With only four runs to defend with the leg side packed from fine leg to deep mid-wicket, England’s offensive strategy was clear for more than a few overs. For very some time, Pat Cummins’ attempt to clear space and play the short ball bombardment along the open offside has been ineffective. He waited and occasionally made useless attempts. He finally succeeded in the 93rd over of the innings. opened the face of the bat and guided a short ball from Ollie Robinson through the area of the third man for a boundary.
Australia prevailed. a competition where the pendulum continually swung both ways. While England persisted in pushing and shoving, Australia just held their ground while playing the waiting game.
The heated struggle between England and Usman Khawaja, the Australian opener who batted for five days, best exemplified this. The left-handed opener in this Test played 518 balls for a total score of 216, more than any other Australian batter in this century. Khawaja was prepared to bide his time on a pitch where wickets were difficult to come by, yet 36 fell over the course of the final 16 sessions of play. England, on the other hand, threw everything at them. The reverse umbrella field, the bouncer ruse, and the conventional methods.
After the first round of play was wiped out by rain on the last day, things weren’t much different either. Only 21 runs were scored in the first hour of play after the game started. Although there wasn’t sufficient bounce or pace on the surface to really affect the batters, England bowled in a disciplined fashion. After over 45 minutes of play, England changed to the bouncer strategy. Even though the pitch was prepared, Scott Boland, a night watchman, was fooled. He edged the ball to the wicketkeeper while stuck back on his crease, giving Stuart Broad his third wicket of the innings.
Boland had, however, completed his task. In addition to ensuring Australia’s victory in the last moments of the penultimate day, he also scored 20 runs in a 33-run partnership with Khawaja during crucial moments of the chase.
After that, Moeen Ali stepped on to bowl, still in pain from his battered bowling finger, but Travis Head promptly destroyed him. Before Moeen got rid of the dangerous southpaw by edging to slip, two boundaries were scored off the first three balls. At first, Cameron Green appeared tentative, and he was just as circumspect as Khawaja was at the other end.
Late in the second session, with Green’s assistance, Khawaja hit fifty and Australia headed to tea with no further losses. Despite the rain break, there was still plenty of time, and the strategy appeared to wear down the English bowlers. In the middle, the pair scored 49 runs in just over an hour and a half, but Green’s split-second decision caused him to hack the ball back onto his stumps.
After Tea, it was the first of Australia’s two setbacks. Similar circumstances led to the end of Khawaja’s protracted vigil when he misjudged Ben Stokes’ slow cutter from behind the wicket and ended up playing the ball onto his stumps.
Early on, Pat Cummins and Alex Carey were wary, but Moeen’s replacement Root did well to control them. Carey made an effort to engage the spinner, even hitting one back directly into his hands, but was dropped on 11. However, a similar shot nine runs later led to his dismissal, which Root did for the third time in Tests. However, Cummins hauled the spinner for two sixes in an over immediately following the final drink break to remove him from the assault.
The only two batsmen left to join Cummins were Nos. 10 and 11, so England reverted to the pacers. They targeted the line of stumps, and even though it appeared that Cummins might trip several times, he did brilliantly to clip the ball off the middle stump and direct it towards the legside. So did Lyon, who at one point even used an on-the-up on-drive to find a boundary.
When Robinson and Broad hunched over to get the ball to bounce, Cummins expertly guided Lyon through the final few runs. At the other end, Lyon stayed unbeaten on 16, while he completed with 44* runs.
In the end, everything seemed to be timed perfectly—England’s audacious statement, the numerous rain interruptions, and the divergent playing styles. In Birmingham, the first match of the Ashes 2023 went all the way to the final day. England and Australia fought out yet another thriller on a lifeless Edgbaston track. But did England’s risky first innings declaration truly backfire given the razor-thin final margin?