England lost captain Joe Root to the final delivery on day four of the second Ashes Test, a hammer blow that left Ben Stokes in charge of a mountainous rescue job in Adelaide.
Root’s day was bookended by bouts of eye-watering pain after he was struck in the groin area without the protection of a box during the pre-play warm-ups and then clattered again in the tender region by an 85mph delivery that left him buckled over in pain for several minutes in the closing moments of the final session.
But the lasting blow was dealt after he bravely resumed the battle, nicking Mitch Starc outside off stump just four deliveries before the close of play. His physical discomfort will ease in time, but England’s Ashes may not if they slip 2-0 with three to play.
They will head into the final day on 82 for four, with the victory target of 468 a non-factor as they instead look to block out three full sessions against opponents who have been routinely ruthless with the ball.
Stokes, who showed the right kind of bloody-minded intent with an unbeaten three for 40 balls, does not know how to give up on a lost cause but he will need major back-up from the likes of Ollie Pope and Jos Buttler if he is to take it close.
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