Match Report:


Australia win Ashes classic after dramatic final day

A nerveless 55-run stand from Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon got Australia over the line at Edgbaston, in a match that will go down as an instant Ashes classic

Australia might not have fully put paid to 'Bazball', but they laid to rest the ghosts of Edgbaston 2005 with a nerve-shredding two-wicket win on the back of a redoubtable ninth-wicket stand between skipper Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon.

The unlikely pair of batting heroes came together with a distant 54 runs separating them from victory, and with England on the charge after Alex Carey fell to a stunning reflex caught-and-bowled by Joe Root.

But in the face of some relentless short-pitched bowling from Stuart Broad and Ollie Robinson armed with a second new-ball, Cummins and Lyon initially slugged and eventually scrambled their way to victory at 7.20pm on a hazy summer evening with less than five overs remaining.

Cummins sealed the moment with a glide to the third man boundary off Robinson with three required, initially looking like it might yield the two runs needed to tie the scores until Harry Brook's diving effort parried the ball over the rope in front of a bay of euphoric Australia fans.

Cummins immediately threw off his helmet and flung his bat in the air, before charging back towards his equally jubilant batting partner, hoisting Lyon off the ground in celebration.

It was a win against the trend of the final day, where Australia's pursuit had failed to gain any momentum in the face of some suffocating England bowling and with their mercurial skipper Ben Stokes deploying canny fields to reduce runs to a trickle.

Cummins, Lyon enter Ashes folklore after dramatic chase

But once Cameron Green and Usman Khawaja succumbed to inside edges chopped on to their stumps, as the benign Edgbaston pitch finally began to show some variable bounce on the fifth day, Australia's tail went hell for leather knowing the game had reached its make or break moment.

Carey had looked to lift the tempo, but perished to a typical act of Stokes intuition when the England captain opted not to take the new ball and instead persist with part-timer Root, who had become his front-line spinner with Moeen Ali nursing a badly blistered spinning finger.

Cummins and Lyon's unbeaten stand of 55 put paid to Robinson's jibe earlier in the match that England believed Australia "had three number elevens" in reference to the batting prowess of Lyon, nightwatchman Scott Boland who scored an invaluable 20, and Josh Hazlewood who was not needed but was doubtless a nervous wreck.

Image Id: 0F82E44C45564893B7C9855B0AF30E27 Image Caption: Nathan Lyon and Pat Cummins embrace after the stunning victory // Getty

Their backs-to-the-wall stand delivered Australia a win for the ages, in an Edgbaston Test destined to immediately join the 2005 classic in Ashes folklore.

Cummins' match-winning knock came after his four-wicket haul in England's second innings and an invaluable 38 in his team's first, having reached 30 in just one of his preceding 12 innings at Test level.

It was his highest Test score since making 61 against India at the MCG in 2018, but in terms of stature as opposed to statistics it stands as profound as any century as a pulsating final half-hour unfolded.

Lyon lauds Khawaja and 'cool, calm' Cummins in chase

With Broad beseeching the Edgbaston crowd to lift England across the line, and a dozen runs separating Australia from a quite remarkable win, he targeted the batters' front pads and paid the price.

A nudge from Cummins into the vacant in-field took Lyon to the business end, where he effortlessly leant on a full ball and lifted it to the long-on rope.

Broad changed tactics and dug the next into Lyon's ribs, but Australia's number 10 was up to the challenge against a near-new ball and helped himself to one through midwicket.

Another one off the pads to Cummins off Broad's final delivery left five to win, and a lengthy England huddle between most of the England team which eventually resolved it would be Robinson charged with the role filled by Steve Harmison 18 years ago.

His team's chief antagonist obliged by firing down five bouncers at Cummins in the hope of replicating Michael Kasprowicz's infamous gloved catch but Australia's captain was not about to take the bait.

Broad followed his colleague's lead by aiming at Lyon's upper body, and after wearing one on his bowling hand the off-spinner retaliated with a pull shot that dropped limply off the splice and might have been caught by Ollie Pope at short leg if he wasn't taking evasive action expecting full contact.

By the time Cummins milked another single, the pair were in the same position as Lee and Kasprowicz in 2005 with three required which came amid silence from the Hollies Stand but wild scenes of celebration from the Australia team.

Asked the previous evening for his recollections of the 2005 tussle, Lyon expressed his hope this match would not come down to a similar scenario whereby it was left to the tailenders to carry Australia over the line.

He didn't get his wish.

He was gifted a reprieve on three when Stokes failed to hold the sort of logic-defying one-handed catch he would habitually clasp, but then unfurled a textbook off-drive for four as Cummins defied his recent batting form to take the responsibility for victory.

