Fast-paced England is stopped by Mitchell Starc’s four-for, giving Australia the advantage

Mitchell Starc gets 4 wickets against Australia

In a similar fashion to the first game, England sped ahead with the bat on the first day of the final Ashes contest. However, despite Australia taking five catches along the way and Harry Brook‘s brilliant 85 to lead the way, they could only manage 283 in the cloudy, bowler-friendly conditions.

The greatest of his four overseas Ashes series, Mitchell Starc, who had a shoulder injury at Emirates Old Trafford, concluded with 4 for 82 while the remaining wickets were distributed. 

His series tally of 19 is the highest of any of his four abroad Ashes series. While Todd Murphy, who was recalled, had a brace despite being used sparingly once more, Pat Cummins bowled considerably better than his 1 for 66 would suggest.

Australia managed 25 overs without losing David Warner, so by the time play ended, they could claim to have had the better of the day. Before falling to Chris Woakes for the third time in a row, edging to second slip, Warner and Usman Khawaja combined 49 runs for the first wicket. Warner had earlier escaped an England review when Stuart Broad felt he had got the glove, but it was actually only the arm.

There was still a lot at stake in this last Test, even if Old Trafford had effectively sealed the Ashes’ fate. A score of 3-1 or 2-2 would have a totally different interpretation. This is especially true for Australia, which had a 2-0 lead before losing at Headingley and was all but spared another by the rain in Manchester.

By providing England to bat after the coin went in his favor for the first time on this tour, Cummins demonstrated that he doesn’t give a damn about what has happened in the past, in contrast to Tim Paine, who made the mistake in 2019.

When England’s openers reached 62 for 0 within the first hour of play and then reached 184 for 3 as Brook and an injured Moeen Ali quickly put together a century partnership, it seemed for a time like Australia may once more fumble their lines with the ball. They did, however, generate enough chances to make up for the missed ones even if they once again gave up runs at an alarming rate.

Warner made the first mistake when he failed to catch Cummins’ opening pitch, giving Ben Duckett a life at slip on 30. The majority of the early scoring was contributed by Duckett, who also beat Josh Hazlewood with a thunderous drive while the latter was launching himself from his crease. 

His fast stay came to an end when Mitchell Marsh sent a glove down the leg side, but Australia used the DRS to overturn Kumar Dharmasena not out ruling because Zak Crawley had already burned a review for being lbw.

After a few beers, Cummins, who had drawn some criticism for his performance at Old Trafford, was rewarded for a strong opening spell when he got Crawley to edge into the slips after defeating them three times in a row while finding a decent bounce from the Pavilion End. England was 73 for 3 and on the verge of disintegrating when Joe Root dragged on against Hazlewood.

A short while later, when Brook edged Cummins, it should have been 78 for 4, but Alex Carey couldn’t hold on and went one-handed to his right in front of first slip. Brook retaliated while Moeen remained steadfast. After hitting Marsh over the leg side for six and hitting Starc for two fours and a six in quick succession just before the break, Brook showed no signs of playing for time.

Brook took 44 balls to reach his half-century, but if Cummins had been able to take a direct shot at the non-striker’s end after gathering the ball during his follow through, turning on his heels, and throwing, Brook could have lost his wicket without any further runs.

Moeen suffered a groin injury while running a single and pulled up lame immediately after that. After receiving treatment, he continued his innings but was unable to run or even walk. 

This led to a frenzied period of cricket during which he hit a ramp over the keeper, a huge mowed six off Cummins over deep midwicket, and another top edged to fine leg. He also occasionally used his bat as a crutch to limp between the wickets.

In 17 overs, the century stand came up. Cameron Green was replaced by Murphy, who was introduced for the first time that day for the 34th over. Moeen pulled away and took down his second ball, but he missed his next attempt, which was more of a heave across the line. It was unclear how much of a part he could play for the remainder of the test.

The situation appeared to be peaceful for a little while as Brook and Ben Stokes attempted to form a new partnership. However, the England skipper was struck by one of Starc’s brilliant deliveries that straightened late and ripped back off stump as Stokes tried to play to the leg side.

The same cannot be said for Jonny Bairstow, who walked on against Hazlewood and was eventually dismissed four balls after another brilliant straight shot had brought Brook his eleventh four. His hopes of an Ashes hundred were dashed when a thunderous edge was caught by Smith at second slip.

In 55 deliveries, England had lost 4 for 28, and Australia batting before tea was in the cards. Woakes and Mark Wood, the heroes of Headingley, added 49 with additional rambunctious strokeplay, though. 

Woakes had been declared out on the first ball of the final session, but the DRS, which had been requested almost beseechingly, revealed a thin edge that not even Woakes had felt. Australia missed another chance two balls later when Marsh split Woakes in the gully.

While Woakes continued to swing, including a majestic shot for six straight down the ground off Starc before the session was over with a top edge to deep square leg, Murphy took his second wicket of the day when he cleaned up Wood. Woakes was also dropped by Murphy off his own bowling.