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From Stephan Shemilt
BBC Sport at Old Trafford
Of rescuing the Ashes, england’s hopes disappeared with the reduction of just two wickets on the fourth day of the fourth Test against Australia.
Faced with the possibility of having to bat for 30 minutes on Saturday evening and the following 98 overs on Sunday, the home side saw Rory Burns and Joe Root leave to consecutive Pat Cummins deliveries.
From the third ball of the innings, Burns got a leading edge to mid-off, whilst Root was bowled by a wonderful delivery which trimmed the bond.
Somehow, Joe Denly and Jason Roy obtained through another six overs as England closed on 18-2.
England earlier needed a revival thwarted by more runs from Steve Smith.
Their lead was 240, just for Smith to add 82 to his first-innings 211 After the tourists were decreased using Jofra Archer tearing in and Stuart Broad, into 44-4.
It allowed Australia to announce on 186-6 and set England 383 bat out the rest of the match, to acquire or, more realistically.
Holders Australia will be assured of carrying the urn back down below and 2-1 up with 1 Test staying if they fail.
England have not batted through the last day of an Exam to earn a draw for at least six decades, however the pitch stays placid, even though there has been the occasional sign of reduced bounce.
Somehow, Saturday at Old Trafford crammed in the majority of the topics from this Ashes series: laps slumps, wonderful new-ball bowling, Stuart Broad ignoring David Warner, the house crowd taunting the Australians and, of course, Smith scoring runs.
The life appeared to have been hauled in the competition if England were bowled out for 301, giving up a first-innings deficit of 196.
But it was ignited by the burst out of Broad and Archer which had England believing, Australia rocking and the party stand – with its own Teletubbies, umpires and Chelsea pensioners – whipped to a fervour.
The indomitable Smith appeared prevailed. The door could have been open if he could be removed by England, yet he performed with in against the change bowling then moved Australia out of sight.
However, nothing could top the drama of Cummins’ glorious first over, one which stunned England and left clinging grimly to their hopes of regaining the Ashes.
Hope remains. If England can somehow repel the persistent Australia attack and produce a heroic rearguard about the last afternoon, it would write another chapter in this fascinating string and set up a grandstand finale in The Oval.
Broad has been magnificent throughout the series and has turned Warner to a wicket that is walking. It took six balls Broad to snare the left-hander lbw for his next successive duck, the sixth time he’s dismissed him in eight innings.
England were bowling a fuller length than from the first innings. Broad trapped Marcus Harris leg before and also the improved Archer, his speed above 90mph, created Marcus Labuschagne the next lbw of their innings before uprooting Travis Head’s middle stump.
It was tender bowling, matched with the atmosphere, together with Smith troubled by Broad in particular.
However, Jack Leach and also Craig Overton could not last the stress and Smith gained control back within a stand of 105.
Since Smith passed 50, you will find times when he appeared to be poking fun at England, enjoying amazing strokes to hit the ball where he pleased.
Did he loft Leach to long-off and Australia called time 37 conducts later.
From 200-5 overnight, get close to the first-innings 497-8 as you can of Australia and England’s mission would be to bat as long.
When the second new ball was taken by Mitchell Starc, the program was derailed. An inswinger plus a push in the ball caused the sight of Jonny Bairstow while one was poked by Ben Stokes to slide.
Jos Buttler entertained due to his 41 and, with the assistance of Leach, dragged England a follow-on that Australia probably wouldn’t have enforced before he was bowled carrying a swipe.
It was not understood at the moment, but that could prove to be the very first of three wickets in the space of five Cummins deliveries.
At the fading light, Burns finally got a chunk out of his leg stump into mid-off fielder Head, subsequently Root’s defensive stroke was defeated because of his third duck and next first-baller of this collection.
Roy admirably came to accomplish the close pushed the hat-trick ball like Denly.
Both guys may be playing due to their Evaluation futures on Sunday. More importantly, they will bat to the Ashes.
Former England captain Michael Vaughan on BBC Test Match Special:”Smith revealed now he could play any innings. He can up his tempo. He is a wizard.
“This is a wonder in Headingley and it is going to take a miracle (for England) to endure the attraction here. To confront that assault with this pitch today for 98 overs it will take an extraordinary innings – a Michael Atherton-style innings from all of those years ago back in Johannesburg.”
England coach Trevor Bayliss on TMS:”Whatever is possible. We saw that at the previous Test match.
“We talked about the past week about who’ll put up their hand and be recalled. We are optimistic about what we might be in a position to accomplish. Hopefully we bat well, save the game and enjoy a beer afterwards.
“We had a conversation. Everyone is psyched to go out 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. Smithy was incredible although we would have been pleased to get though.
“I am feeling OK. One big final drive tomorrow then a couple of days break prior to The Oval.”
Former Australia bowler Glenn McGrath on TMS:”Australia may have been somewhat shaky at 44-4 but Steve Smith comes out and rights that the boat just a tiny bit.
“Both early wickets make a massive difference. England have to show some struggle if they’re not likely to drop this game”
Analysis and comment from the BBC’s cricket correspondent.