|4th LV = Insurance Ashes Test, Emirates Old Trafford (Day 2 of 5):|
|Australia 317 (Labuschagne 51, Marsh 51; Woakes 5-62)|
|England 384-4 (Crawley 189, Root 84, Moeen 54)|
|England lead by 67 runs|
|The results sheet|
Zak Crawley’s stunning 189 stunned Australia and kept England on course for an Ashes comeback on the thrilling second day of the fourth Test at Old Trafford.
Crawley scored the highest score by an England batsman in an Ashes Test at home for 26 years to give the hosts the perfect chance to level the series at 2-2.
In a 182-ball stand, he hit 21 fours and three sixes to help England to 384-4, a lead of 67.
Crawley shared a stand of 121 with Moeen Ali, who was superb making 54 at number three, then a troubled double-century partnership with Joe Root, the former captain unlucky to fall on 84.
Although Crawley and Root were both of the deliveries kept low, Harry Brook and Ben Stokes laid a platform to attack on Friday morning with an unbroken stand of 33.
On a perfect day for the home side, James Anderson dismissed Pat Cummins with the first ball of the morning and Chris Woakes completed his maiden five-wicket haul in an Ashes Test to dismiss Australia for 317.
With the series on the line and inclement weather closing in on the weekend, England not only wanted to build a lead but do so quickly enough to allow time to force a result.
They did so in a manner that was hardly believable and now have a golden opportunity to level the series at 2-2 and set up a delicious Ashes decider at The Oval.
England’s ambush shocked the Austrians
Even the most optimistic England fan could not have predicted this. Their first-day performance with the ball, reducing Australia to 299-8, set up the prospect of a good shot at leveling the series. There was also the risk of a collapse giving up any chance of lifting the urn.
What happened was England’s best day of the summer – a celebration of everything good about the cricket they have played under Stokes and Brendon McCullum, accompanied by the Party Stand at Old Trafford.
If Australia weren’t quite Baseball yet, they’ve now steamrolled out of Crawley and co on a trail of destruction that scattered fielders, boggled minds and did terrible damage to bowling figures. Todd Murphy, the conspicuous absentee from Australia’s XI, would have been relieved by drinking rather than bowling.
To compound a terrible day for the tourists, fast bowler Mitchell Starc struggled with a hamstring injury and then injured his left shoulder diving into the field.
Anderson had Cummins caught at cover, while Woakes needed two wickets at number 11 Josh Hazlewood caught at slip – the first a no-ball. It proved to be 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 aggression, glorious stroke play and urgent running. The hosts may feel in a position to have Australia scrambling again before lunch on Friday.
Any tilt at victory will have to come with the weather around the corner and on a field that is starting to show some signs of variable sharp bounce.
But England have created a huge opening. They have never come back from 2-0 down to win an Ashes series. The comeback is ongoing.
Despite his modest record, England have always believed Kent’s Crawley to be a match-winner. This innings, a knock of grace for the ages, was a spectacular vindication.
England were restless in the lunch spell. Ben Duckett edged Starc behind for one and Crawley had to overturn giving some weight to Cameron Green in the 20th over.
But Crawley and makeshift number three Moeen built their century partnership intelligently and Crawley burst into life after the break.
With incredible whip, beautiful drives and some powerful splashes, Crawley blew up the Australian bowling. He moved from 50 to 100 in 26 balls, a 93-ball knock, England’s fourth-fastest in Ashes cricket.
Crawley smashed 106 runs from 82 balls in the session between lunch and tea. A stand of 206 with Root was amassed in just 186 deliveries. The Australians went over the plan and behind the plan, their pitch became ragged and the bowlers tired.
Just as Crawley looked set for a double ton, Green got one to keep low and he played on, leaving to rapturous applause from a crowd that had witnessed one of the great hundreds of all time. .
Root and head Moeen support mold
This was a brilliant effort from Moeen, who came out of retirement for this series and finds himself as the only front-line spinner in the match and filling a significant gap in England’s order.
He batted coolly and displayed the odd touch of style. The standing ovation for reaching his first Test half-century in four years recognized Moeen’s selfless service this summer. He was unlucky that a full toss from Starc was caught sharply by Usman Khawaja.
Root reached 130-2 and the game in the balance but was instantly at his desperate and majestic best.
He dealt with Australia’s short-ball scheme by expertly executing hooks and pulls. His drive to score brought 40 off his first 30 balls – Root’s fastest ever start to a Test innings. He played his opposite brand innings from Mitchell Marsh and Cummins.
Root deserved a century of his own, only to be bowled by a bowler from Hazlewood – keeping even lower than the one Crawley got.
The way in which Brook and Stokes bowled calmly in the morning is ominous for the Australians. The sight of nighthawk Stuart Broad packing late in the day was a sign of England’s intent.