Australia’s Pat Cummins (third left) celebrates after dismissing England’s Rory Burns during the fourth day of their fourth Ashes Test at Old Trafford on Saturday. Agence France-Presse
Pat Cummins took two wickets in two balls, including England captain Joe Root for a golden duck, to leave Australia on the brink of retaining the Ashes at Old Trafford on Saturday.
England were 18-2 in their second innings at stumps on the fourth day of the fourth Test, still needing a further 365 runs on Sunday’s last day to reach a target of 383.
By contrast, Australia require eight wickets to seal a win that would see the holders keep the Ashes at 2-1 up with one to play in a five-Test series.
The most England have made in the fourth innings to win a Test the 362/9 they posted in their series-levelling success last time out at Headingley, where Ben Stokes’s stunning 135 not out and the resistance of No 11 Jack Leach secured a remarkable one-wicket victory.
Earlier, Steve Smith’s remorseless run-glut continued as he made 82 -- his lowest score this series -- in Australia’s second innings 186-6 declared.
Australia captain Tim Paine’s decision left England with an awkward 30 minutes in which to bat.
Rory Burns and Root had shared a partnership of 141 while making 81 and 71 respectively in England’s first-innings 301.
But on Saturday they were both out for nought in the first over of England’s chase.
Left-handed opener Burns, looking to turn Cummins’s third ball legside, got a leading edge and was caught at short cover by Travis Head.
Next ball a brilliant delivery that nipped away off the seam and clipped the top of off stump saw Root bowled by an elated Cummins for his third nought of the series and second golden duck.
Cummins was on a hat-trick, with the struggling Jason Roy next in but the World Cup winner responded to the crisis with a solid forward defensive shot and he got through to stumps on eight not out, with Joe Denly unbeaten on 10.
Earlier, Smith’s ninth successive Ashes fifty, extending his own record, followed his superb 211 in the first innings of his comeback Test after he missed the match at Headingley with a concussion suffered when hit by a 92mph Jofra Archer bouncer at Lord’s.
In what is his first Test series since completing a 12-month ball-tampering ban, former Australia captain Smith has now scored 671 runs, including three hundreds, at an average of 134.2 He was on course to become the first batsman in Ashes history, and only the eighth in any Test, to score a double hundred and hundred in the same match when he lofted left-arm spinner Leach with Stokes, running round from long-off, holding a safe catch to end a 92-ball innings featuring 11 fours.
Stuart Broad and Archer had reduced Australia to 44-4 before tea after England narrowly avoided following-on in reply to the tourists’ 497-8 declared.
But Smith, fidgeting across the crease in trademark fashion, held firm.
He did give a chance on 48 when he reverse-swept Leach, with Stokes, anticipating the shot and moving quickly across from slip, failing to hold what would have been a sensational catch.
The 30-year-old Smith toyed with England’s bowlers on a sunny afternoon, pulling Broad for an extravagant four in front of mid-on.
While Smith has enjoyed an Ashes run-spree, David Warner -- also returning from a 12-month ball-tampering ban -- has become something of a ‘bunny’ for Broad.
Saturday saw left-handed opener Warner out for his third straight Test duck when Broad, the successful bowler on each occasion, had him lbw.
It was the sixth time Warner, like Smith had fallen to Broad this Ashes and meant he had completed ‘a pair’ this match after a nought in the first innings.
World Cup-winner Archer, in only his third Test, had been down on pace during Australia’s first innings. But the express quick was back over the 90 mph mark on Saturday during a return of 3-45 in 14 overs.
Brief scores at stumps on day 4:
Australia 497/8d (Smith 211, Labuschagne 67, Paine 58, Starc 54; Broad 3/97) & 186/6d (Smith 82, Wade 34; Broad 2/54, Archer 3/45); England 301 (Burns 81, Root 71; Starc 3/80, Hazlewood 4/57, Cummins 3/60) & 18/2 (Cummins 2/8) (7 ov, target 383); England require another 365 runs with 8 wickets remaining
Opening batsman Cameron Bancroft was on Friday included in Australia’s 17-man squad for the five-Test Ashes series against England alongside Steve Smith and David Warner.
England are still basking in the glow of an epic World Cup triumph but if anything can throw cold water over their memorable summer it would be a first home Ashes series loss to Australia for 18 years. Battle commences at Edgbaston on Thursday and the last time Australia won there was the opening match
The star batsman fell face forward onto the ground and received several minutes of on-field treatment involving both Australian and England medical staffs amid concerns he could be concussed. He eventually got to his feet and then, after a prolonged conversation with Australia team doctor Richard Saw, decided to retire hurt with Smith receiving a generous round of applause as he walked back into the pavilion.
Steve Smith (144) smashed a gritty century to lead Australia’s fightback after Stuart Broad took a five-wicket haul to restrict tourist to 284 on first day of the first Ashes Test on Thursday. England were 10 for no loss in reply at stumps as Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes shared nine wickets between them to rattle
The International Cricket Council had earlier announced that India will remain the hosts of the 2021 tournament while the postponed 2020 tournament which was to be held in Australia will now take place in 2023. Identifying backup venues is standard practice for any tournament.
Lionel Messi might never have been faced with a more daunting task at Barcelona than engineering a victory against Bayern Munich in Lisbon on Friday.
New Zealand’s George Bennett warmed up for this weekend’s Tour of Lombardy by winning the Gran Piemonte semi-classic race through northwestern Italy on Wednesday.