Ashes: Fourth Test Day 5: The moments that mattered

Australia did everything they could on a dramatic final day, but fell one wicket short of another Ashes win (Photo - Izhar Ahmed)

Despite the series being over in terms of scoreline, the fifth day of the SCG test was another remarkable chapter of Ashes test match cricket.

England started out the day looking to survive the final 98 overs and hold on for a memorable draw, by doing so they would negate a whitewash and have something to salvage out of a horror trip down under.

Despite some solid contributions during the morning and afternoon, it all came down to the final over, with England eight down and on their last legs.

But the lack of time (and light) proved too much to conquer for Australia, as their spinners almost finished off England’s tail-enders in a dramatic finish.

Here are the moments that mattered on a dramatic final day at the SCG:

Carey makes up for blunder as Boland’s the man again

Needing ten wickets on the final day to claim the SCG test and go 4-0 up in the series, everything was going to have to go right for the Aussies if they were to run through England once again.

It would’ve been taken for granted as they entered the field of play that every catch had to be taken for Australia to avoid another final day draw (such as what occurred on day five against India at the Sydney test last year).

It didn’t take long before Scott Boland was thrown the ball yet again in hopes of making another crucial breakthrough, as England openers Haseeb Hameed and Zak Crawley finally survived past the opening spell in this series.

Scott Boland is the man again, nicking off Hameed to start day five (Photo – Izhar Ahmed)

Yet it didn’t initially go as planned, with Alex Carey mis-gloving an edge off Hameed that threatened to derail his test career. Having dropped a similar chance in the first innings where he moved too slowly to get both gloves on a low chance to his right, Carey could only stick out his right glove and put down the edge.

Just as Australia had their head down, fearful of what may happen now Hameed had been granted a life, Boland managed to grab another nick off Hameed, this time flying easily into Carey’s gloves. It was a much easier opportunity, but the supportive reaction of the Aussie team suggested Carey had made up for his prior mistake, with Australia starting the day off with the crucial first wicket they needed.

‘Gaz’ threatens to make the SCG his playhouse

Dawid Malan had been one of the few English batters who had looked comfortable against Aussie off-spinner Nathan Lyon throughout the series.

As he strode to the crease, he was set to be one of England’s keys in keeping out Lyon on a crumbling and bouncy last day SCG pitch if the tourists were to survive the day and emerge with a draw.

But Malan’s prior efforts in the first few tests, where he was often the sole partner with captain Joe Root to persevere and put pride on their wicket, seemed to have drained him.

He never looked comfortable on day five, facing out Lyon fine but struggling to hit runs off any of the other pace bowlers.

When the runs continued to tighten up, Malan tried to invent off Lyon and paid the price. Steve Smith’s dismissal yesterday off Jack Leach proved that going back to spinners on the SCG pitch was dangerous, and Malan confirmed it.

He shuffled back to Lyon, as the delivery kept low and took out Malan’s off-stump. It gave Lyon a sniff of another day five masterclass and ended Malan’s disappointing SCG test match.

Finally an English opener ‘Crawl’s past 50 before a Watson-like review

It has been a torrid series for England’s opening batters, who have struggled to get to double figures, nonetheless 50.

Originally starting with Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed, Zak Crawley finally took his chance to score some meaningful runs on day five and solidify his spot as an opening batter going forward for England.

He looked comfortable from the get-go, playing Starc and Cummins easily and scoring at a decent strike rate too. When Lyon and Boland came on, the big Englishman continued to thrive, picking runs up often to fly towards a much-needed half-century.

It gave England their best top-order start for nearly two years, as Crawley continued to flourish in the first session and threatened to post a big ton that would keep the Aussies at bay.

Having reached 77 off only 100 balls, a triple-figure score that would turn around England’s top order was approaching until Cameron Green produced an unplayable yorker.

The all-rounder managed to get prodigious in-swing to trap Crawley plumb in front, removed LBW on the only ball he didn’t hit cleanly all day. Instead of accepting his fate, Crawley challenged the decision, which quickly confirmed the on-field decision as it was crashing into the middle-stump. It was a disappointing way to end a terrific knock, with the review wasting a valuable DRS challenge going forward.

Boland claims his bunny again

Scott Boland has certainly made an instant impact on the test stage since making his fairy tale debut on Boxing Day.

But one major point to emerge out of his miraculous 6-7 at the MCG was his ability to dismiss England’s best batter in their captain, Joe Root.

Having first removed him at the ‘G, Boland claimed him for a duck in the first innings and was quickly thrown the ball on day five when Root got going at the SCG.

