Steve Smith showed his phenomenal capabilities once again for Australia on day four at Old Trafford, keeping his side's batting lineup afloat after a barrage from the England quicks.
Having bowled out the hosts impressively earlier in the day, the Australian top order was blown away by Jofra Archer and Stuart Broad, but Smith exhibited some typically dynamic batsmanship to keep his side in the ascendancy, notching his fifth 50-plus score in as many innings. He was eventually out for 82, but his knock allowed Tim Paine to declare on 186/6.
Pat Cummins then produced a magnificent opening over, knocking over Rory Burns and Joe Root in consecutive deliveries to leave England in a perilous position. They finished the day on 18/2, needing 365 runs if they are to pull off another miraculous win. Australia need eight wickets on the final day to retain the Ashes.
Brilliant bowling from Jofra Archer and Stuart Broad in that session.— ICC (@ICC) September 7, 2019
Australia go to tea on 63/4, but they still lead by 259.
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Australia's quicks were rampant in the morning session, and were it not for a decent effort from England's number eight Jos Buttler, and an understated cameo once again from Jack Leach, then the home side would not have avoided the potential follow-on.
Mitchell Starc, who had yet to show his best since his return to the side, was in inspired form. He cleaned up Jonny Bairstow (17) early on before accounting for the key wicket of Ben Stokes (26), forcing the dangerous all-rounder to nick off into slips with some wicked pace bowling.
The ever-impressive Cummins then saw off Jofra Archer (1), before Starc grabbed his third scalp with the wicket of Broad. Buttler (41) and Leach (4*) batted smartly to get England past the follow-on threshold, and shortly after, the latter was bowled by Cummins, which meant Australia were put back into bat with a lead of 196.
What ensued before the tea interval was a magnificent barrage of fast bowling from Broad and Archer, and the tourists' second innings got off to a dreadful start, David Warner falling to Broad in the first over for a duck and his opening partner Marcus Harris (6) departing in a similar vein, trapped lbw by the England quick.
Archer, who then bowled the quickest spell of any bowler so far in this Test match, saw off Travis Head and Marnus Labuschagne, and it looked as if England might mount something of a comeback in the late afternoon.
Smith quelled any of these worries however, dominating the English attack and forming a solid partnership with Matthew Wade that the home side never really looked like penetrating. Smith and Wade eventually perished, but Paine declared to set a target of 383.
Cummins then took over – England must battle once again if they are to keep their Ashes hopes alive.
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