Australia deny England another escapology act to retain Ashes at Old Trafford
Victory left the visitors 2-1 up in the five-Test series ahead of next week's finale at The Oval
The Houdinis of Headingley battled to the final hour of the fourth Test, but one more act of escapology was beyond them as Australia retained the Ashes at Old Trafford.
Midway through the 92nd over of the home side’s second-innings resistance, Josh Hazlewood trapped Craig Overton lbw.
Almost inevitably, in a series so deeply coloured by the decision review system, they had to wait before they could fully celebrate their victory.
Overton made a desperate attempt to appeal the decision. Australians were on tenterhooks as the review protocol was observed. As three reds showed up, the team who were huddled together at the crease let out a roar of euphoria.
Tim Paine, the captain who was so beleaguered after being defied in not entirely dissimilar circumstances a week earlier, broke off from the group, looked down the lens of the Spidercam, and screamed his delight.
The 185-run win meant Australia now have an unassailable 2-1 lead in the series, with just The Oval Test, starting on Thursday, to come. As such, England can still halve the series, but they are unable to regain the Ashes urn.
“I’m pretty pumped,” said Paine, who took over the captaincy of a side in disarray early in 2018.
“This team has been through a lot in the past 12 to 18 months, the character we have shown to come back shows a lot about the people in the group.
“It has been an unbelievable series I haven’t had too much sleep during the Tests. Pretty much every game has gone down to the wire.
“We kept saying we will get our rewards late. Sometimes we didn’t believe it, but we got it in the end.”
Victory was secured on the final day by some fine fast bowling by Pat Cummins, who took 4-43 as England were all out for 197. He was ably abetted by Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon, and even Marnus Labuschagne, who took a vital late wicket with his leg-spin.
The win had been set up by the brilliance of Steve Smith, who was player of the match for the 292 runs he made across the course of the Test.
“It feels amazing,” Smith said of retaining the Ashes, the first time Australia will be taking the urn away from an away series in 18 years.
“It was always one I wanted to tick off my bucket list: to get the urn over here. It is extremely satisfying.
“At the start of the day, we thought we would get our eight chances, and we did in the end. Overton was outstanding, but we got the job done.”
Bayed on by a raucous crowd, England showed fight and appeared to carry the belief they could repel the opposition attack.
Joe Denly made a dogged half-century, as he had done in the win at Headingley. Cult hero Jack Leach put up another courageous fight for over an hour, while his long-time teammate in county cricket, Overton, mounted a doughty vigil of his own at the other end.
In the end, though, Australia were too good.
“I thought we showed great character today, and couldn't be more proud of the effort,” Joe Root, England’s captain, said.
“As last week [at Headingley] we always believed, we fight right to the end. We tried our hardest. We had some fantastic support, but it is bitterly disappointing.
“We have got to make sure we turn up for what is still quite a big game at The Oval.
“We've seen some wonderful Test cricket and it will be the same at The Oval. We want to level the series and there is the Test Championship.”
Updated: September 8, 2019 10:11 PM