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Root had worked his way up slowly to 24 off 85 balls after defending grimly, and looked set to hold Australia at bay all day long. But Boland wasn’t to be denied, starting a perfect over with four straight balls angling in at his middle stump. Just as Root struggled to deny his off-cutters, Boland straightened up, eliciting a play and miss and then an edge to Carey to send the England skipper on his way.

Boland managed to claim Root for the third time in three successive innings and gave Australia a major boost on day five.

Stokes digs in again, but Lyon wins

Ben Stokes is one for a crisis.

Coming to the crease at 3-96 with plenty of overs still left in the day, Stokes defied his side strain and held on grimly, making a valuable half-century.

He played Lyon aggressively but smartly, taking on the slog sweep and gamely pulling and hooking the quicks when they got short to him. Stokes batted for the majority of the afternoon, posting a timely 60 off 123 balls to shut down Australia’s hopes.

But Lyon had the last laugh against the left-hander, forcing him back and catching an edge to Smith in slip. Stokes was visibly angry at the dismissal, which opened the game up once again for Australia.

Ben Stokes can’t believe his luck as his rearguard knock is undone by Lyon (Photo – Izhar Ahmed)

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A magical Cummins over revitalises Australia

With only 17 overs left, and England still only five wickets down with injured pair Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler at the crease, the game looked certain to trickle out into a draw.

But Aussie captain Pat Cummins had other ideas, changing the game in one superb over.

With the new Kookaburra in hand, Cummins managed to extract massive swing, producing an amazing in-swinging yorker that crashed into Buttler’s pad. Originally given not out, the review showed Buttler didn’t get bat on it, with the ball crashing into leg stump. For the first time in ages, Australia had used the DRS successfully in a clutch moment.

The breakthrough was swiftly followed by another Cummins Jaffer. He trapped Mark Wood in front two balls later with an even better in-swinging yorker that hit Wood flush on the toe. There was no hesitation on this wicket, with Wood’s referral proven unsuccessful very quickly to give Australia two wickets in an over and the momentum.

Pat Cummins celebrates the wicket of Jos Buttler during day five of the Fourth Test match in the Ashes series between Australia and England at Sydney Cricket Ground on January 09, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Image: Izhar Khan)

Boland breaks through to forgive Smith’s blushes

With Buttler and Wood out in quick succession, all eyes went to Jonny Bairstow up the other end. He stood as the last recognised batter between Australia and the very end of England’s tail, and ultimately victory.

With Starc operating up the other end from Cummins with the new ball, he gave the ball room to swing, enticing Bairstow, the first-innings centurion, into a cover drive.

Bairstow could only get an edge on the ball, with the Kookaburra flying low to Smith at second slip. Usually a reliable slip fielder, Smith couldn’t grasp the low chance, giving Bairstow a life.

Just as the English number six looked like making Australia pay for this missed chance, Scott Boland came back on and did the damage.

With his nagging line and length that has proven irresistible over the past two test matches, Boland nipped one back into Bairstow, who nicked onto his thigh pad and ballooned a catch to Labuschagne at silly mid-off.

Now eight wickets down and with only the tail end at the crease, Boland’s strike didn’t just open the match up, but it also gave Smith a reprieve.

Smith takes the game to the final ball

Stuart Broad and Jack Leach had it all to do when they both strolled to the wicket. differing abilities with a bat in hand, all their skills and time in the nets with the stick in hand would be required to help England pull off the great escape.

As soon began their respective innings’, they were defending grimly, keeping out Australia’s pace bowlers and refusing to give their wicket away in the final hour. When Bairstow was removed with just under 10 overs left, England looked on the precipice of a 4-0 defeat.

But Leach and Broad combined admirably, braving withstanding the likes of Cummins, Starc, and Boland to whittle it down to the final overs.

With only three overs left in the day, the lack of light meant Cummins had to revert to spinners, meaning Lyon and Steve Smith had to bowl out the remaining overs of the match.

It was the latter who broke through, snaring his first test wicket since 2016 in the third last over when he caught Leach’s outside edge for a smart catch of slip.

With Lyon teasing up the other end, Smith’s part-time leg spinners were given the duty of bowling the final over, with veteran pair Broad and Anderson trying to hold the fort to secure a dramatic draw.

Anderson was tasked with the final over and secured the draw by batting away all of Smith’s parries while fielders sat on top of him around the bat. It may not have been the result many wanted, but it was a remarkable finish that proved the theatre that test cricket can provide at any time, anywhere.

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