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Australia retain Ashes with thrilling win over England at Old Trafford

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Men’s Ashes: England v Australia, fourth Specsavers Test (day five of five)
Australia 497-8 dec (Smith 211) & 186-6 dec (Smith 82)
England 301 (Burns 81, Root 71) & 197 (Cummins 4-43)
Australia won by 185 runs & retain Ashes
Scorecard

Australia finally broke England’s brave resistance to retain the Ashes with a 185-run victory in the fourth Test at Old Trafford.

Amid incredible tension on the fifth evening, England ninth-wicket pair Craig Overton and Jack Leach survived for 14 overs, delighting a partisan crowd that grew in noisy belief.

There was hope that England could pull off one more stunning achievement in a summer of astonishing moments, only for it to be sucked away when Leach turned the leg-spin of Marnus Labuschagne to short leg.

Overton was lbw to Josh Hazlewood with 13.3 of the day’s 98 overs remaining, sparking Australian jubilation.

England began on 18-2, chasing 383, but more realistically looking to bat through the day and set up a series decider at The Oval.

Joe Denly made 53, while Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler showed defiance and the big-hearted Overton spent 105 balls at the crease.

But the relentless Australia attack was simply too much to hold back as pace bowler Pat Cummins ended with 4-43.

It means Australia will leave the UK with the urn for the first time since 2001, while England will not add the Ashes to the World Cup they won in July.

England must now win the final Test if they are to avoid suffering their first home series defeat against any side since 2014.

The fifth Test – coach Trevor Bayliss’ final game in charge – begins on Thursday.

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England battle in vain

Despite the result, England cannot be accused of a lack of fight in their bid to follow up the World Cup final and their third-Test win with one more remarkable Sunday.

Denly’s forward defence to the first ball of the day was cheered by a crowd that was willing England to hang on, and the Kent batsman came through a number of scares to register his second half-century in as many matches.

Roy played within himself for 31 from 67 balls, only to be bowled by Cummins, who had Ben Stokes caught behind for one. Denly punched off-spinner Lyon to short leg after lunch, yet England had plenty more defiance left.

Buttler used up 14 overs with Bairstow and 21 with Overton, with whom he was roared back after tea. Although Buttler’s 111-ball vigil was over when he played no shot to Hazlewood’s wonderful inswinger, even that was not the end.

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Leach joined Overton to face the second new ball. Every defensive stroke, every time Leach stopped to clean his glasses, every occasion that a new pair of gloves appeared from the dressing room was greeted with delight by a crowd louder than at any point in the match.

When Leach was caught by Matthew Wade, it ended a 51-ball stay and punctured the atmosphere.

Two overs later, Overton, who had earlier overturned being given out lbw to Cummins, was pinned by a Hazlewood inswinger and, this time, the review could not save him.

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Bowlers take Australia to the Ashes

Cummins removed Rory Burns and captain Joe Root in successive balls on the fourth evening and it was the world’s number one bowler who again led the Australia attack on Sunday.

Along with Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc, the fast bowlers incessantly tested England’s patience with accuracy, technique with movement, and mettle with hostility.

Often they rotated at the opposite end to off-spinner Lyon, who struggled to provide a constant threat, but did at least account for Denly with bounce and, later, Jofra Archer with one that scuttled.

In between, left-armer Starc got one to nip back and trap Bairstow leg before and, when the ball needed changing after 58 overs, the replacement swung prodigiously, allowing Hazlewood to produce the beauty that accounted for Buttler.

Only against the stoic pairing of Overton and Leach did the fast men start to show signs of tiredness.

Australia turned to Labuschagne, who needed only five balls to deliver, then, as they gathered to watch the Overton review, the resulting decision sparked wild celebrations.

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Smith cures Australia travel sickness

For the past 18 years, only one touring team – England in 2010-11 – have ended a series with the Ashes. That this Australia side have ended their own drought is an impressive turnaround from the turmoil of the ball-tampering scandal 18 months ago.

That controversy has led to them being taunted by the home crowds throughout this series, none more so than former captain Steve Smith.

He responded with 671 runs in only five innings and has been backed up by some superb pace bowling by Cummins and Hazlewood.

Australia would have secured the urn in the third Test had Stokes not played one of the all-time great innings to give England a one-wicket win.

England can point to the rain that denied them victory in the second Test at Lord’s and the calf injury that hit James Anderson on the first morning of the first Test and ruled him out for the rest of the series.

But, in a contest of two fragile batting units, the insatiable Smith has been the big difference and Australia’s bowling has carried a more constant threat.

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‘I’ve not had too much sleep’ – what they said

England captain Joe Root: “I’m bitterly disappointed. To come so close to taking it to The Oval is hard to take.

“The way we fought today, the character we showed – every single one of them can be proud of that today. You learn a lot about your team. Everyone stood up and played bravely.

“We have seen some wonderful Test cricket and I expect the same at The Oval. We want to level the series. We have to pick ourselves up and turn up at The Oval.”

Australia captain Tim Paine: “I’m pretty pumped. This team has been through a lot. The character we have showed says a lot about the people in our side. The boys have got what they deserved.

“It’s been an unbelievable series. Every Test has almost gone down to the wire. I’ve not slept that well!

“Steve is the best player I have ever seen. He showed that again in this Test match. He knows the game so well and reads it so well.”

Player of the match Steve Smith: “I have been here a few times and didn’t get the chocolates then. To know the urn coming home is incredibly pleasing.

“We came here to win the Ashes. We’ll celebrate hard tonight, knowing the urn is coming home, but we also want to win at The Oval.

“I’m not sure I have ever played better. I have come back fresh from a year out, but relaxed and chilled out. I want to be the one in the middle doing my job for the team as I don’t particularly enjoy watching cricket!”

Australia coach Justin Langer: “We got everyone together after Headingley and watched that horrible final 15 minutes. The feeling in the camp was so bad the night before, we had to face it head on.

“I’ve been coaching a while now – this has been the most challenging week of my career, and now my most satisfying.”

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