‘Ashes’4th Test at Old Trafford

Neil Whitaker reports

Day 1

ONLY 44 overs were possible on the first day of the fourth Specsavers Test match at Emirates Old Trafford before rain ended play early at 6.08.

The day was ruined by the weather first with the rain followed by wind and the biting cold made difficult for both the players and spectators alike.  Rain prevented any play after lunch until 4.50 and then we had the bizarre situation where tea would be taken at 5.30 and play would continue till 7.30 until the rain came again.

That man Marnus Labuschange was in the runs again and  became the fourth player in Ashes history to hit four fifties in their first four Ashes innings.  He reached his fifty which came from 88 balls and included eight fours when he turned off his legs for a single.  The previous ball he was beaten all ends up by a ball that kept low.

Labuschagne survived a leg before appeal from  Ben Stokes and even he was reluctant to review it but Joe Root did.  The replay showed it to be just clipping the leg stump and so Labuschange survived.

The 32nd over was interrupted by the wind. The wind blow crisps packets on to the field causing Labuschange to stop Stuart  Broad in his run up,a fielders helmet was moved by the wind and the wind kept blowing the bails off so the umpires decided to carry on without the bails. The umpires had to tell the players that the ball only had to touch the stumps but eventually the wind calmed enough to put the bails back on.  Labuschange said: “It’s been a pretty good day for us despite the tough conditions. When the conditions eased it felt easier to bat and we stayed in the game. The pitch looks like there are a lot of runs in it and we’ve got to get a big first innings score because the pitch will take some spin.”

Labuschange, who had been unhappy throughout the session due to weather conditions, was bowled through the gate as it nipped back by Craig Overton.  As he walked off he shook his head at the conditions he had been forced to bat in. Labuschange and Steven Smith added 116 in 23 overs. Labuschange said: “It was a nice ball the way it hit the seam and it kept going.  It was a nice piece of bowling and I need to make sure that I don’t keep getting out that way.”

Overton said: “The over before I bowled him an outswinger which he edged for a four and he thought it was the inswinger and I told him that I would bowl him a inswinger next ball.  When I bowled him I told him that was the inswinger.”

Labuschange, who had been unhappy throughout the session due to weather conditions, was bowled through the gate by Overton.  As he walked off Labuschange shook his head at the conditions he had been forced to beat in. Labuschange and Smith added 116 23 overs.

He added: “It was the first time that I’ve batted with Smith and it was good to,spend some time.  When a new bowler comes on he changes his guard. He is always thinking ahead and that’s what makes him the number one player in the world.”

Labuschange said: “It was a frustrating day for everyone because of the conditions.We kept pulling away because the wind was blowing the bails off.  When they put the heavier bails on the stumps shook and I thought someone would get bowled.”

Smith hit his eighth Ashes fifty in a row with his most exotic shot of the day.  He chased a wide half volley from Stokes and was on his knees as the ball reached the extra cover boundary.  His fifty came 81 balls and included seven boundaries.

England made one change from the team that won the third Test Overton came in for Chris Woakes while Australia made two changes Smith replaced the dropped Usman Khawaja and  Mitchell Starc came in for James Pattinson.

Overton said: “It was pretty special making my home Test debut in front of my parents. It was a frustrating day for us because of the conditions it we’ll come back tomorrow with a positive attitude.

Smith is a world class player and he’s always going to be difficult but we’ve got some plans for him tomorrow.”

For the fifth time this series Broad dissmissed David  Warner. After winning the toss and deciding to bat Australia lost their first to the fourth ball of the ball when Warner tried to leave a ball from his nemesis Broad but he got a faint touch to Jonny Bairstow.  That wicket took Broad past Wilfred Rhodes in the list of England wicket takers against Australia into third place.

Marcus Harris and Labuschange kept Broad and Jofra  Archer at bay for six overs till. Road went up for a leg before appeal against Harris. Belatedly umpire Dharmasena gave him out, Harris reviewed it.  Australia lost their second wicket when the replay showed to be umpires call the ball just clipping the bail.

Travis Head survived a big leg before appeal from Stokes on 10.  Every man jack of the England team went up as Head fell over bur umpire Dharmasena was unmoved.  Root reviewed it and the replay showed it had pitched outside leg

Day 2

AUSTRALIA made England pay for giving them five lives by making 497 for eight declared easily their highest score in the series and former skipper Steven Smith hit his third Test double century against England.

