|Second LV= Insurance Ashes Test, Lord’s (day four of five)|
|Australia 416 (Smith 110, Head 77) & 279 (Khawaja 77; Broad 4-65)|
|England 325 (Duckett 98, Brook 50; Starc 3-88) & 114-4 (Duckett 50*)|
|England need another 257 runs, Australia six wickets|
England are desperately battling to avoid a 2-0 Ashes deficit after Australia’s awesome pace bowlers decimated the home top order late on the fourth day of the second Test at Lord’s.
Set a record 371 to win, England were reduced to 45-4 by the brilliance of Australia captain Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc.
Starc removed Zak Crawley and Ollie Pope before Cummins struck twice in an over to dismiss Joe Root and Harry Brook.
Ben Duckett scrapped to 50 and controversially survived late in the day when it was adjudged that Starc had grounded a boundary catch.
With Ben Stokes on 29 not out, England are 114-4, 257 runs adrift of victory.
England’s target would have been even larger had in not been for a tireless fightback with the ball.
The hosts essentially bowled 51 consecutive overs of bouncers against which Australia lost their last eight wickets for 92 runs.
Stuart Broad claimed 4-65 and all of Stokes, Josh Tongue and Ollie Robinson bowled marathon spells to dismiss the Australians for 279.
The tourists’ inability to bat England entirely out of the game resulted in Nathan Lyon hobbling to the crease at number 11 despite a calf injury that could rule him out of the rest of the series.
Barely able to walk – he was required to frantically hop one single – Lyon added 15 for the 10th wicket with Starc, enough runs to push England’s target past the 359 they famously overhauled at Headingley four years ago.
Stokes, the architect of that chase, now needs to do the same again to effectively keep the series alive. England have never come from 2-0 down against Australia and gone on to lift the Ashes.
England clinging on after bizarre day
Given recent Ashes results, the sight of rampant Australian pace bowlers tearing through England’s batting brought a sense of normality on a truly bizarre day of Test cricket.
It was always likely that England would be chasing a target by the close, but the way the match reached that point was surreal, monotonous and theatrical in equal measure.
Once England started bowling bouncers, they did not stop. The manner in which Australia struggled against the short ball on the two-paced pitch at least adds some context to England’s wastefulness in their first innings.
Lyon limping through a 25-minute stay at the crease was dramatic, but nothing compared to the way in which Australia’s attack badly wounded England’s hope of creating another moment of Ashes history before the late defiance and Duckett reprieve.
Never before have England chased this many runs to win an Ashes Test and have done so only once against all-comers. It would also be a record pursuit in a Test at Lord’s.
Under Stokes England have developed a penchant for run-chases and the skipper himself has single-handedly pulled off some of the greatest rescue acts the game has ever seen.
Winning this would top them all.
Starc and Cummins tear into England
Whereas England’s fast-medium bowlers had to hammer the middle of the pitch with six fielders on the boundary, Australia’s flying speedsters put on an magnificent show of old-fashioned new-ball bowling.
There was an element of fortune in Crawley’s dismissal, a flick down the leg side to diving wicketkeeper Alex Carey, but the ball Starc produced to get Pope was lethal.
Batting at number three despite the shoulder injury that prevented him from fielding, Pope was undone by an 89mph in-swinger that took middle stump out of the ground.
Cummins hit Root and then, next ball, produced a vicious lifter that was fended to first slip. Brook could have been caught and bowled from his second ball and lost his off bail to the next delivery, a beauty that Cummins got to move past a tentative defensive prod.
Duckett was dropped by Cameron Green at gully on nought and successfully reviewed a leg-before decision on five, both off Starc, but came through admirably to register his second half-century of the match.
There was still time for one final, huge moment. Duckett flapped at a Green bouncer and Starc slid to take the ball at fine leg.
Duckett was almost in the pavilion, only for the TV umpire to decide Starc had dragged the ball along the ground, much to the anger of the Australians.
Tireless bowlers tie down Australia
Under blue sky, Australia seemed to have ideal batting conditions from which to build on their overnight 130-2.
They were making serene progress until England switched their tactics half an hour into the day, beginning to bowl their shortest average length than any point since such data began to be collected in 2006.
Seven of the eight Australia wickets to fall were to the short ball, making a total of 12 across England’s first innings and Australia’s second.
Usman Khawaja top-edged Broad to long leg for 77, Steve Smith did the same to Tongue for 34. After that, there were some turgid periods when Australia refused to engage in England’s plan and, when they did, wickets fell.
Tongue and Robinson bowled nine-over spells, Stokes 12. James Anderson struggled and did not bowl at all after lunch, England kept the same ball for all 101.5 overs.
When the eighth wicket fell, Lyon positioned himself in the Long Room, waiting to bat. After Josh Hazlewood was out, Lyon, in his 100th consecutive Test, emerged to a standing ovation.
He bravely supported Starc. With the field back and almost no chance of a single, all the last pair could do was swing for the boundary. Lyon even hooked Broad for four before he miscued to Stokes at mid-wicket.
‘Not out of the question yet’ – reaction
England batting coach Marcus Trescothick on Test Match Special: “We’ve got a big job to do. We didn’t want to lose the wickets at the top order but we faced some beautiful balls, it’s not out of the question yet.
“We’re still fairly upbeat, we’re in a positive unit. We have good days and bad days, you enjoy it on a good day, but you don’t get too down on a bad day. You take the rough with the smooth.”
Former England captain Michael Vaughan: “England’s short-pitched bowling restricted the scoring and got plenty of wickets. Whether But England with the new ball, it looks quite nice to face.
“I don’t know how the seamers are going to wake up every morning bowling like that. That tactic is good for periods but, ultimately, England require 257 more runs.”