June 17, 2024

The Ashes 2023: Zak Crawley’s 189 gives England lead over Australia in fourth Test

Fourth LV= Insurance Ashes Test, Emirates Old Trafford (day five):
Australia 317 (Labuschagne 51, Marsh 51; Woakes 5-62)
England 384-4 (Crawley 189, Root 84, Moeen 54)
England lead by 67 runs

Zak Crawley’s brilliant 189 stunned Australia and kept England on course for a return to the Ashes on a thrilling second day of the fourth Test at Old Trafford.

Crawley scored the highest score by an England batsman in an Ashes Test for 26 years to give the hosts a great chance to level the series at 2-2.

With 182 balls to spare, he hit 21 fours and three sixes to help England take a 384-4, 67 lead.

Crawley shared a stand of 121 with Moeen Ali, who was superb making 54 at number three, then a riotous double-century partnership with Joe Root, the former captain unlucky to fall for 84.

While both Crawley and Root bowled with deliveries that kept low, Harry Brook and Ben Stokes set the stage for the Friday morning attack with an unbroken stand of 33.

On a great day for the home side, James Anderson removed Pat Cummins with the first ball of the morning and Chris Woakes completed his five-wicket haul in the Ashes Test to dismiss Australia for 317.

With the series on the line and bad weather heading into the weekend, England were not only looking to build a lead, but to do so quickly enough to leave time for a result to be implemented.

They did so in a way that was hard to believe, and now there is a golden opportunity to level the series at 2-2 and make a delicious Ashes decision at The Oval.

England’s ambush rattled the Aussies

Even the most optimistic of England fans could not have predicted this. Their one-day performance with the ball, reducing Australia to 299-8, created the prospect that one good batting innings would level the series. There was also the risk that any chance of raising the urn would collapse.

It was England’s best day of the summer – a celebration of all that was good about the cricket they played under Stokes and Brendon McCullum, in the Old Trafford Party Stand.

If Australia was yet to be completely Bazballed, they are now, steamrolled by Crawley and his collaboration in the path of destruction that scattered fielders, frazzled minds and caused terrible damage to figures Bowling. It would have been a relief for off-spinner Todd Murphy, the notable absentee from Australia’s XI, to be running drinks rather than bowling.

To make for a terrible day for the tourists, fast bowler Mitchell Starc was struggling with a hamstring injury and hurt his left shoulder diving in the field.

Cummins was caught by Anderson at cover and Woakes needed two runs to catch number 11 Josh Hazlewood in the slips – the first was a no-ball. It was the only blight on England’s day.

With heavy rain forecast for Saturday and Sunday, England knew they had to score quickly. They did so with controlled attack, glorious stroke and urgent running. The hosts could be in a position to bat in Australia again before lunch on Friday.

Any tendency to win will have to come with the weather coming and a pitch starting to show some signs of a sharp bounce in change.

But England has made a huge opening. They never came back from 2-0 down to win an Ashes series. The comeback is underway.

Zak attacked

Despite his modest record, England always believed that Crawley Kent was a match winner. This innings, an Ashes knock for the ages, was truly amazing.

The English were under a spell until lunch. Ben Duckett edged Starc back for one and Crawley were forced to retreat when Cameron Green was given out lbw on 20.

But Crawley and Moeen built a clever three-pointer in their century partnership and Crawley burst into life after the break.

With flaming whips, handsome drives and some powerful chips, Crawley dismissed the Australian bowling. He moved from 50 to 100 in 26 balls, England’s fastest 93-ball quarter ton in Ashes cricket.

Crawley hit 106 runs off 82 balls in the lunch and tea session. A stand of just 206 by Root was put up in 186 deliveries. The Australians went through the plan and after the plan, their pitching became ragged and bowlers tired.

Just as Crawley was impressed with a double ton, Green managed to keep one low and played on, prompting a standing ovation from a crowd that witnessed one of the great hundreds of all time.

Moeen root and head supporting cast

This was a superb effort from Moeen, who came out of retirement for this series as the only leading spinner in the game and filling an important gap in England’s order.

He met with composure and showed the strange touch of style. Moeen’s selfless service this summer was recognized as he reached his first Test half-century in four years. He was unlucky as Usman Khawaja took a sharp catch from Starc who drew a lot of blood.

Root came up with the score at 130-2 with the game in the balance, but he was immediately, imperially at his best.

He dealt with the Australian short ball plan by expertly executing hooks and pulls. His goal was to score 40 off his first 30 balls – Root’s fastest ever start to a Test innings. He played trademark back-scoops off Mitchell Marsh and Cummins.

Root earned a century of his own, only to bowl a scuttler from Hazlewood – keeping it even lower than Crawley’s.

The way Brook and Stokes have played calmly this morning is shocking for the Australians. A sign of England’s intent was the sight of ‘nighthawk’ Stuart Broad padded up late in the day.

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