Another Ashes Test match and another Ashes masterclass by Smith against England.  Only Sir Donald Bradman and Sir Jack Hobbs have scored more centuries in Ashes Tests.  During his knock he passed 500 runs in the series for the third time joining Bradman and Hobbs but he is the first to do it in three consecutive Ashes series.

Throughout his innings he gave the appearance of a semi pro cricketer playing against a team of club cricketers who were much lower than him in ability as he would play a shot and show the fielders where it had gone with his bat and also spoke to the bowlers and he passed them in completing a run. His gait as he ran between the wickets gave the appearance of a bumbling amateur. But he wears still too good for England.

If he’s got more than a hundred against you what you don’t want to do is give Smith another innings and that is what England did. England thought they had Smith caught at slip by Ben Stokes off Jack  Leach. Smith was halfway to the dressing room when the replay showed Leach had committed the ultimate sin for a spinner, not having some part of his foot behind the crease. Smith was on 118 it cost England 98 runs the no ball brought up the fifty partnership with Tim Paine. He said: “I thought I was out I was angry with the shot I played and was halfway back when the umpire called me back. When I saw the no ball I thought that I had to knuckle down.”

On 108 Smith had a rash of blood and went down the wicket to Leach and got a leading edge and the ball squirted up in the air but the ball fell between Craig Overton coming in from the cover boundary and Jason Roy running out from cover. Smith added: “ I just lost my concentration for 20 minutes and had a rush of rush of blood so I had to settle down.  I had some luck but you always need luck when you score big runs.”

Smith reached his third century of the series and his 26th Test century when he turned Overton off his legs through midwicket for a couple. On 82, Smith turned Leach off his legs and set off for a single but was sent back by Matthew Wade.  Smith turned and beat Jonny Bairstow’s. who ran from behind the stumps to short square leg, throw. He majestically played the next ball to the square leg boundary but was beaten by the turn the next ball and acknowledged Leach’s ball.

Smith hit his first boundary of the day when he drove Jofra Archer off the back foot to the extra cover boundary but he should have been out to the next ball.  He hit a low full toss from Archer straight back and Archer got a finger tip to it.

He hit consecutive fours off Stokes. First he hooked Stokes to the fine leg boundary and guided the next ball over the slips to the third man boundary with consummate ease.  Smith danced down the wicket to Leach and launched him over long off for a six to bring up the 400. He brought up his 200 when he clipped off his legs to fine leg for a couple.  Eventually they got Smith when he reversed swept Joe Root to Joe Denly at backward point.

He received valuable support from his skipper Paine as they added 145 in 41 overs.  Paine chased the fourth ball after lunch from Stuart Broad and edged him at knee height to Roy at second slip but he couldn’t hold on to it.  After that drop Paine didn’t give another chance until he was on 49 when he pulled Archer to substitute Sam Curran at mid on but as he fell to the ground he dropped the ball.  

Paine spent 18 balls on 49 before he pushed Leach out to mid off for a single to bring up sixth Test fifty. The partnership was broken with the first ball after tea when Paine got a feather touch to Overton to one that held its line and Bairstow comfortably took the catch.

 Smith said: “We kept talking that we needed a partnership and put as many runs on the board as we could.  He came out with a positive mindset to hit the ball.”

When they reached 334 it was the highest first innings total in a Test match in England for 14 Test matches.

To rub salt into the English wounds Mitchell Starc hit four consecutive fours off Stuart Broad, three of them straight. He brought up the 450 when he swept Root for a massive six over mid wicket.  He reached his fourth fifty against England from 49 balls with two sixes as he and Nathan Lyon added 59 in seven overs before Paine declared giving him 44 minutes at the England openers.

 Leach got his second wicket of the Australian innings when Pat Cummins pushed forward at him and edged a ball that turned to Stokes at first slip.

Australia lost their first wicket of the day in the fifth over of the day when Broad bowling around the wicket angled one into Travis Head and got him leg before.  Wade,on one, edged Archer but the ball l just fell short off Root at first slip.

Wade couldn’t resist having a big go and went down the wicket to Leach but got too far under it.  Root at mid on had so much time to wait for the ball that Root had time to adjust his sleeves. Smith couldn’t believe what Wade had done.

In their reply England lost their first wicket in the seventh over when Denly fell to a brilliant one handed reflex  catch at short leg by Wade off Cummins.

Day 3

JOSH Hazlewood took four wickets on the third day  but he reaped the rewards of the hard work of Pat Cummins for three of them in the final session of the day.

