England will look to captain Ben Stokes on the last day of the second Ashes Test at Lord’s in their attempt to pull off another miraculous chase.
Day four had initially been slow going for most of the morning and afternoon session before a dramatic final few hours on Saturday night saw Australia all out for 279 and England reduced to 114 for four in pursuit of 371.
It only told half the story with bouncers aplenty and Nathan Lyon writing his name in Ashes folklore.
Opener Ben Duckett remains at the crease after he earned a late reprieve and the equation is now simple; Australia need six more wickets to move 2-0 up and England a further 257 runs to clinch a record-breaking Lord’s chase.
View from the dressing room
Another record chase?
The Stokes and Brendon McCullum era kicked off last summer with a fourth-innings chase at Lord’s against New Zealand and it may take another to keep the wheels on track.
Critics are ready to pile in on England’s ‘Bazball’ approach, which has veered too far on the aggressive dial at times during this Test, but the skipper has been the exception to the rule with an impressive degree of patience in both of his innings so far.
When England chased 279 to beat New Zealand at Lord’s, it proved the catalyst for a memorable summer with an incredible 378 knocked off against India at Edgbaston but the true test of this free spirit style was always going to come against Australia. Defeat on Sunday will leave Australia with one hand on the urn and may land a telling blow on the confidence of a group who insist entertainment tops everything.
Limping Lyon shows heart
Lyon wrote his name firmly into Ashes folklore with a batting display of pure guts and determination. A “significant” calf strain for the Australia spinner on day two means he is unlikely to feature again in the Ashes, but he made sure there would be one final contribution in this series.
With Australia reduced to 264 for nine, a lead of 355, Lyon hobbled out to a round of applause. He had been on crutches since his injury on Thursday night and started his journey through the Lord’s corridors when the eighth wicket went down in fear of being timed out.
After he limped out, a crazy 25-minute period followed with Lyon able to middle a number from the bat but not in any fit state to take the runs on offer, although he did hop through for a single before his crowning moment arrived when he pulled Broad for four. He was out later in the over, but left to a standing ovation following a brave 13-ball knock of four that helped the Aussies add 15 more runs.
Amazing Ahmed acrobatics
The comical scene of Lyon hopping through for a single only happened because of an outstanding piece of fielding by substitute Rehan Ahmed, who somehow prevented Starc’s big heave off Broad clearing the boundary rope.
With Lyon unable to run singles and England continuously bowling bumpers, Starc took on the big shot but saw his pull clawed back by Ahmed in mid-air before Zak Crawley collected the bouncing ball to force Lyon to limp across the wicket from the pavilion end.
It was play of the day during a remarkable passage of cricket.
Safe hands Joe
When Joe Root took a sharp chance with his left hand at short leg to dismiss Travis Head off Broad’s bowling after lunch, it helped the ex-England captain clinch another record.
It was Root’s 176th Test catch, taking him beyond Sir Alastair Cook’s record total for England excluding wicketkeepers.
Root, in typical fashion, quickly set about extending his tally with two further grabs to send Alex Carey and Josh Hazlewood back to the pavilion during a barrage of short-pitched bowling by the hosts in the morning and afternoon session.
Most of the talk was of a catch which did not stand, though, with former Australia bowler Glenn McGrath labelling the decision to overturn Starc’s grab of Duckett “a disgrace”.
The Marylebone Cricket Club, custodians of the laws of the game as well as owners of Lord’s, were quick to clarify the relevant law in support of the umpires.
“Law 33.3 clearly states that a catch is only completed when the fielder has “complete control over the ball and his/her own movement,” the MCC wrote on Twitter.
“The ball cannot touch the ground before then. In this particular incident, Mitchell Starc was still sliding as the ball rubbed the ground, therefore he was not in control of his movement.”
Prince George tucks in
Day four of the second Ashes Test was enjoyed by The Prince of Wales and his son Prince George.
George, aged nine, looked to be engrossed in the action while equally focused on his pizza as his father caught up with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in a box at Lord’s.
All three will hope to have witnessed the start of a record chase.