The First Test of the 2023 Ashes series hangs in balance as Australia shot out England for 273 and knocked off 107/3 in their second innings, leaving them 174 runs behind with one day’s play remaining at the Edgbaston here on Monday.
Australia skipper Pat Cummins (4-63) and spinner Nathan Lyon (4-80) shared eight wickets between them as Australia, who had conceded a small lead to England, shot out the hosts for 273 in their second innings.
Joe Root inspired a quickfire England start to the day, with Harry Brook and Ben Stokes also making valuable contributions.
But four-wicket hauls for the outstanding Cummins and Lyon saw England bowled out for 273, leaving a target of 281 for the tourists to win the Test.
Stuart Broad took two crucial late wickets to leave an England win still very much in the mix with some cloud and possible rain delays expected on the fifth day.
The England middle-order of Joe Root (46 off 55 balls), Harry Brook (46 off 52) and captain Ben Stokes (43 off 66) got the start but could not raise a big score as England failed to take advantage of the psychological advantage they had gained in this Test.
Australia’s chase began with a missed opportunity off the bowling of James Anderson as an edge off Usman Khawaja flew between Jonny Bairstow and Root at first slip. And the openers put together a solid partnership worth 61 to build a good platform in the chase before Ollie Robinson got the crucial breakthrough by drawing an edge from David Warner (36).
England’s chances of securing victory on day five were given a boost when a fired-up Broad removed Marnus Labuschagne (13) for the second time in the match, once again with an outswinger. And Broad struck again to dismiss Steve Smith for six.
But Australia made it through to the close just three down, with Khawaja and nightwatchman Scott Boland set to resume with the score on 107/3 and with the target still very much within their reach.
Earlier, an attempted reverse scoop from Joe Root off Pat Cummins’ first ball of the day set the tone for a dramatic first hour in which England raced to triple figures.
Cummins responded to that early challenge with a stunning spell of fast bowling, cleaning up Ollie Pope for 14 with a perfectly-executed inswinging yorker. But the brilliance of Cummins didn’t stop England going after the rest of the Australian attack.
England raised 127 runs in the opening session for the loss of three wickets, leaving both teams better-placed to win the Test than they had been at the start of play.
Root’s 55-ball 46 ended when he charged Nathan Lyon and was stumped for the first time in his Test career, handing Alex Carey and Lyon their third stumping of the Test.
And Harry Brook also departed for 46, his coming off 52 balls, when he took on Lyon and was well caught by Marnus Labuschagne.
Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow changed the approach almost immediately as they slowed the pace of scoring through to the lunch break, with the latter surviving lbw calls off Scott Boland in consecutive balls of the final over of the session.
With the score at 155/5 at lunch and England leading by 162, the game was perfectly poised with five sessions (and some forecasted rain) to come.
A missed reverse sweep saw Bairstow trapped lbw by Lyon for 20, and Cummins’ superb day continued when he had Stokes trapped in front for 43 just as he was looking to accelerate. And when Moeen Ali gloved behind off Josh Hazlewood for 19 it looked like England’s innings was going to fizzle out.
But the tail added some much-needed runs, with Ollie Robinson (27), James Anderson (12) and Stuart Broad (10*) lifting the total to 273, leaving Australia needing 281 to win. All nine England batters to feature on the day reached double figures, but none was able to reach a half-century as Australia kept the target under control.
England 393/8 decl & 273 in 66.2 overs (Joe Root 46, Harry Brook 46, Ben Stokes 43; Pat Cummins 4-63, Nathan Lyon 4-80) lead Australia 386 & 107/3 in 30 overs (Usman Khawaja 34 not out, David Warner 36; Stuart Broad 2-28) by 174 runs