The Ashes series – Test cricket’s ultimate showdown – heads into the fourth encounter at Old Trafford, with Australia still needing one victory to retain the urn.
History: Played 349: Australia 145 V England 109 (95 Draws)
Last meeting: August 22-26: England d Australia by 1 wicket at Headingley
Final Thoughts: The cricketing world is still catching its breath after England’s Ashes-saving win at Headingley – a one-wicket result rightly hailed as one of the greatest Tests of all time.
Australia made just 179 in the first innings Jofra Archer (6/45) tore through their line-up. But England collapsed for just 67 all out in reply.
The tourists scratched their way to 246 in their second dig after looked certain to rack up an Ashes-retaining win despite a fighting 77 from Joe Root as England chased an unlikely 359.
But Ben Stokes’ phenomenal 135 not out – including a 76-run last-wicket stand with No.11 Jack Leach (1*) – carried England to a famous triumph.
Marnus Labuschagne (74 and 80) top-scored in both Australian innings, as he did in the second innings at Lord’s. David Warner (61 in the first innings) was the only other Australian batsman to make a half-century at Headingley.
Changes for Aussies
Labuschagne’s outstanding displays since coming in for Smith have seen him retained. Usman Khawaja drops out with Smith returning. Meanwhile, Mitchell Starc is a chance make his first appearance of the series as a replacement for the rested James Pattinson, though Peter Siddle is vying for a return also.
Selectors have resisted the urge to recall in-form all-rounder Mitch Marsh, with Travis Head and Matt Wade safe for now.
England have an Ashes bogey to overcome at Old Trafford: they have not beaten Australia at the famed venue since 1981. The last two Manchester Ashes clashes finished in draws. But England are unbeaten in their last 11 Tests at Old Trafford against all nations.
With retention of the Ashes slipping so agonisingly out of reach in the third Test, this shapes as a massive test of Australia’s character. But the return of Steve Smith from concussion is a huge boost – his scores so far in the series are 144, 142 and 92.
The result is a flip of the coin, and another Old Trafford draw might provide the best value here with rain forecast during the first three days. But count on Smith having a major influence once again.