Day four of the rollercoaster lived up to expectations!
I’m sorry but if you watched day four and still aren’t in love with the game then you should be committed. Today was one of those days were you don’t like cricket, you love it. This is the beautiful game. This was a huge day in the context of the series, because it could have gone so differently. Had England not pressed their small advantage given to them the Australians would be high and dry in the series. But England kept themselves in the fight well.
Australia came out after lunch with Handscomb and the nightwatchman, Lyon on 53-4. England kept Anderson and Broad bowling at the pair as they had two-a-piece from the night before. Straight away Handscomb was given out, having been judged to have been caught behind, but he reviewed it straight away with the third umpire agreeing that the ball had come off his shoulder.
Broad got tantalisingly close to taking the wicket of Lyon, with the off spinner playing and missing at several balls until Broad banged it in short and caught Lyon on the grill. For the second time this test, replacement neck protectors were required, posing more questions about their protection from a direct hit. He looked visibly shaken and gave away his wicket in the next over playing a shot that I would only describe as an unorthodox cover chip???? James Anderson put the ball back of the length with Broad catching the dolly in the air at extra cover. He’s a tailender, so he’s not expected to play the classiest shots in the world, but still that was a new species of shot entirely. I mightily impressive innings, doing exactly what was required with Lyon finishing on 14.
This left Australia on 71-5, 286 ahead with a partnership between Paine, Marsh, or Handscomb important to push the game out of reach. Handscomb did not last too long though however. Anderson got his fourth of the innings after the ball was edged behind, requiring a fantastic diving catch to Malan’s right. The ball just stuck, and Handscomb had to go for 12, with the hosts on 75-6 and England right back in the game after a couple of quick wickets.
Paine and Marsh looked like they would form that vital partnership to just make sure the game was completely out of England’s reach. They managed to add on 15 before Paine was removed for 11 by Woakes. This prompted the return of one of my favourite Barmy Army chants. Overton took a fantastic catch, and the Barmy Army started singing All you need is a team of Overtons, replacing Ian Bell after his sparkling form in the last Series.
What followed was the second big 8th wicket partnership of the game. Starc and Marsh scored quickly to really frustrate England, adding on 32 runs for their efforts. The highlight of them being a huge six launched over midwicket by Starc, sweeping the still unimpressive Ali.
This partnership was ended by Woakes, picking up his fourth of the innings in a selection saving innings. A really poor shot from Marsh, who tried flicking it through midwicket across the line, instead playing on to his stumps. England were into the tail, with Australia on 122-8, 338 ahead.
Jimmy had four wickets and was looking for his first ever 5 wicket haul down under, coming excruciatingly close with a dropped caught and bowled chance against Starc. a few balls later and Starc attacked Anderson again, and spliced a lofted drive which dropped right down Moeen Ali’s throat. 128-9.
Overton continued his top debut by picking up a solitary wicket at the end of the innings. Hazlewood was unable to control a short ball from Hazlewood, dropping in to the short fielder Malan.
Australia finished on 128 all out. Even if Australia do win, (as they probably will seeing as they are 354 ahead,) the call to not enforce the follow on has allowed England a chance to take this game. And the bowling was just superb. The Aussie attack bowled immaculately but there was still that aspect of the England batsman getting themselves out. This compared to the English bowlers, who forced the issue and got their wickets, rather than being gifted them. The pick of the bowlers were clearly Anderson and Woakes. Anderson found movement everywhere and Woakes found that bit more pace that he has been missing. It only took them 3 and a half innings to find out but apparently. Get this, if you pitch the ball up, you will get players driving. Game on for sure, but Australia’s to lose.
Cook and Stoneman faced out the two opening bowlers, Hazlewood and Starc very easily. Starc’s 3rd over got sent for 15 after three consecutive Stoneman boundaries, picked off his legs and whipped through midwicket. Cook survived a plum LBW shout through Australia’s decision to not review a fantastic Hazlewood ball.
Gary Lyon then came on. Always a danger to the left hander, Stoneman got dropped by Hazlewood in an extremely good effort from the Fast bowler. Soon Cook fell to the ahem* “goat,” through a poorly played forward defensive. The ex-skipper fell completely off balance and got struck on the pads in front of leg. Initially given out, but Cook was sent on his way by the third umpire, falling for 16.
Stoneman fell shortly after playing all round a Starc short ball, with a thick edge off the back foot carrying well to Khawaja at gully, sending the England opener back for 36, which left England on a precarious 54-2.