Cummins bowled three overs before tea and seven after.  In those 10 overs he bowled with hostility and had both Rory Burns and Joe  Root in trouble. In those 10 overs he only conceeded 28 runs. On 74 Burns was panicked into getting away from Cummins that he pushed him into the covers and set off for a single. If Matthew Wade’s throw had it he would have been out by a mile. Four  balls later he fended a short ball that just fell short of point.

Hazlewood said: “Cummins rarely bowls a bad spell, he was fantastic again and he’s always at the batters. He is a machine.  With all the injuries he’s had and come through shows what endurance he has. He is an all round package. 

Cummins and Nathan Lyon built the pressure and I was lucky to reap the rewards. I had a couple of half chances before I got my wickets and if  you do that you are going to get two or three wickets.

Lyon was fantastic at keeping the runs down.  There’s going to be more spin in the wicket and he’ll be a challenge.  But there’s plenty of cricket left in this match. The new ball is around the corner  and we hope that we can use it well.”

Burns was the first of Hazelwood’s two victims after tea.  In his second over after replacing Cummins at the Brian Statham end, Burns edged a short ball from Hazlewood to  Steven Smith at second. With Root he added 141 for the third wicket in 53 overs. Burns said: “I was disappointed to get out but it wasn’t a bad ball.”

He reached his third fifty of the series when he glided Mitchell Starc to the third man boundary.  He became the first England opener to hit three fifties in a series since Sir Alastair Cook did it against Pakistan in 2016. Earlier in the over Burns played a sumptuous back foot drive to the cover boundary.  He went from the sublime to the ridiculous when he cut a horrible ball from Lyon that nearly got him out but it fell two inches short of Wade at cover. 

He added: “We’ve got some work to do but we still have a couple of batters left in the hutch. We need a couple of partnerships to save the follow on and then the pressure is on Australia.  After Emerald Headingley anything is possible. The pitch is still a good pitch to bat on. When the ball got older it stayed lower, it’s a typical Emirates Old Trafford pitch.”

Yet again the drinks interval brought another wicket. In the first over after the break Root was hit on his pads by a full ball that pushed him back on his stumps and again he to convert a fifty into a century.  In his defence today he was hampered in the latter part of his innings by a couple of injuries.

First he was hit in the box by Cummins, a blow that split his box.  Then Tim Paine kept up his record of selecting wrong reviews. Root on 58 was hit on his pads by Cummins which knocked him over and he had to receive treatment which hindered his running between the wickets.  The Aussies appeal was turned down and Paine opted for a review which showed it to be missing. Only six out of 25 Australian reviews have been successful.

Lyon tied Root down and the only runs that that the England skipper got were from edges that somehow kept missing his leg stump.  But at the other end Starc leaked runs. In two overs he conceded 22 runs.

Root turned Lyon off his legs for a single to bring up his 44th Test fifty, his fourth fifty at Emirates Old Trafford. He spent 31 balls in the forties.  On 54 he tried to turn Cummins off his legs but got an outside edge which flew between stumper Paine and first slip David Warner at a comfortable height but neither of them moved.

Jason Roy who got off the mark with a great extra cover drive to the boundary off Hazlewood but he never looked at ease throughout his 22 and was bowled through the gate by Hazlewood

Morning rain washed out the morning session and play didn’t start until 1.30 and Australia got an early wicket with the eighth ball of the day, which sent shock waves throughout the crowd.  Night watchman Craig Overton opened England’s account for the day with a push into the covers for two off Hazlewood. Overton pushed forward at the next ball and gave Smith a comfortable catch at second slip.  It was Hazelwood’s 50th wicket against England.

The Party stand got in the mood by cheering every time Lyon caught the ball before he bowled with reference to when he dropped the ball at Emerald Headingley which denied the Australians from regaining the Ashes.

Day 4

ENGLAND will need another 365 runs to win the fourth Test and keep the Ashes alive or realistically bat for 98 overs on the final day to save the match with only eight wickets left.

They lost their first wicket the third ball of the first over.  Rory Burns tried to turn Pat Cummins off his legs but got a leading edge to Travis Head at mid off. Cummins was on a hat trick when he bowled Joe Root with a jaffa that smashed into his off stump.  Root became the first England skipper to get three ducks in an Ashes series. Jason Roy survived the hat trick ball with a forward defensive block.

England’s head coach Trevor Bayliss said: “It’s a big challenge but we’ve got players out there and in the shed who can get hundreds but it will take at least two of them to get hundreds but as we saw in the last Test anything is possible.  I‘ am always positive and I think we can do it. We are not going out there thinking it’s all over. The guys in the dressing room have seen Ben Stokes do it they’ve got to think if he can do it so can we. But it will take some hard work and we’re going out there with the aim of doing it.

