|Men’s Ashes: England v Australia, fourth Specsavers Test (day four of five)|
|Australia 497-8 dec (Smith 211) & 186-6 dec (Smith 82)|
|England 301 (Burns 81, Root 71) & 18-2 (Cummins 2-8)|
|England need further 365 to win|
England’s hopes of saving the Ashes faded with the loss of two late wickets on the fourth day of the fourth Test against Australia at Old Trafford.
Faced with the prospect of having to bat for 30 minutes on Saturday evening and another 98 overs on Sunday, the home side saw Rory Burns and Joe Root depart to successive Pat Cummins deliveries.
From the third ball of the innings, Burns got a leading edge to mid-off, while Root was bowled by a wonderful delivery that trimmed the off bail.
Somehow, Joe Denly and Jason Roy got through the next six overs as England closed on 18-2.
England earlier had a revival thwarted by yet more runs from Steve Smith.
When the tourists were reduced to 44-4, with Stuart Broad and Jofra Archer tearing in, their lead was 240, only for Smith to add 82 to his first-innings 211.
It allowed Australia to declare on 186-6 and set England 383 to win or, more realistically, bat out the remainder of the match.
If they fail, holders Australia will be 2-1 up with only one Test remaining and assured of taking the urn back down under for the first time since 2001.
England have not batted through the final day of a Test to earn a draw for more than six years, but the pitch remains placid, even if there has been the occasional sign of low bounce.
Late drama tops rollercoaster day
Somehow, Saturday at Old Trafford crammed in the majority of the themes from this Ashes series: batting slumps, wonderful new-ball bowling, Stuart Broad dismissing David Warner, the home crowd taunting the Australians and, obviously, Smith scoring runs.
The life seemed to have been sucked from the contest when England were bowled out for 301, giving up a first-innings deficit of 196.
But it was ignited by the burst from Broad and Archer which had England believing, Australia rocking and the party stand – with its Teletubbies, umpires and Chelsea pensioners – whipped into a fervour.
Even the indomitable Smith seemed rattled. If England could remove him, the door really would have been open, yet he played himself in against the change bowling then moved Australia out of sight.
However, nothing could top the drama of Cummins’ magnificent first over, one that stunned England and left them clinging grimly to their hopes of regaining the Ashes.
Hope remains. If England can somehow repel the relentless Australia attack and produce a heroic rearguard on the final day, it would write another chapter in this fascinating series and set up a grandstand finale at The Oval.
Archer and Broad raise England hopes
Broad has been magnificent throughout the series and has turned Warner into a walking wicket. Here, it took six balls for Broad to pin the left-hander lbw for his third successive duck, the sixth time he has dismissed him in eight innings.
England were bowling a fuller length than in the first innings. Broad trapped Marcus Harris leg before and the improved Archer, his pace above 90mph, made Marnus Labuschagne the third lbw of the innings before uprooting Travis Head’s middle stump.
It was electrifying bowling, matched by the atmosphere, with Smith also troubled by Broad in particular.
But Craig Overton and Jack Leach could not continue the pressure and Smith took back control in a fourth-wicket stand of 105 with Matthew Wade.
As Smith passed 50, there were times when he seemed to be poking fun at England, playing incredible strokes to hit the ball wherever he pleased.
Only in the push for the declaration did he loft Leach to long-off and Australia called time 37 runs later.
England’s two innings in an day
From 200-5 overnight, England’s mission was to bat as long and get as close to Australia’s first-innings 497-8 as possible.
The plan was derailed when Mitchell Starc took the second new ball. An inswinger and a firm-handed push at the ball resulted in the familiar sight of Jonny Bairstow being bowled, while Ben Stokes poked one to second slip.
Jos Buttler briefly entertained for his 41 and, with the help of Leach, dragged England past a follow-on that Australia probably would not have enforced before he was bowled taking a swipe at Cummins.
It was not known at the time, but that would turn out to be the first of three wickets in the space of five Cummins deliveries, stretched over two England innings.
In the fading light, Burns somehow got a ball from his leg stump to mid-off fielder Head, then Root’s defensive stroke was beaten for his third duck and second first-baller of the series.
Roy pushed back the hat-trick ball and, like Denly, admirably came through some tough moments to reach the close.
Both men could perhaps be playing for their Test futures on Sunday. More importantly, they will bat for the Ashes.
England need a ‘miracle’ – what they said
Former England captain Michael Vaughan on BBC Test Match Special: “Smith proved today he can play any innings. He can up his tempo. He is a wizard.
“It was a miracle at Headingley and it will take a miracle (for England) to survive the draw here. To face that attack on this pitch now for 98 overs it will take an incredible innings – a Michael Atherton-style innings from all of those years ago back in Johannesburg.”
England coach Trevor Bayliss on TMS: “Anything is possible. We saw that in the last Test match.
“We spoke about last week about who will put their hand up and be remembered. We are pretty upbeat about what we might be able to do tomorrow. Hopefully we bat well, save the game and enjoy a beer after.
“We already had a chat. Everyone is psyched to go out tomorrow and be the one or two guys who go out and score a hundred.”
Australia bowler Pat Cummins on Sky Sports: “None of us expected the innings Smithy went out with – he was incredible. We’d have been happy to get though the night but Smithy was unbelievable.
“I’m feeling OK. One big final push tomorrow then a few days rest before The Oval.”
Former Australia bowler Glenn McGrath on TMS: “Australia may have been a little shaky at 44-4 but Steve Smith comes out and rights the ship a little bit.
“The two early wickets make a huge difference. England have to show some fight if they are not going to lose this game.”
- Steve Smith has scored 671 runs in five innings. It is the fifth time an Australian has made 600 runs in England after Donald Bradman (twice), Mark Taylor and Arthur Morris.
- This is the third time Smith has passed 600 runs in a series. Only Bradman, with six, managed it more often.
- Smith has made nine consecutive Test fifties against England, equalling Inzamam-ul-Haq’s record against one team (also against England).
- David Warner is the first Australia opener to make a pair since Mark Taylor against Pakistan at Karachi in 1994, and the first in an Ashes Test since Ross Edwards at Headingley in 1972.
- Warner is the only the third Australia opener to make three successive ducks in Ashes Tests, after Victor Trumper and Graeme Wood.
- Stuart Broad has bowled 93 balls at Warner in the series, dismissing him six times and conceding only 32 runs.
- Jonny Bairstow has been bowled 15 times in his past 37 innings.
- Joe Root is the first England captain to be dismissed for a duck three times in a Test series.