The Ashes urn was firmly in the sights of Australia after an eventful day four at Manchester in the penultimate Test against England.
Tim Paine and his men were eight wickets away from victory in the fourth Test after reducing England to 18-2 in the second innings with the hosts chasing 383, but more realistically, hoping to bat out a draw.
England were earlier bundled out for 301 runs in the first innings before another Steve Smith special helped Australia pile on 186-6 in the second innings at Old Trafford.
With the weather forecast for Sunday looking bright and clear, the hosts well and truly have their backs against the wall and will need another Headingley miracle if they are to keep the Ashes alive.
Here, we look at the talking points at the end of an eventful Day Four at Old Trafford.
Cummins, Starc clean up England tail
Having started the day at 200-5, England were able to add 101 run more to their total to just about avoid the follow-on. It took a cameo of 41 runs from Jos Buttler to help England avoid the follow on after a strong opening session dominated by Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc.
Starc put England on the back foot by dismissing Jonny Bairstow and Headingley hero Ben Stokes in quick succession before Cummins ended Jofra Archer’s stay at the stroke of lunch. The two Australia pacers finished the job after the lunch interval with the dismissals of Stuart Broad and Buttler who was the last England batsman to fall after attempting a wild slog against Cummins.
Cummins’ three wickets in the innings saw the Aussie pacer further consolidate his grip as the leading wicket-taker in the series and it only got better for him late in the day in England’s second innings.
The 26-year-old found Rory Burns’ outside edge in just the third delivery of the innings before he cleaned up Joe Root’s off-stump with a peach of an in-swinger with the next ball to leave England reeling.
No dice for Warner as Broad piles on the misery
David Warner will perhaps be desperate to get on the first flight back to Sydney after his horror Ashes against Stuart Broad showed no signs of stopping.
The Australian opener bagged his third consecutive duck on the tour after being caught plumb on the pads just six deliveries into the second innings. It consigned the southpaw to his first-ever pair in Test cricket and he could only offer a resigned smile as he made the long walk back to the pavilion amidst a chorus of boos from the English supporters.
It just hasn’t worked out for Warner in the Ashes – despite his stellar 2019 World Cup campaign – with the opener now averaging (9.87) less than England No11 Jack Leach in the series.
He has now been dismissed six times in eight innings by Broad in the series and it will be a surprise if he is not dropped for the final Test at the Oval.
Smith’s freakish summer rolls on
Having conceded a 196-run first-innings lead to Australia, England made a roaring start to the ball Stuart Broad dismissing both openers in no time. The dismissal of Marnus Labuschagne and Travis Head soon after added to Australia’s woes as England sniffed a small opening to fight their way back into the game.
That joy was short-lived for the hosts with Steve Smith once again proving to be a brick wall. The Australia batsman followed up his double ton in the first-innings with a rapid knock of 82 that put the visitors firmly on top at Old Trafford.
His 105-run stand with Matthew Wade snuffed out any minor hopes England would have held and he has now extended his run tally to 671 for the series in just five innings. A fourth ton of the series was on the cards for Smith before he holed out in the deep, but his stellar counter-attack in the final session had firmly shut all door on England.
His average in the series is now a whopping 134.20 and he is already the leading Test run-scorer of 2019, despite other batsmen having a seven-month head-start on him.
Steve Smith now 671 runs at 134 this Ashes - and 2 of those 5 dismissals were setting up declarations. Still has 1 Test left.— Tim (@timwig) September 7, 2019
Without missing 3 innings with concussion, could even have topped Don Bradman's 974 runs at 139 in 1934.
England were on the verge of the surrendering the Ashes after Pat Cummins struck a cruel double blow on the penultimate evening of the fourth Test at Old Trafford.
Steve Smith’s latest remarkable innings of 82 allowed Australia to declare for the second time in the match, boasting a lead of 382, 20 more than a Ben Stokes-inspired England managed in their record win at Headingley.
The less fantastical goal was to bat out the remainder of the match and set up a winner-takes-all battle at the Oval next week, but Cummins rendered that an improbable long shot when he dismissed Rory Burns and captain Joe Root in the first over of the reply.
The pair have been responsible for England’s two biggest partnerships of the series, including 141 in the first innings here, but were skittled for ducks by successive Cummins deliveries.
Burns has been easily the most durable opener in the series but lasted only three balls, sending a leading edge looping to short cover. Root strode to the crease with his team’s hopes on his shoulders but was on his way back within a few short seconds, Cummins conjuring something fit for the occasion: demanding attention on a good full length then nipping away to clatter off stump.
Cummins and his team-mates celebrated like they had retained the Ashes and, although Joe Denly and Jason Roy survived to reach 18 for two, they will surely do just that on Sunday.