Root has played enough cricket to know that he’s going to get a good ball every now and then.”

Earlier in the day Mitchell Starc lived up to his nickname of The Mop by mopping up three of the last five England first innings wickets.  England did save the follow on when Jos Buttler drove Starc to the extra cover boundary but it was a moot point whether Australia would have enforced the follow on.  England’s innings was over at 2.20 when Buttler tried too smash Cummins through a gap at mid on that Tim Paine had left and was bowled.

The first to go in the morning was Jonny Bairstow who  looked to drive Starc but was beaten by some late inswing and was bowled through the gate. Jofra Archer could have been run out before he scored, he played Starc behind square and was called for a single by Buttler. Archer just ambled his way to the other end, luckily for him the throw missed but he was not in the frame.

Stokes pulled the fifth ball of the morning from Josh Hazlewood to the square leg boundary for the first boundary of the day.  He had two lives in the third over with the new ball off Starc. The first he got an inside edge which just missed his leg stump and he drove the next ball straight back to Starc who dropped the low chance in his follow through. Starc finally got Stokes two balls after Buttler had driven  Starc on the up just wide off Wade at extra cover to the boundary. Starc squared Stokes up who got a thick inside edge to Steven Smith at second slip.

Archer flashed at a ball from Cummins that rose at him and top edged it to Paine and surely the end was nigh but Buttler and Stuart  Broad managed to see England to lunch without further loss.

After lunch Starc and Nathan Lyon switched ends and in Starc’s second over from the James Anderson end he bowled Broad with a straight ball which was pitched up. Broad couldn’t believe that he had been bowled as he looked round.

Jack Leach who received a standing when he came into bat got  off the mark with an off drive to the long off boundary off Starc.

Lyon who was seen before the match as the Australian match winner was brought back into the attack after 11 overs with the new ball but he ended the England innings wicketless.

With a lead of 196 Australia slumped to 44 for four then that man Smith came to the fore and hit his fifth fifty of the series. This one came from 62 balls as he and Matthew Wade pressed for quick runs after tea.  Smith showed his intent to push after tea by scoring nine off the first over after tea from Leach. In the first five overs after tea Australia added 23 and 17 of them were by Smith.

He pulled a short ball from Archer with disdain to the wicket boundary and next ball he late cut Archer through the slip to the third man boundary. Smith continued to mock the England fielders it was as he could find a boundary with his eyes closed. He pulled Broad to the mid wicket boundary to bring up the hundred partnership with Wade and Wade only scored 26 of them.

Smith said: “It was about keeping the game moving as fast as possible.  I made an effort to be positive against Leach.”

With the form that Smith was in it would only be a matter of minutes before he reach his ton or the Australian declaration.  Smith went down the wicket to Leach, bowling in his glasses, smashed to long of where he found Stokes.

In the next over Wade got a thick outside edge to a wide ball from Archer and Bairstow took a brilliant left handed catch diving to his left.

Paine hit consecutive fours off Leach, the first was straight and the second through extra cover.  He finished the over by reverse sweeping Leach to the third man boundary. While England were messing about placing the field Paine and Starc ran off the field.

For the sixth time in the series Broad dismissed David Warner.  Following his first innings second ball duck Warner survived five balls before he was plumb leg before. It was Warner’s first Test pair and the first pair for an Australian opener since Ross Edwards at Emerald Headingley in 1972.

Six overs later Marcus Harris followed his opening partner back into the hutch.  He too was leg before to Broad. By having Australia 16 for two in the seventh over gave Smith time to get a century before the declaration.

Marnus Labuschange became the third leg before victim of the innings when he fell to Archer.  Umpire Dharmasena gave Labuschange out immediately but Labuschange reviewed it. The replay showed it was umpires call. As he walked off he appeared to have words with some of the England team and was waved goodbye by Broad.

After been driven for a four by Head, Archer knocked Head’s middle  stump out of the ground with his next ball.

Day 5

AT 6.14  Australia retained the Ashes by beating England by 185 runs with 81 balls to spare at Emirates Old Trafford.

Australia skipper Tim Paine became the first Australian captain/wicket keeer to win a Test series but that man Jack Leach made them battle all the way.  Craig Overton and Leach stayed for together for 65 minutes threatening to take England into the last 15 overs of the match when part time leg spinner Marnus Labuschange got one to kick from the rough and Leach edged it to Matthew Wade at short leg.

