day three in reply to 473-9 declared. Australia then closed in complete command on 45-1 in their second innings - leading by 282 runs.

Left-arm quick Starc revealed it could have been a very different story if Cummins had replied to his text message. 

He said: "It was just fortunate we were sitting outside. It was almost a bit of a p***-take because Pat didn't reply to my message so thought we'd sit away from him and sit outside so it's been a lucky one."

Starc says he did not lose any sleep fretting over whether dining out could have cost him another chance to exploit England's vulnerable batting line-up in a match Josh Hazlewood was ruled out of due to a side strain.

"Spinner [Lyon] didn't sleep. I slept quite fine, there wasn't much I could do about it after," he said.

It was revealed on Saturday that both sides will face stricter protocols for the Melbourne and Sydney Tests due to a rise in COVID-19 cases.

Players can only follow Starc and Lyon's lead and dine outside, while they must also socially distance with members of the public.

Cricket Australia chief executive Nick Hockley told SEN radio: "We need to make sure there's social distancing, so we ask everyone to be respectful in the public.

"That's the real shame because what we have seen is players wanting to interact with fans. That's been a feature of the Big Bash. But we've now got very clear protocols.

"As it comes to those on the field of play we need to make sure that people are operating in a really biosecure way."

Mitchell Starc says he and Nathan Lyon may have also missed the second Ashes Test if they had not snubbed Pat Cummins at an Adelaide restaurant.

Australia captain Cummins was force to sit out the match at Adelaide Oval after the paceman was deemed to be a close contact with a positive coronavirus case at a restaurant.

Fellow fast bowler Starc and spinner Lyon dined at the same establishment, but were considered to be casual contacts with the person who had the virus.

Starc took 4-37 and Lyon claimed 3-58 as England meekly collapsed from 150-2 to 236 on day three in reply to 473-9 declared. Australia then closed in complete command on 45-1 in their second innings - leading by 282 runs.

Left-arm quick Starc revealed it could have been a very different story if Cummins had replied to his text message. 

He said: "It was just fortunate we were sitting outside. It was almost a bit of a p***-take because Pat didn't reply to my message so thought we'd sit away from him and sit outside so it's been a lucky one."

Starc says he did not lose any sleep fretting over whether dining out could have cost him another chance to exploit England's vulnerable batting line-up in a match Josh Hazlewood was ruled out of due to a side strain.

"Spinner [Lyon] didn't sleep. I slept quite fine, there wasn't much I could do about it after," he said.

It was revealed on Saturday that both sides will face stricter protocols for the Melbourne and Sydney Tests due to a rise in COVID-19 cases.

Players can only follow Starc and Lyon's lead and dine outside, while they must also socially distance with members of the public.

Cricket Australia chief executive Nick Hockley told SEN radio: "We need to make sure there's social distancing, so we ask everyone to be respectful in the public.

"That's the real shame because what we have seen is players wanting to interact with fans. That's been a feature of the Big Bash. But we've now got very clear protocols.

"As it comes to those on the field of play we need to make sure that people are operating in a really biosecure way."

Marnus Labuschagne stood unbeaten on 95 and David Warner fell just short of a century as Australia battled to 221-2 on the first day of the second Test in Adelaide.

Steve Smith captained Australia for the first time since the ball-tampering scandal in 2018, after new skipper Pat Cummins was forced to isolate following close contact with a COVID-19 case in a restaurant.

Smith opted to bat first on Thursday and lost opener Marcus Harris for three to Stuart Broad in the bowler's 150th Test, as Jos Buttler produced a fantastic diving catch down the leg side. Harris had earlier overturned an lbw decision.

Warner closed shop in response against Broad and James Anderson's early dominance with the pink ball, managing just one run from his opening 35 deliveries, with Labuschagne following in a similarly attritional fashion.

Labuschagne was relieved when he was dropped by Buttler on 21 off Stokes, and capitalised as he battled to his second fifty of the series in 156 deliveries, after Warner had brought up a 108-ball half-century – the pair sharing their sixth century stand in Tests.

Left-handed opener Warner then fell in the 90s for the second consecutive Test when Broad gratefully collected a catch at cover, with Stokes' aggressive short-pitched bowling finally paying off. Warner was dismissed for 95 and the partnership ended at 172.

Buttler shelled a regulation catch from Anderson in the final hour with Labuschagne on 95, before Australia's number three and stand-in captain Smith made it to stumps unbeaten after a testing period against the new ball under the lights.

