Manchester: Australia took a giant step towards retaining the Ashes in the fourth Test at Old Trafford last night after they left England needing 365 runs to win with eight wickets remaining heading into the final day.
After declaring their second innings on 186 for six, with a lead of 382, Australia heaped the pressure on England as Pat Cummins took two wickets in two balls to leave Joe Root’s side reeling, before the hosts regained some composure to reach 18 for two at the close.
Victory for Australia, who bowled England out for 301 early in the day, would ensure they retain the urn, taking a 2-1 series lead into the final Test at The Oval next week.
Although England’s astounding comeback win at Headingley will give them some hope, the winning target looks well out of reach for the hosts who must hope they can somehow bat through the day to foil the tourists.
Australia had half an hour at the end of the day to attack England’s top order and paceman Cummins had instant success.
With the third ball, Rory Burns found a leading edge and looped his shot to Travis Head at mid-off and then, with the next ball, he clean bowled England skipper Root.
With England’s two top scorers from the first innings back in the pavilion, Australian tails were up but Jason Roy kept out the hat-trick ball and England made it to stumps with no further casualties.
Although Australia were on top for most of the fourth day, there had been moments when England showed some fight.
With a handsome first-innings lead of 196, there was little pressure on the Australian batsmen but there would have been some concern after Stuart Broad made early inroads.
Broad, the pick of England’s bowlers in this Test, made the perfect start, trapping David Warner leg-before for a duck. The left-hander has been dismissed without scoring by Broad in his last three innings.