MANCHESTER   -   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.

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.

 

Scorecard

AUSTRALIA 1ST INNINGS: 497d

ENGLAND 1ST INNINGS:

(OVERNIGHT: 200-5):

R Burns c Smith b Hazlewood 81

J Denly c Wade b Cummins 4

C Overton c Smith b Hazlewood 5

J Root lbw b Hazlewood 71

J Roy b Hazlewood 22

B Stokes c Smith b Starc 26

J Bairstow b Starc 17

J Buttler b Cummins 41

J Archer c Paine b Cummins 1

S Broad b Starc 5

M Leach not out 4

EXTRAS: (b4, lb11, nb4, w5) 24

TOTAL: (all out, 107 overs) 301

FOW: 1-10, 2-25, 3-166, 4-175, 5-196, 6-228, 7-243, 8-256, 9-283, 10-301.

BOWLING: M Starc 22-7-80-3; J Hazlewood 25-6-57-4; P Cummins 24-6-60-3; N Lyon 36-4-89-0.

AUSTRALIA 2ND INNINGS:

D Warner lbw b Broad 0

M Harris lbw b Broad 6

M Labuschagne lbw b Archer 11

S Smith c Stokes b Leach 82

T Head b Archer 12

M Wade c Bairstow b Archer 34

T Paine not out 23

M Starc not out 3

EXTRAS: (b5, lb2, nb1, w7) 15

TOTAL: (6 wkts, 42.5 overs) 186d

FOW: 1-0, 2-16, 3-24, 4-44, 5-149, 6-158

BOWLING: S Broad 14-4-54-2; J Archer 14-2-45-3; C Overton 5.5-1-22-0; M Leach 9-0-58-1.

ENGLAND 2ND INNINGS:

R Burns c Head b Cummins 0

J Denly not out 10

J Root b Cummins 0

J Roy not out 8

EXTRAS: 0

TOTAL: (2 wkts, 7 overs) 18

FOW: 1-0, 2-0.

BOWLING: P Cummins 3-1-8-2; J Hazlewood 2-1-2-0; N Lyon 1-0-5-0; M Starc 1-0-3-0.

TOSS: Australia

UMPIRES: Kumar Dharmasena, Marais Erasmus

TV UMPIRE: Ruchira Palliyaguruge

MATCH REFEREE: Javagal Srinath