Australia beat England by 185 runs to win the fourth Test at Old Trafford and, in doing so, ensured that they retained the Ashes.
Both sides showed changes from the previous match at Headingley. England preferred Craig Overton to Chris Woakes, and shuffled their batting order, with Joe Denly moving up to open, whilst Jason Roy dropped to four. Meanwhile, for Australia, the fit again Steve Smith replaced Usman Khawaja, and Mitchell Starc came in for James Pattinson.
Australia won the toss and decided to bat first. However, it was England who struck first, with Stuart Broad having David Warner caught behind off the second ball he faced. Broad then accounted for the other opener, Marcus Harris, lbw for 13, but Marnus Labuschagne and Smith re-built the Australian innings, until first lunch, and then rain, caused a delay, with the visitors 98 – 2.
When play resumed the pair added a further 46 for the third wicket until Labuschagne nibbled at a ball from Overton and fell for 67. However, on a rain-affected day, Smith and Travis Head put on a further 26 before play closed for the day with Smith unbeaten on 60, and Head 18 not out.
The second day was completely dominated by Australia, despite the early loss of Travis Head for 19, lbw to Broad. However, Smith and Matthew Wade then put on 41 for the fifth wicket, as Smith continued to defy England. He reached his 26th test century before Wade fell for 19, caught by Joe Root off Jack Leach.
Smith was caught off a no-ball for 118, but then he and Tim Paine really pressed home the Australian advantage with a stand of 145 for the sixth wicket, with Paine rediscovering his form with the bat. The captain made 58 before he was caught behind off Overton. Pat Cummins fell cheaply to Leach, but Smith reached his double century, partnered by Starc who had begun to attack the bowlers.
Smith’ long innings finally came to an end when he was caught by Joe Denly off Joe Root for 211, but Starc and Nathan Lyon scored freely until Australia declared on 497 – 8. Starc was unbeaten on 54, including 2 sixes, and Lyon was 26 not out.
A weary England side began their innings with Rory Burns and Denly. And the pair could not survive to stumps, with Denly caught by Wade at short leg by Cummins. Burns and night watchman Overton saw England through to close of play at 23 – 1, but already they were focused just on saving the match.
Rain delayed the start of play on the third day but, when things did resume, Overton was soon out, caught by Smith at second slip off Josh Hazlewood. But Burns and Joe Root embarked on a long partnership of 141 for the third wicket, as they frustrated the Australian bowlers for much of the day. Their stand finally came to an end when Burns was caught by Smith at slip off Hazlewood for 81, and, soon afterwards, Root was lbw to the same bowler for 71. Jason Roy had a point to prove, after being dropped down in the order, but he gave his critics more ammunition when he was bowled by Hazlewood for 22 on the drive.
Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow were at the crease when bad light brought an end to pay with England 200 – 5.
England’s hopes of saving the follow-on suffered a blow on the fourth morning when Bairstow was bowled by Starc for 17, and Stokes was caught by Smith at slip off the same bowler for 26. Jofra Archer was then caught behind of Pat Cummins, but Jos Buttler offered some late resistance with his best innings of the series to date.
Stuart Broad was bowled by Starc just after lunch, but Buttler, in the company of last man Leach, managed to avoid the follow-on, although Buttler was bowled by Cummins for 41 soon after that landmark was reached, as England were all out for 301.
That gave Australia a lead on first innings of 196, and they set about extending that in their second innings, although not without some early difficulty. David Warner picked up a pair when he was lbw to Broad in the first over, and his fellow opener Harris departed in a similar fashion to the English pace bowler. Then it was the turn of Archer to strike, first having Labuschagne lbw and then bowling Travis Head, to reduce the visitors to 44 – 4.
As ever though, the man England struggled to get out was Smith, and the former skipper shared a stand of 105 for the 5th wicket with Wade, scoring 82, including 10 fours. He was to Leach, caught by Stokes, and he was soon followed back to the pavilion by Wade, caught behind off Archer. Paine and Starc though added 28 before Australia declared on 186 – 6, setting England a theoretical 383 to win.
That quickly became academic when Burns gave Cummins a leading edge and was caught at mid-off for a duck. And then Cummins clean-bowled Joe Root with his next delivery. Denly and Roy managed to see the rest of the day out, but at 18 – 2, Australia were on the verge of retaining the Ashes.
Denly and Roy managed to steer their side through the first hour on Sunday, but then Cummins struck twice. First he bowled Roy for 31, and then he had Stokes caught behind for just a single. Denly made his half century, but then he fell to the bowling of Lyon, caught by Labuschagne at short-leg after the ball bounced up out of the rough. Bairstow and Buttler then shared a stand of 45, before Bairstow was leg before to Starc for 25.
Buttler was the next to fall, bowled by Hazlewood for 34, and then Archer was lbw to Lyon. Overton and Leach hinted that another miraculous rescue could be on the cards for England with a 9th wicket stand of 23, but Leach fell to part-time leg spinner Labuschagne for 12, caught off the glove by Wade. And the brave tail-end resistance was finally broken when Overton was lbw for 21. England had been bowled out for 197 second time round.