Monday, July 22
18Aus cele1

England takes a slight lead in the Old Trafford Test as the Australian batsmen fall short of putting the Ashes out of reach

After electing to bat first in Manchester, England made a remarkable comeback in the Old Trafford Test against Australia. The visitors suffered from several soft dismissals on the opening day of the fourth Ashes Test. At stumps, Australia stands at 8-299, with Mitchell Starc (23*) and captain Pat Cummins (1*) remaining unbeaten. The middle order took a hit as Chris Woakes (4-52) proved to be a formidable force, causing significant damage on Wednesday afternoon.

The Old Trafford Test witnessed a back-and-forth battle between England and Australia on a fluctuating day. Both teams exchanged blows, with Australia starting to build partnerships, only for England to regain control by securing crucial breakthroughs.

Unfortunately for Australia, four of their batters failed to capitalize on their promising starts. Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, and Mitchell Marsh all crossed the 40-run mark but couldn’t convert their innings into substantial scores, with none of them reaching 52.

Given that Australia only needs a draw to retain the Ashes, they might feel they missed several opportunities to put the series out of England’s reach.

Ricky Ponting, former Australian captain, expressed disappointment, stating that Australia had let a valuable opportunity slip away. Despite favorable batting conditions, their highest individual score was only 51 at the close of play.

In the Old Trafford Test, England’s captain Ben Stokes won the toss and chose to bowl first, a decision that no Test side has ever succeeded in winning at this venue.

Early in the day, Stuart Broad struck a crucial blow by dismissing Usman Khawaja for just 3 runs, as the Queenslander was convincingly adjudged lbw after a failed review.

David Warner and Marnus Labuschagne managed to survive until the drinks break, but an unusual delay occurred due to the sun’s reflection from behind the bowler’s arm.

In the subsequent over, Warner attempted to drive Chris Woakes through the covers but ended up edging the ball behind to wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow. Warner, the experienced opener, displayed his frustration, throwing his head back in disappointment as he departed for 32.

On his very first delivery, Steve Smith attempted a hook shot towards deep fine leg, and to the dismay of the spectators, the chance to catch the ball narrowly evaded boundary rider Mark Wood, resulting in a collective gasp from the crowd.

When Moeen Ali came into the attack, the Australian vice-captain showed no mercy and treated the spinner with disdain, smashing him for a powerful six over long-on. Smith and Labuschagne managed to survive until the lunch break, with the Australian team scoring at a rate of 4.28 runs per over during the morning session.

The pair reached their fifty-run partnership in 71 balls, but it was eventually broken by Mark Wood, who delivered a ball that slid into Smith’s pads. Initially, umpire Nitin Menon shook his head, but England’s well-judged review revealed three lights on Hawkeye, leading to Steve Smith’s dismissal.

As Travis Head came out to bat, England utilized a barrage of short-pitched deliveries to test him. Unfortunately, during his innings, the South Australian endured a nasty blow on his helmet from Mark Wood, which prompted him to undergo a concussion test.

Marnus Labuschagne and Travis Head then built a solid partnership of 63 runs for the fourth wicket, with Labuschagne completing his half-century in 114 deliveries.

However, in an unexpected turn of events, Moeen Ali dismissed Labuschagne on the very next delivery with a seemingly innocuous delivery directed at the stumps. Initially, umpire Joel Wilson ruled the LBW appeal as not out, but after an excellent review from England, Labuschagne reluctantly walked back to the pavilion, having scored 51 runs.

After the tea interval, Travis Head continued to take on the short-pitched deliveries, but this approach eventually led to his dismissal. He top-edged a bouncer from Stuart Broad towards deep fine leg when he was on 48 runs. The wicket marked a historic moment for Broad as it was his 600th Test wicket, making him only the second pace bowler to achieve this remarkable milestone.

Following his achievement, Broad expressed his joy and gratitude, mentioning that there were hugs and handshakes, especially from the staff who have been part of the changing room for an extended period. He found it particularly special to reach this milestone at the James Anderson End.

Reflecting on the achievement, Broad admitted that surpassing his childhood hero, Glenn McGrath, in Test wickets was a genuinely cool moment for him. He humbly acknowledged that he might not be at the same level as McGrath, but achieving such a feat is a testament to his longevity and dedication to the sport.

After Travis Head’s dismissal, Mitchell Marsh stepped up and continued the counterattacking approach, aiming to apply pressure on England’s bowlers. In the 58th over, a mix-up between Marsh and Cameron Green almost resulted in a run-out chance, but England’s Ben Stokes fumbled at cover, missing the opportunity.

Marsh and Green formed a resilient partnership, reaching their fifty-run milestone, with Marsh himself completing his half-century in just 56 balls. However, the momentum swung back in England’s favor when Chris Woakes returned to the attack in the 63rd over and managed to dismiss both all-rounders.

Cameron Green was dismissed lbw for 16 runs, and though he called for a review, Hawkeye indicated that the ball would have clipped the top of the leg stump. Just four deliveries later, Marsh was caught edging a beautiful outswinger from Woakes towards wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow, who executed a spectacular one-handed catch low to his right. These wickets placed England in a more commanding position in the Test match.

Mitchell Starc joined Alex Carey at the crease, and together, they halted the loss of wickets with a solid 40-run partnership for the eighth wicket. However, England decided to take the second new ball less than 20 minutes before stumps, and Chris Woakes capitalized on it by taking his fourth wicket of the innings.

Carey attempted to leave Woakes’ inswinger but couldn’t manage to get his bat out of the way, resulting in a faint inside edge that carried through to wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow. With this dismissal, Carey had to depart, leaving Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc at the crease. Starc, who boasts an impressive average of 157.00 with the bat at Old Trafford, along with Cummins, managed to survive the final 14 deliveries before the day’s play concluded.

England’s Stuart Broad reminded everyone not to judge the pitch until both teams have batted on it. He acknowledged that historically, Old Trafford is not a ground where teams get bowled out for low scores, and Tests here often witness longer innings. England’s strategy is to limit Australia to a manageable total, considering their confidence in their ability to chase successfully later in the game. Broad emphasized that days two and three are usually favorable for batting, making it crucial for England to focus on containing Australia’s total on the first day of the Test.