If they do it will be overwhelmingly down to Smith, whose freewheeling efforts steered Australia to 186 for six and took his total output in just four innings to 671 over the course of a spirit-sapping 998 balls.
The day began with England 200 for five in their first innings, with Stokes carrying the burden of expectation following his exploits in Leeds.
He and Jonny Bairstow successfully negotiated six overs of the new ball but, as soon as Mitchell Starc unwrapped the fresh Dukes, the tone changed.
The left-armer disappointed on day three but now there was swing in the air and he used it to spear a yorker through the inviting gap offered by Bairstow.
Stokes was living dangerously himself, surviving a caught-and-bowled chance and seeing a top-edged hook sail over the wicketkeeper’s head. He managed 26 before the end came, pushing away from his body at Starc and feeding Smith at slip.
His latest attempt at digging England out a sizeable hole had faltered, but Jos Buttler was on hand to take the follow-on off the table with his best score of the series, 41.
He got off the mark with an uppish drive that briefly tempted cover, and responded to Jofra Archer’s soft dismissal by setting off a seven-ball sequence that saw him hit three more boundaries.Stands of 27 with Stuart Broad and 18 with Jack Leach allowed him to beat the follow-on target of 298 by three runs, doing so with a flourish through cover, before he lost his middle stump to that man Cummins.
England rallied in spirited fashion after the switch, Broad and Archer sharing four wickets to leave the tourists briefly vulnerable on 44 for four. Broad began by continuing his bullying of David Warner, pinned lbw in the first over as the seamer dismissed him for the sixth time in eight innings. It was his second duck of the match and his third in a row.
Marcus Harris departed in similar fashion, Broad on a roll from round the wicket, and Archer made it three leg before decisions in a row when he pinned Marnus Labuschagne in front for 11.
The best was yet to come, Archer uprooting Travis Head’s middle stump before the interval left both sides to gather their thoughts.
But Smith was still there and resumed on 19 after tea with an instant gear shift, taking 10 runs off Leach’s first over of the evening with a sequence of aggressive strokes.
He was soon hacking over the infield, sweeping into the gaps and paddling square on both sides. The pressure dissolved as his counter-attack took hold, with Root’s attempts to set a field increasingly in vain.
Stokes almost conjured a brilliant solution, sprinting from slip in anticipation of a reverse sweep but parrying what would have been an unbelievable catch. As Smith jogged through for one, he took the lead to 300, working another single next up for his 50.
Yet another century seemed to be inevitable but finally his veneer cracked, a big swing against Leach sending a steepling chance to long-off to the safest hands imaginable: Stokes.
The declaration came later than some expected, leaving half-an-hour, but it was enough to land two major blows on the English psyche. Cummins was simply too good in fading light, leaving England the prospect of 98 overs on a fifth day pitch with eight wickets in hand.
One, of course, is Stokes, but this may even be too much for cricket’s man of the summer.
Provided by Press Association Sports
Kolkata Knight Riders skipper Dinesh Karthik has been asked by the BCCI to explain his presence in the Trinbago Knight Riders dressing room during the inaugural Caribbean Premier League (CPL) 2019 clash on Thursday.
Karthik’s presence in the Trinbago dressing room was spotted by broadcasters during the CPL clash against St. Kitts and Nevis at Port of Spain. The Trinbago and Kolkata franchises are both owned by the same group (Knight Riders) with Brendon McCullum currently serving as the head coach for both teams.
The BCCI has taken cognizance to Karthik’s appearance in the CPL with the wicketkeeper batsman supposedly violating the terms of his central contract. BCCI’s central contracts currently prohibit players from participating or appearing in overseas tournaments and sporting events without obtaining a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the governing body first.
According to a report by ESPNcricinfo, Karthik has been issued a notice to that regard by the BCCI chief executive Rahul Johri with the player asked to explain his presence in the Trinbago dugout.
Dinesh Karthik hanging out with Baz in the Knight Riders locker room, in their first CPL match. pic.twitter.com/YY1ZZbXfDm— That nice guy (@Uglybuoy) September 5, 2019
Karthik has a week to respond to the notice following which the three-member Committee of Administrators (CoA) will adjudicate on the matter.
34-year-old Karthik was recently axed from the India limited-overs squads following the team’s semi-final exit in the 2019 World Cup in England. The wicketkeeper batsman failed to find a place in either the ODI or T20 squads for India’s recently concluded tour of the West Indies.
The Tamil Nadu has been with Kolkata Knight Riders since 2018 when he was roped in to replace Gautam Gambhir as skipper. He led KKR to a third-place finish in the 2018 edition of the IPL but the franchise failed to make the play-offs in the most recent edition earlier this year.