A sensational 189 from opener Zak Crawley helped England reach 384-4 on the second day of the fourth Ashes Test on Thursday, with the host storming past Australia’s first-innings total to lead by 67.
With the weekend weather forecast promising rain, England knows it is in a race against time to get the win it needs to level the series and produced a blistering display of aggressive shotmaking that was too hot for a shellshocked Australia.
After taking the final two wickets to bowl Australia out for 317 at the start of the day, Crawley, ably supported by Moeen Ali (54) and Joe Root (84), became the series’ top runscorer with his huge knock.
England’s hero from the last Test, Harry Brook, and captain Ben Stokes kept the boundaries flowing to extend the lead, and it will look to ramp things up even more on Friday as England looks to secure a quick-fire success.
Day 2 Scorecard
Much was made of England’s aggressive ‘Bazball’ approach, with the style of play enjoying mixed results in this series, but having come off at Old Trafford, it has put the hosts in with a chance of keeping their Ashes dream alive.
England still had work to do early on with Australia resuming on 299-8, but veteran Jimmy Anderson, bowling from the end named after him at Old Trafford, had Pat Cummins caught off the very first ball of the day.
Chris Woakes removed Josh Hazlewood to finish things off to complete his five-wicket haul, but England’s reply got off to the worst possible start as opener Ben Duckett fell for just one before lunch.
Crawley, who lived a charmed life at times, led the counter attack, helping England plunder 178 runs in 25 overs in the afternoon session, storming to the fourth fastest hundred from an Englishman against Australia in Test history off 93 balls.
Moeen passed 3000 Test runs on the way to his half century, while Root’s 59th Test 50 came in no time at all, with the 206-run third-wicket partnership with Crawley finally broken after he was bowled by a Hazlewood ball that kept low.
Stokes and Brook were more reserved in seeing England through to stumps, but the damage to a dejected Australia, who toiled all afternoon with very little reward, had been done.
A draw or a win for Australia in Manchester will ensure they retain the Ashes, while victory for the hosts will level the series and take an exhilarating contest to a decider at the Oval in London next week.
The latter, thanks to Crawley’s big-hitting heroics and a extraordinary run rate, is now a real possibility, even if the rain does come.
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