Paine said: “He’s been working hard on his bowling and has bowled a lot for Glamorgan.  When I told him to bowl, he wanted to bowl and make a difference. He’s an exciting player and he’s someone who we can build the team around.

He added: “My dream as a cricketer was to come here and win an Ashes series and not to be an Ashes winning captain. The Emerald Headingley loss made today a lot sweeter after a lot of people had written us off. There were a few nervous moments out there after Emerald Headingley but we held our nerve and all the bowlers bowled really well.

I am proud of the guys and proud of how they have come back after what’s happened in the last 18 months, it would have crushed a lot of teams.  All our bowlers were excellent they put everything out there and left everything on the field.

I never doubted that Steven Smith would come back but the scary thing is that he has come back better. He’s just a genius.”

England skipper Joe Root said: “Everyone is hugely disappointed but I am proud of how they approached today. I am looking forward to the next Test and getting something out of the series. Everyone who batted today made it hard for the Australians and put a high price on their wickets.  We’ve got give everything for the next Test and come away with a win.

I thought it was a brilliant Test match but we were patchy in the game.  The difference between the two teams was Smith with the form that he’s in and we didn’t take our chances. That’s where we lost it.  We have been up against a very good side. Their bowlers were disciplined and I thought they bowled brilliantly.”

At the start of the final day Australia needed eight more wickets and England had to bat for 98 overs to save the match.  Overnight not out batsmen Joe Denly and Jason Roy batted for 80 minutes surviving 18 overs with only one major scare. Denly pushed Nathan Lyon out for a single to Pat Cummins at mid off. Cummins didn’t pick up the ball easily and threw at the bowlers end with Denly yards out.  The ball missed the stumps and with no one backing up Denly collected two overthrows.

In the next over Roy was bowled through the gate by Cummins, who had replaced Mitchell Starc at the Brian Statham end, and lost his off stump.

Cummins reaped the rewards of his bowling spell on the third day.  Six overs later he got his fourth wicket of the innings when he got Ben Stokes. Stokes tried to leave a short ball but he got an inside edge to Paine who took a low catch to his right.  Umpire Erasmus didn’t respond to the Aussie appeal but Stokes walked. On the final day Cummins took 2 for 23 in two five over spells either side of lunch.

Denly hit his second fifty of the series and his third Test fifty in all  when he drove Cummins straight to the mid off boundary in the third over after lunch.  All three of Denly’s fifties have come in the second innings. He batted with composure and looked every bit a Test opener but the ball after reaching his fifty he ducked into a short ball that didn’t get up and was hit then he nearly played on with the next ball.

But he became Lyon’s first victim of the match when Lyon forced Denly back and the bail spat at who gloved it to Labuschange at short leg.

Yet again the drinks interval brought a wicket. Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler added 45 in 13 overs and blunted the Australian attack.  They even forced Paine to replace Lyon with part time leg spinner Labuschange. After one over Labuschange was replaced by Travis Head and Labuschange came back on at the Brian Statham end and then it was drinks.  Starc was brought back into the attack and with his first ball he trapped Bairstow leg before. Bairstow reviewed it and the replay showed it to be clipping the bail.  

After 58 overs the ball was changed after it had gone out of shape and Cummins’ first over with the replacement ball had Buttler playing and missing four times. Cummins thought he had his fifth wicket when Overton was given out leg before but Overton reviewed it. After an eternity the third umpire didn’t have conclusive evidence to overturn the onfield decision but ball tracking showed the impact was outside the line.

Buttler resisted for 144 balls before he was seventh man out in the sixth over after tea.  Paine positioned two short men in one at silly mid off and the other at short leg. This may have unsettled Buttler because he shouldered arms to Josh Hazlewood and the ball nipped back and took his off stump.

In the next over Jofra Archer went back to a short ball from Lyon which didn’t bounce.  Archer tried to turn the ball off his legs, was squared up and was plumb leg before.

The hero from Emerald Headingley Leach was promoted over Stuart Broad.  His partnership with Overton was nearly over before it started. Overton missed a yorker, was hit on his pads and the ball raced to the boundary.  The Aussies appealed for leg before which was turned down and the Aussies reviewed it. To everyone’s amazement in the crowd the replay showed it to be missing.

Nine balls after Leach’s dismissal the match was over when Overton was leg before to Hazlewood.  The Australians celebrated but Overton reviewed it and the replay showed it to clipping the bail.

September 5, 2019 9:30 am

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