MANCHESTER: Australia retained the Ashes after beating England by 185 runs at Old Trafford on Sunday to take a 2-1 lead in the series with just one test remaining.
England, who resumed on 18-2, were bowled out for 197 on the final day as Australian seamer Pat Cummins took four for 43.
Australia’s victory, with 81 balls remaining, was a convincing one, but England’s spirit cannot be criticised as they fought until the final hour in their attempt to save the test and keep the series alive.
The tourists lead 2-1 going into next week’s final test at The Oval where they hope to become the first Australian team to win an Ashes series in England since 2001.
Steve Smith, whose magnificent double century and then second innings 82 were the key factors in this win and whose batting throughout the series has ensured the Ashes remain in Australian hands, was delighted. “It feels amazing to know the urn is coming home. I’ve been here a few times when things haven’t gone our way. This was always one to tick off my bucket list. It’s extremely satisfying,” he said.
The main early resistance from England came from Joe Denly, who made 53 from 123 balls and Jos Buttler, who lasted 111 balls for his 34.
England’s hopes of an unlikely escape-act rose when Jack Leach and Craig Overton batted for over an hour, giving the crowd belief of a second `miracle’ after the comeback win at Headingley.
But part-time leg spinner Marnus Labuschagne finally removed Leach, with a ball that turned sharply in the rough and was gloved to Matthew Wade at short leg.
Overton batted with sense, stoicism and a strong technique, but he was trapped lbw by Josh Hazlewood to set off Australian celebrations.
“I didn’t think it would be this emotional,” said Australian captain Tim Paine. “The amount of work that’s gone in to retain the Ashes has been enormous and I’m really proud of this group and how we bounced back from Headingley,” he added.
Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2019