Ashes 2019: England on brink after damaging fourth day at Old Trafford

England’s Ashes hopes have all-but ended after late wickets left Australia in control of the fourth Test at Old Trafford.

Mitchell Starc helped the current Ashes holders knock over the remaining England batsmen in the opening session as the hosts avoided the follow-on.

Although Jofra Archer and Stuart Broad then wrecked havoc among the Australian openers - reducing them to 44-4 - Steve Smith and Matthew Wade helped propel them to a lead of 382.

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England were left reeling by late wickets
England were left reeling by late wickets

And late wickets from Pat Cummins left England reeling by seeing off the dangerous Rory Burns and captain Joe Root ahead of the final day.

It means England have it all to do on the final day to avoid falling 2-1 behind in the series, with one to play.

In a brisk morning session, it was the enigmatic Starc who discovered his best bowling form.

READ MORE: As it happened - Fourth day of fourth Test

Jonny Bairstow became Mitchell Starc's first victim of the Ashes series (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP)
Jonny Bairstow became Mitchell Starc's first victim of the Ashes series (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP)
Starc then dismissed Stokes in a vastly improved performance (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Starc then dismissed Stokes in a vastly improved performance (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Putting a poor day with the ball firmly behind him, Australia’s clinical World Cup bowler dismissed Jonny Bairstow in trademark fashion - swinging the second new ball back between the gate.

Once more, the hopes of an entire country fell on the shoulders of Ben Stokes. This time, though, he fell to another wicked Starc delivery for just 26 runs as England’s batsmen found themselves tortured repeatedly by Starc’s late swing.

Archer, by contrast, proved his own worst enemy when he was almost run out first ball leisurely strolling between the creases - only for a misdirected throw to hand him a lifeline.

In the end Archer joined Stokes in edging behind, although it was a meagre shot on offer to hand Pat Cummins his second wicket of the innings.

Australia left Headingley ruing poor DRS calls and their phantom opponent struck again when, having wasted their final review in the morning session, Marais Erasmus denied them an LBW shout by Starc.

It duly cost them as a fine Jos Buttler drive brought up the hosts’ 300 - and subsequently avoiding of the follow-on, as unlikely as it was that the visitors would have taken it.

Cummins did eventually wrap up the innings, beating Butler’s extravagant swipe at the ball and ending a useful innings of 41.

Almost as soon as the innings had ended for England, David Warner was trapped on his crease by Broad for a duck.

England’s ever-reliable strike bowler, prolific against the left-handed batsmen, then took his second scalp of the innings when he handed the same fate to Marcus Harris.

Another mark went against the visitors when he wasted a review on the decision - which was revealed to be clearly correct.

Buttler was the final wicket to fall for England (Photo by Mike Egerton/PA Images via Getty Images)
Buttler was the final wicket to fall for England (Photo by Mike Egerton/PA Images via Getty Images)
But Warner was dismissed after less than an over in the middle. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)
But Warner was dismissed after less than an over in the middle. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)

Broad was enjoying one of his trademark spells against Australia, beating the edge on a number of occasions but it was his partner Archer who struck next.

Picking up his first wicket of the match, he trapped Marnus Labuschagne in front - the third LBW of the innings - with a review upholding the umpire’s call.

The electric atmosphere in the crowd carried to those on the pitch and perhaps contributed to a wild overthrow to the boundary in an attempt to run out Travis Head at the non-strikers’ end.

Head then attempted to support the infallible Smith, but was castled the ball after driving Archer to the boundary through cover.

As play dwindled towards tea, however, Smith took control alongside Matthew Wade. After tea, the former Australia skipper played a variety of aggressive shots in an effort to accelerate the visitors’ lead back towards 300.

By contrast, Root appeared content to plug the scoring despite Broad and Archer’s scintillating opening spell.

Broad followed up with the wicket of Australia opener Marcus Harris (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)
Broad followed up with the wicket of Australia opener Marcus Harris (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)
Archer celebrated his first wicket of the Test by dismissing Labuschagne (Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images)
Archer celebrated his first wicket of the Test by dismissing Labuschagne (Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images)

Acceleration came as Smith reached another 50, although Stokes - England’s third Test hero - almost pulled off a sensational catch with the batsman on 48.

The opposing talisman played a variety of unorthodox shots as he attempted to propel the score forwards, while Root countered with peculiar field settings.

But in the end, Smith sacrificed his wicket for runs as he was poached in the deep by Stokes on 82, looking to hit Leach for six. Wade, his partner in crime, followed shortly after when he nicked Archer behind.

Tim Paine’s cameo featured several boundaries before a mid-over declaration took England by surprise - with the lead of 382 all-but halting any aspirations of a shock home win.

Burns, England’s most shining prospect of the series, fell for a duck after three balls when a leading edge off Cummins was taken by Head.

Cummins made the breakthrough in the opening over by removing Rory Burns (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
Cummins made the breakthrough in the opening over by removing Rory Burns (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
Joe Root followed the next ball, with Cummins castling the England captain (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)
Joe Root followed the next ball, with Cummins castling the England captain (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

Things went from bad to worse for Root when the captain himself was clean-bowled by the world’s number one-ranked Test bowler with the following delivery.

Jason Roy and Joe Denly were forced to fight out the remainder of the session, as England enter day five with eight wickets in hand.

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