Australia retain break 18-year Ashes drought

 

Australia has retained the Ashes.

For the first time in 18 years Australia will leave England still holding the urn after another miraculous Ashes day at Old Trafford gave them an unassailable 2-1 lead in a stunning series which will conclude next week at The Oval.

Australia only needed eight wickets when the day began, but stubborn England resistance took the game in to the final hour on day five with a full-house rising and falling all 507 balls bowled. 

 

But just after 6:15pm local time, with shadows stretching across the Manchester ground, Josh Hazlewood had the last line of home team defence, Craig Overton, out LBW, streaming down the pitch with his arms raised as umpire Kumar Dharamasena put his finger up

The three red lights on the big screen, after Overton delayed the inevitable by calling for a review, were the signal for jubilant Australian celebrations with screams of joy after an afternoon loaded with high anxiety.

Australia won by 185-runs, but it was a victory more hard fought than the margin suggested as England batted for more than 91.3 overs in their bid to force a draw which would have kept their own Ashes hopes alive.  

Australia celebrate as one as the Ashes is retained.
Australia celebrate as one as the Ashes is retained.

The visitors could manage only two wickets each of the first two sessions, with workhorse Pat Cummins snaring two, including that of Headingley hero Ben Stokes who walked when he tickled one to Tim Paine behind the pegs, who had to dive to his right to snare the catch.

It left Australia needed four final session wickets to secure the win which seemed theirs from the moment Steve Smith smacked a double-century on day two.

But with the Ashes on the line England dug in as best they could.

Hazlewood bowled Jos Buttler after his defiant 111 ball stay, in the sixth over after tea with a delivery which will be replayed tough the ages after the Englishman left it to rattle his off-stump.

Bowling with a cut on his spinning finger, Nathan Lyon then dismissed Jofra Archer shortly after, before an 82-ball partnership between Overton and Jack Leach took the match in to an area beyond just tense.

The entire crowd rode every block from the pair who fended off short stuff and tried to waste time too, with Leach constantly cleaning his steamed-up glasses to cheers around the ground.

Tim Paine is the first Australian captain to succeed in England in 18 years of trying.
Tim Paine is the first Australian captain to succeed in England in 18 years of trying.

It took a bowling change from nowhere, with Tim Paine bringing on part-timer spinner Marnus Labuschange, to split the stoic pair up.

Leach popped up a catch to Matthew Wade at short leg, and just seven balls later, when Ovteron was out, the match was over, giving Australia a drought-breaking win.

"That feels amazing to know the urn is coming home," man of the match Smith said.

"It was always one I wanted to tick off my bucket list, to get the urn over here. It's extremely satisfying.

"The boys were getting a little e bit tight out there.

"But We thought we'd get our eight chances, and it proved to be the way."

Steve Smith has proved the difference between the two sides across a breathless series.
Steve Smith has proved the difference between the two sides across a breathless series.

Pat Cummins finished with seven wickets after a bowling performance which underpinned his standing as the bets in the world.

Hazlewood's two final day wickets would count among his most special, and despite looking low on output Lyon battled on through the adversity of his cut finger.

Mitchell Starc disappointed after his three first innings wickets but with only a three-day turnaround until the next Test at the Oval, and with the lightest workload of the match, he could be called on again to help Australia seal its first series win England since 2001, which was the last time the urn went home on the plane with them.