Despite the presence of three catchers on the leg side boundary for the hook, and a couple in the in-field looking for a chance from the same stroke as England's bowlers attacked him with the short ball, Lyon refused to put away his pet stroke as anxieties grew.

Stokes's near-match turning grab was one of a few chances England muffed in the final session, but perhaps the turning point of the game had come on day one when he opted to declare with the prospect of more runs out there.

Image Id: E46EAA915C7B4C06B818856B7546DF57 Image Caption: Nathan Lyon was on two when Ben Stokes almost completed one of the great catches at square leg // Getty

But he had also swung the game in his team's favour prior to that pivotal moment.

As if divinely decreed, with the game up for grabs and Australia within 72 of their goal via a tortuous run chase, Stokes took the ball for the first time in the innings, and the Edgbaston floodlights duly burst into life.

Stokes had undertaken his first bowling spell of the summer in Australia's first innings with his seven overs – delivered under the obvious inconvenience of a heavily bandaged left knee – including the prized scalp of Steve Smith.

Disappointed Stokes defends aggressive declaration

But the stakes were ever-higher when he came on amid the gathering gloom and the swelling chorus just after 5.30pm and within two overs had achieved what none of his fellow trundlers had managed over the preceding five and a bit hours.

The final ball of his second over came from around the wicket and at such a glacial speed Khawaja felt compelled to play even though it would have passed innocuously past his off stump, but in jabbing down almost in afterthought the understandably weary opener dragged it on to middle.

Image Id: F2666B7EF30049CEA68F877DD657D8AA Image Caption: Khawaja chops on to Stokes with Australia still requiring 72 runs for victory // Getty

Khawaja, the first Australian to bat on all five days of an Ashes Test since Stan McCabe at The Oval in 1934, faced more balls across this series opener (518) than he had survived in all appearances on his previous two Ashes campaigns in the UK in 2013 and 2019.

As he trudged forlornly from the field, having set himself to bat throughout Australia's chase holding the responsibility to get them home, the Test had swung decidedly in England's favour.

Progress had been so slow throughout the preceding 75 overs, with runs scored at barely two and a half an over, mostly due to the relentless lines of England's bowlers and Stokes's preparedness to stack fielders in non-traditional positions to deprive batters of their preferred scoring options.

However, with Khawaja's dismissal and the second new-ball six overs away with rain also bearing down from the south-east, Australia didn't just change gear, they slammed into overdrive.

Carey survived a review from lbw off Root, then a dropped catch as he drilled a head-high slap-drive next ball at the bowler who threw up his hands in self-defence.

Cummins then took to Stokes and top-edged an attempted pull that skewed despairingly away from the fielder scampering from mid-wicket, then Carey aimed a similarly speculative lofted drive over mid-off as the target narrowed to 67.

The madness momentarily subsided after Cummins launched Root back over his head, as both batters' adrenaline rush seemed to settle and some regulation strokeplay ensued.

Not that the mayhem ended completely.

With 55 needed and Cummins on six, the Australia skipper slammed a low drive back at Root who again threw out a hand instinctively and it struck his outstretched fingers before dribbling behind him for another single.

But the sighters the Australia pair had provided proved their undoing when – at the third attempt – Root clung on to a stunner cracked back at him after Stokes had defied convention by declining the new ball that had become due and persisted with his part-time spinner.

England had taken the field for the final session with Australia needing 98 from a minimum of 228 balls and five wickets up their sleeve, and assignment that – on paper – appeared seemingly straightforward.

But there's myriad reasons not many teams chase down tallies beyond 250 in the fourth innings of a Test, and with the previously benign Edgbaston pitch at last showing signs of variable bounce and occasional biting spin a couple of those were squarely in play.

Sensing it was now or failure, the home team began their final push with Robinson taking up the cudgels against Khawaja – the resumption of a battle that had escalated on and off the pitch since Sunday – with a series of short balls, one of which sent the opener stumbling backwards.

At the other end, Root had taken up the role of primary spinner given Moeen was effectively out of action because of a split blister on his spinning finger, who stood at the top of his bowling mark demonstrably exhorting the crowd to get behind their men.

The Birmingham fans responded with chants of 'boring, boring Aussies' as Khawaja and Green whittled away at the target through singles, but pressure was building and it was Green who succumbed.

Robinson angled a delivery from wide on the crease that the tall allrounder tried to dab behind point, but it took the inside of his bat and instead rocked back off stump.

He and Khawaja had advanced the cause by 49 from the 113 balls they lasted in partnership, but when they were parted a further 89 were needed.

