Australia retain Ashes with fourth test victory

Author
Radio Sport, news.com.au,
Publish Date
Mon, 9 Sep 2019, 11:16AM
Australia's Nathan Lyon, centre, celebrates with Pat Cummins, left, and Mitchell Starc, right, after dismissing England's Jofra Archer. Photo / AP

Australia retain Ashes with fourth test victory

Author
Radio Sport, news.com.au,
Publish Date
Mon, 9 Sep 2019, 11:16AM

Australia has broken an 18-year Ashes hoodoo, winning the urn on English soil for the first time since 2001 with a thrilling 185-run victory in the fourth Test at Old Trafford.

The Aussies have taken an unassailable 2-1 lead in the series with one match left to play. Even an English win at The Oval and a 2-2 final result will see the tourists leave British shores with bragging rights because they won the last series Down Under in 2017/18.

Not since Steve Waugh was captain just after the turn of the century have Australian cricket fans had the chance to celebrate an away Ashes triumph. Now captain Tim Paine and coach Justin Langer will forever be remembered as the brains trust that masterminded a historic chapter in Australia's cricket history after four straight Ashes series losses overseas in 2005, 2009, 2013 and 2015.

"That feels amazing to know the urn's coming home now," Steve Smith told Sky Sports.

"It was always one I wanted to tick off my bucket list to get the urn over here … to know that's coming home is extremely satisfying."

An elated Paine told the BBC: "I didn't think it would be this emotional. The amount of work that's gone into retaining the Ashes has been enormous and I'm really proud of this group and how we bounced back from Headingley."

Most expected the tourists to stroll to victory on day five but as we saw in Leeds anything can happen in cricket, and the nerves would have been churning when Australia went to tea still needing four more wickets after England showed plenty of fight earlier in the day.

The final session was full of drama as Josh Hazlewood delivered an absolute beauty straight after the break that seamed back a mile and hit Jos Buttler's off stump when he shouldered arms and next over Nathan Lyon trapped Jofra Archer LBW for a single.

That came after Archer narrowly avoided accidentally kicking the ball onto his own stumps and the thrills continued when Craig Overton survived a desperately close LBW shout when Hazlewood's toe crusher was shown to just be missing leg stump.

With the Aussies needing two wickets to win, Overton and Jack Leach revived memories of Cardiff in 2009, when Jimmy Anderson and Monty Panesar blocked things out for an incredible draw. The pair stood firm and even after taking the second new ball Australia still couldn't break the partnership and fears bad light might stop play started creeping into Australian supporters' heads.

Stalling tactics came out too. Leach was wiping his glasses and Overton called for a new bat then took his time shaking off a blow to the body as they tried every trick in the book to take time out of the game.

The noise coming from the western stand – the unofficial party stand at Old Trafford – was deafening as the punters willed England to hold on.

Tim Paine's next move was a shock that proved to be a stroke of genius as he brought part-time leg-spinner Marnus Labuschagne into the attack with 16 overs left in the day. He ripped a ball into Jack Leach from the footmarks outside off stump and it caught Leach's glove and popped up to a close-in fielder.

Hazlewood then trapped Overton LBW for 21 with 81 balls left in the day and the match was over, sparking jubilant scenes of celebration from the Aussies.

England started day five at 2/18 needing to do one of two things to send the series to a decider in London later this week. It either needed to chase down the 383 runs needed for victory – a feat that was always going to prove nearly impossible – or survive until stumps on a wearing wicket.

That was the more realistic goal but one few gave England any chance of achieving given the brittle nature of its batting performances this summer.

Joe Denly and Jason Roy knuckled down to defy the bowlers in the opening hour, giving the locals hope a similar miracle to the one that saw them claim victory in the third Test at Headingley was on the cards.

Roy, moved down the order to No. 4 after a horror time opening the batting in the first three matches, played his best innings of the series but as has been the case so often this summer, he had his stumps rattled when his technique was exposed.

A brilliant Pat Cummins delivery that angled in and seamed back further screamed through a huge gap between bat and pad to rattle the woodwork and get the Aussie charge started.

From 3/66 England soon stumbled to 4/74 when Cummins had Ben Stokes caught behind. The hero of Headingley, who scored a matchwinning 135 not out to single-handedly win the third Test, was unable to repeat his heroics and walked off for one when he feathered a ball through to wicketkeeper Paine after being caught in two minds about whether to play or leave.

Umpire Marais Erasmus kept his finger down but Stokes knew he'd hit it and walked off of his own choosing.

Denly had looked streaky at times but like he did in Leeds, showed plenty of grit to scrap his way to a half century before becoming Nathan Lyon's first victim of the match. The off-spinner had been inconsistent all Test, frequently dropping too short, but he got a ball to spit out of the rough and Denly was caught at short leg off the glove for 53.

Jonny Bairstow and Buttler have had poor series with the bat but combined to frustrate the Aussies as they shelved their natural attacking instincts and dug in. However, their resistance ended after a 45-run, sixth-wicket partnership when Bairstow was trapped LBW for 25 after Mitchell Starc enjoyed success with a change of ends.

Buttler and Overton steered England to tea before the Aussies struck gold in the final session to pick up the last four wickets and seal an unforgettable win.