England takes the lead because of Crawley’s run-a-ball 189.

England takes the lead because of Crawley's run-a-ball 189.

As Australia’s bowlers lack control, the hosts double down on their ultra-attacking strategy.

England takes the lead because of Crawley's run-a-ball 189.
Zak Crawley brought up a 93-ball hundred..

England took the series two-all thanks to Zak Crawley’s 189 off 182 balls at Emirates Old Trafford

England leads Australia by 67 runs with 384 for 4 (Crawley 189, Root 84, Moeen 54) to 317 (Labuschagne 51, Marsh 51, Woakes 5-62).

England took the series two-all thanks to Zak Crawley’s 189 off 182 balls at Emirates Old Trafford, giving them hope of defeating both a tired Australia side and the Manchester weather.

With rain forecast for the fourth and fifth days, England’s Ben Stokes intimated the day before the Test that they would modify their approach by doubling down on their ultra-attacking style with the bat. True to their captain’s word, they outscored Australia’s first-inning total of 317 in 55 overs.

And it was Crawley who set the example. After flicking the first ball of England’s innings past Alex Carey for four, he batted with absolute disdain against the world’s best seam attack for the rest of the afternoon. His first Ashes century came in 93 balls, the fourth-fastest by an Englishman, and he left Pat Cummins and his bowlers in the dust.

England scored at a 7.12 run rate in the second session, adding 178 runs in 25 overs. Crawley pulled, drove, flicked, and slog-swept his way to three figures, then sped over 150 after tea, alongside Moeen Ali and Joe Root, who also reached half-centuries.

He fell 11 runs short of a second Test double-hundred when he bottom-edged a swing across the line onto his own stumps, but he had already become the series’ leading run-scorer. It validated England’s faith in an opening batsman who came to the ground on Thursday morning with an average of less than 30, but has come to embody their growth under Stokes and Brendon McCullum.

By the end, Australia had lost a bowler as Mitchell Starc injured his left shoulder diving on the field. Despite Root’s dismissal for 84, bowled by a low shot from Josh Hazlewood, they lacked any sense of control; their choice not to field a frontline spinner for the first time in a decade was exposed as a folly.

Early in Crawley’s inning, there were few indications of what was to follow. In their opening new-ball bursts, he played and missed many times against Starc and Hazlewood, edging Hazlewood just short of Steven Smith at slip on 12. Crawley edged Cummins’ first ball past his own stumps in the 12th over as he stepped into the attack.

He fell to the 13th delivery of England’s innings, edging Starc’s outswinger behind, and Moeen’s drive outside his off stump was fast and loose as he walked out in his temporary duty as a No. 3. Crawley was given out lbw on 20, trapped on the front pad by Cameron Green, but successfully reviewed.

But in the over before lunch, he creamed Cummins with a classic cover drive for four and never looked back. As he glided towards a 67-ball half-century, Carey lifted with a reverse-swept four off Travis Head’s first ball and celebrated with a sweeping six off his second.

Moeen got his first Test fifty since January 2019 when he flogged Head over mid-on and then miscued him in the same direction. Cummins trapped him at short midwicket on 53, but he died on the next ball: When Usman Khawaja held a diving catch, Starc went short, Moeen took the pull, and nailed it straight to the same area.

Australia hoped that the carnage would halt following a second-wicket stand of 121 in 152 balls. It was evident that it had only just begun when Root dragged his first ball behind square for four, then slid his fifth away past gully with an open face.

Cummins attempted to slow the game down by changing the field many times in the same over, but Crawley was unconcerned about changes in strategy. He hit back-to-back boundaries from Hazlewood and Starc, then threaded Cummins past cover to reach three figures. As Old Trafford came to its feet, he grinned, arms raised.

Crawley had 112 when Mitchell Marsh, who had removed him in both innings at Headingley, was introduced into the attack. England was approaching the crucial Ashes Test as if it were a friendly: Root reverse-scooped Marsh for six, and Crawley slog-swept Head for six more, bringing the total to a century.

Another Root reverse-scoop, this time for four off Cummins, gave him a 45-ball half-century, and Crawley raised 150 for the second time. He swung Marsh over his head for six to put England ahead, and his departure came out of nowhere, chopping Green’s round-the-wicket short ball onto his stumps.

The scoring pace dropped after Root was dismissed by a grubber that scudded under the toe of his bat, while Stokes and Harry Brook saw out the day. Starc’s injury, sustained when diving at mid-on, seems to exacerbate Australia’s issues, even though his management is positive about his chances of bowling on Friday after icing his shoulder overnight.

By the time the clock in the old pavilion at the James Anderson End had ticked past 11 a.m., Cummins had chipped a tame half-volley from its eponymous bowler straight to Stokes at cover-point, falling to the very first ball of the day.

When Hazlewood edged his fourth ball of the morning to second slip, Chris Woakes celebrated his first Ashes five-wicket haul, but he was saved by a marginal front-foot no-ball. When Woakes removed Hazlewood, who was superbly taken by Duckett at third slip, it appeared that the 18 runs added for the last wicket would be costly; seven hours later, all concerns had vanished.


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