This left two new batsmen at the crease in Vince and Root. Definitely a big innings for both batsmen who got themselves out very cheaply in the first innings. They settled themselves in very nicely, playing themselves in, while scoring runs at the same time. Lyon continued to test the two with a couple of appeals but with not as much impact as you would assume the fast bowlers would have on the two, with both being accomplished players of spin.
The two finished the session with the team on 68-2, I imagine with the session under the lights playing on their minds. Surely more than two wickets with less than 150 on the board would have the Aussies going into day 5 with the game all but won.
In the 5.5 overs following tea, the Vince and Root partnership yet again gave England fans that slight bit of hope, but hope is the death of us all, when it comes to England down under. I don’t even know if I need to describe the Vince dismissal. Firstly because you can guess, and secondly because I ran out of sarcasm talking about his last dismissal. Starc moved the ball across Vince and he was once again caught fishing in shark infested territory. He just can’t help himself.
Malan came on with Cummins immediately testing him again. At only 24, Cummins has been Australia’s best player this series and has been much better than the 6 wickets he has so far in this series. Root drove well to him early on, despite Starc and Cummins finding his outside edge multiple times early on.
Lyon came back into the attack again, beating the edge of Malan several times and trapping Root for an LBW, after the England skipper refused to play a shot in a very ballsy call. Aleem Dar raised the finger. Root gave no hesitation in reviewing the decision, sure that his leave was well founded. Ball tacking showed that the delivery was passing well over the stumps, Australia would have to try a lot harder. Root went on the attack scoring a couple boundaries in quick succession in the form of a sweep and a pull shot.
The next over Cummins really troubled Malan and Root, with Malan getting off strike after narrowly missing a couple of balls.In this over Smith decided to use his first review just a few balls later, on a vicious off cutter that started on off, narrowly missing leg, after a sound was heard. As much as this ball deserved a wicket, it missed the edge of root and the sound was made by the thigh pad of the batsman. It may have been worth a shout, but Root is a true player of the game, and it seems unlikely, no matter the circumstance that he would not walk.
Just 3 balls later and in the next over Hazlewood trapped Malan deep in his crease and again Smith opted to go for his second review after a long hesitation. As it turned out, it would be to no avail, with the ball yet again bouncing over the stump on a fairly full length. Smith knew that with his reviews gone, a wicket would be crucial, seeing as these are the best conditions to bowl to anyone on on this wicket.
These two reviews prompted possibly the funniest Barmy Army banter of the series so far. Everytime any sort of appeal went up thousands of drunk Englishman signalled to the Aussie skipper to review it with a massive wayyyyyy.
Cummins continued to look dangerous, and Lyon came on at the other end. not long into his second over Malan got a thick edge and Smith’s bad game continued, dropping a semi difficult catch. Everything England was in his head rent free. He’s a big confidence player and he almost looked broken.
Not long after Root brought up a well deserved and Gritty half century, prompting the ROOOOOOOOOT sounds from the Barmy Army to get louder with every passing run. He has now brought up a half century in 14 of his last tests. Even if his half-century conversion rate hasn’t been fantastic, he puts in a captain’s knock every test.
England kept on just accumulating runs and frustrating the bowlers, with little solace coming from the attack apart from a drop from Bancroft which ran for four, despite the fielder getting both hands to the ball. As well as that, there were a couple of turned down LBW appeals which must have been killing Smith inside.
The breakthrough came not long after from Cummins with an absolute cracker of a ball. There was a hint of reverse swing which completely did Malan. It sneaked in through the open gate of Malan and knocked out his stumps scattering the glowing zinger bails in the process. Unfortunate for Malan who admittedly played all round it, despite batting so well all innings. He was sent back with just 20 minutes and a couple overs left of the day’s play.
This prompted England to send Woakes in as a nightwatchman, with the score at 169-4. He played the last few overs of the day very well, deflecting the strike from Root as much as possible, doing a good job of it, managing to even score some runs, including a fantastic clip off his legs for 3 on the last ball of the day, with the visitors finishing on 176-4.
Wow. What.A.Day. One of the best ever in Ashes history. The fourth day of any ashes test match has the potential to set up a thrilling finale, and the day’s play did not disappoint in this case. England are behind by 177 with 6 wickets in hand, with Root and Woakes still in on 67 and 5 respectively. If they can avoid a collapse tomorrow then they have all the time in the world to finish off the game. The key to England winning is Root being there to guide them home. The pick of the bowlers was definitely Cummins, with Lyon also being extremely threatening. I don’t know if there has ever been a game on such a knife-edge. It’s game on! For the first time in the series it was definitively England’s day.