Landmark Labuschagne delivers once more

Labuschagne crafted an excellent first-innings 74 at the Gabba and followed that up with more calculated brilliance against England's five-man seam attack on a flat Adelaide Oval pitch in almost perfect batting conditions.

The right-hander, who has faced 275 balls so far, also made it to 2,000 Test runs in his 34th innings, with only four players – Michael Hussey, Herbert Sutcliffe, George Headley and Don Bradman – requiring fewer outings to reach the landmark.

Spin it to win it?

The surface in Adelaide has already shown signs of turn and bounce, much to the frustration of England, who dropped Jack Leach as the tourists went without a spinner for the first time in an Ashes Test since Headingley in 2001.

That run dates back further to 1998 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground for the last time England played without a spinner Down Under, and captain Joe Root, tasked with operating as the frontline spinner, struggled as he recorded figures of 0-37 from his 11 overs.

Pat Cummins was the victim of "really, really bad luck" as Australia's captain was forced to miss the second Ashes Test and go into isolation.

That was the verdict of Cricket Australia CEO Nick Hockley, who said the team had no option but to go into the Adelaide clash against England without their new skipper.

Cummins was dining at a restaurant on Tuesday and sat nearby to someone who has since been confirmed as a positive coronavirus case.

The star paceman did not breach any biosecurity protocols and isolated as soon as he became aware of the situation. Cummins has since had a PCR test, which produced a negative result, and said he was "gutted" to be ruled out of action. Michael Neser came in for his debut, replacing Cummins.

What it means for Cummins is that he could only watch on television as Australia made a bright start against England, reaching 211-2 in 78 overs as the first day continued to unfold.

Hockley said on BT Sport: "It's certainly been eventful, and it's so disappointing that Pat was ruled out as a close contact last night

"No one's more disappointed than Pat and everyone's been working extremely hard overnight to get the facts, and ultimately it was determined, working with the health authorities, that he had been in close contact with a positive case. It's just really 'wrong time, wrong place', and it's really, really bad luck. We're thrilled that he's going to be fit and raring to go on Boxing Day.

"We worked to establish the facts. We worked closely with SA [South Australia] Health. Ultimately, if you do become a close contact then the rules are to isolate for seven days, so there was really no option in the end.

"We've got protocols in place to make sure that multiple players don't get tied up in that situation, so they have to dine in small groups. If there's one consolation, it's that everyone else is available to play."

Hockley said Cummins should be available for the next match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, and measures were being taken to ensure he can stay fully fit.

"He's in isolation now. He's watching the cricket," Hockley said.

"We'll be putting plans in place plans to make sure that when people are in isolation they get access to the right fitness equipment, and we all want to make sure he keeps his conditioning up to a level and that he's in optimum condition for the Boxing Day Test."

Steve Smith captained Australia in the absence of Cummins as the day-night Test got under way.

Australian captain Pat Cummins has sensationally been ruled out of the second Ashes Test against England, deemed a close contact of a person who received a positive COVID-19 test.

The news comes on the morning of the first day of the pink-ball Test at Adelaide Oval, with Queensland fast bowler Michael Neser confirmed to replace Cummins in the XI for his debut on Thursday.

Former skipper Steve Smith will captain Australia in the absence of Cummins in the day-night Test in Adelaide.

Cummins was dining at a restaurant on Tuesday and was sat nearby to someone who has since been confirmed as a positive coronavirus case.

The star paceman did not breach any biosecurity protocols and isolated as soon as he became aware of the situation. Cummins has since had a PCR test, which produced a negative result.

However, Cummins has been confirmed as a close contact by South Australia Health and will be required to isolate for seven days, ruling him out of the second showdown with rivals England.

Cricket Australia (CA) said it anticipated Cummins will be available to play in the Boxing Day Test at the MCG in Melbourne.

"Cummins is understandably very disappointed not to be able to captain Australia for the day-night Test in Adelaide," CA said in a statement.

The 28-year-old fast bowler had led Australia to a nine-wicket victory in the Ashes opener as skipper in Brisbane, after taking over from Tim Paine.

Smith's deputising marks the first time he will have captained his country since the controversial 2018 sandpaper-gate Test match in Cape Town, which led to his dismissal as skipper and 12-month suspension.

Australia may have dodged a further bullet, revealing Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon were also dining at the same restaurant but at a separate table outdoors.

Both have been deemed casual contacts by SA Health and are free to play.

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