Image Id: DB07F296F8914EA4B9059E0CA5DC2F32 Image Caption: Player of the Match Usman Khawaja batted for more than 500 deliveries

A total of two and a half hours playing time and potential 31 overs had been lost to the weather, but with the respective targets 174 runs and seven wickets when the first of the day's revised minimum of 67 overs was bowled, there was clearly ample opportunity for a result.

Provided no further rain fell.

The light but insistent mizzle that set in around sunrise at 4.45am finally dissipated at noon-ish and, after a couple of ground inspections during which the umpires showed concern at damp patches near the boundary in front of the Hollies Stand, the game resumed at 2.15pm.

Thrilling Test 'felt 50-50 the whole match': Cummins

It began as it had the previous evening, with James Anderson bowling at Khawaja and it soon became apparent the residual dampness in the outfield was another obstacle Australia would need to overcome in their pursuit of victory.

Having finished day four with his highest Test score to date (13no), Scott Boland deftly glided his first delivery between third slip and gully but instead of racing to rope as it would have done earlier in the Test it was gathered inside the rope with the batters reduced to running three.

Image Id: 0AB567D887EA428AB95B082921195E9A Image Caption: Boland cuts early on day five // Getty

England began with a conventional field setting to Khawaja as opposed to the 'Brumbrella' ring of catchers in front and on both sides of the wicket.

But with the sun bursting through and afternoon temperature pushing 23C, there appeared little initial assistance for veteran quicks Anderson and Broad and after seven unproductive overs, Broad signalled a return to the short-ball ploy that had accounted for Boland in the first innings.

With close catchers installed at short square leg and silly point, Broad fired in a bouncer the nightwatcher adroitly ducked beneath before the follow-up was the sucker ball half-volley Boland duly nicked behind.

With the crowd engaged and Travis Head, player of the series in the previous Ashes battle at the wicket, England went full funky with the slips removed and three fielders dispatched to the boundary between deep square leg and fine.

The absence of anyone stationed in front of Head from beyond mid-wicket confirmed the left-hander was not about to get a ball of driving length and he was peppered with short stuff, taking 13 balls to find his first run.

From the final ball before the day's first drinks break, Khawaja – who had left more deliveries across the Test than all of England's batters combined – offered no stroke at a wide ball from Robinson who engaged in some spirited chat with the Australia opener.

Two days after Robinson had fired an expletive-laden spray at Khawaja upon taking his wicket in the first innings, the unapologetic England seamer followed up with further words as the players took refreshment before teammate Anderson stepped in to lead his aggrieved colleague away.

When Moeen came on after an hour, Australia's target had dropped below 150 and then reduced by a further 10 within three balls of him entering the attack as Head helped himself to boundaries off a couple of looseners.

But with his fifth, Moeen altered the game's trajectory with a delivery that pushed Head back on to his stumps and surprised the left-hander with extra bounce and sufficient turn to take the shoulder of his bat and provide Joe Root with the first slips catch of the Test.

Image Id: FE586AFD14C743158A99F09A26A30791 Image Caption: Moeen celebrates the wicket of Head // Getty

With Green at the wicket and the Edgbaston crowd exhorting every near miss and miscued stroke, Stokes turned to the game's most successful seam bowler and Anderson snuck a couple past the all-rounder's probing bat in his opening over.

Green found runs, albeit off the outside edge to the boundary through a vacant second slip which prompted Stokes to position himself so close to the bat in the catching cordon in most workplaces he would have been removed under occupational health and safety protocols.

Khawaja then reached 50, his sixth in Tests from his past 13 innings, from a patient 143 balls in four hours of batting having added 16 from the 62 deliveries he had faced on the fifth day.

By tea, that quotient showed 22 from 78 balls with Australia having posted 2-76 from 29 overs in the rain-delayed first session but, crucially, the target had dropped into double figures with 98 needed from a minimum 38 overs in the final act.

2023 Qantas Ashes Tour of the UK

First Test: Australia won by two wickets

Second Test: Wednesday June 28-Sunday July 2, Lord’s

Third Test: Thursday July 6-Monday July 10, Headingley

Fourth Test: Wednesday July 19-Sunday July 23, Old Trafford

Fifth Test: Thursday July 27-Monday 31, The Oval

Australia squad: Pat Cummins (c), Scott Boland, Alex Carey (wk), Cameron Green, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Josh Inglis (wk), Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitch Marsh, Todd Murphy, Michael Neser, Matthew Renshaw, Steve Smith (vc), Mitchell Starc, David Warner

England squad: Ben Stokes (c), James Anderson, Jonathan Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Harry Brook, Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Ollie Pope, Matthew Potts, Ollie Robinson, Joe Root, Josh Tongue, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood