Even after a day in which Australia would have expected a stronger performance, they are still required to score 174 runs with seven wickets in hand. The visitors bundled out England for 273, set a target of 281, and reached 107 for 3 at the end of the fourth day of play on Monday at Edgbaston. While Nathan Lyon and Pat Cummins led the bowling attack with four wickets apiece, Usman Khawaja once again held one end safe with the bat, reaching stumps unbeaten on 34.
After a third day marred by rain, England resumed on 28 for 2, and Joe Root launched three reverse scoops in the first seven balls of the morning. Despite three slip fielders and a wicketkeeper standing up, he succeeded in hitting a six and a boundary off his next two attempts after failing in his first one. England’s strategy for the day was set in motion by Scott Boland’s 16-run over.
Ollie Pope was eliminated by Cummins’ inswinging yorker on 14 as Australia scored within the first hour. However, Root was scoring at almost run-a-ball while Pope mainly avoided the strike, with Boland being the recipient of his cuts and drives that sped away for boundaries.
Once Harry Brook got going, Root took on a supporting role after taking some time to adjust. A few short deliveries from Lyon helped Brook, and he duly dispatched them to welcome the offspinner into the attack with boundaries. Soon after the drinks break, Root, who had temporarily slowed down, opted to go after the offside but missed after stepping out against the spinner and was out for 46.
After Root was dismissed, England slowed down significantly despite the ball still being in motion. After being bound for some time, Brook eventually fell while attempting to escape. He fell four runs short of a fifty as he pushed Lyon directly to the mid-wicket fielder.
Unusually for them, England made a cautious post-lunch start after being briefly put to the test late in the morning session. Nevertheless, Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes were able to put together a sixth-wicket partnership of 46 runs until the latter was eventually caught leg before by Lyon. For the second time in his innings, he requested a review, but it wasn’t successful in saving him.
The more aggressive of the two in the pair, Stokes exploited the width Boland and Cummins provided, breaking them for a few boundaries each. Using Boland’s lines to his advantage, he attempted to shorten Cummins’ length. Bairstow was fired just as it appeared he was getting used to his new job.
After a short while, Stokes left after being defeated by a delivery from Cummins. He also performed a review, which revealed that the ball would have struck the leg stump’s top. On Monday, he became the third English hitter to fall short of a half-century.
Ollie Robinson and Stuart Broad came dangerously close to being caught fending as Josh Hazlewood delivered a challenging run of short-pitched deliveries. But despite Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith’s best diving efforts, they managed to stay alive. Moeen Ali, however, was observed sneaking a short delivery down the legside.
Australia had to wait for 70 balls to strike out the final two batsmen after reducing England to 229/8 in the third quarter of the post-lunch session, during which time England managed to score 44 runs. The tail was eventually cleaned up by Lyon and Cummins, setting the stage for an intriguing fourth inning.
After three unsuccessful starts in England this summer, Australia finally had a successful one thanks to openers Usman Khawaja and David Warner, who put together a half-century stand. There wasn’t much support for the pacers, and Khawaja got the chase started by hitting two boundaries in the first over. On the other hand, Warner took his time settling in.
The pair soon adopted a conservative approach to their strokeplay and played the first hour of the post-tea session fairly somberly. There wasn’t much danger from the English attack, save for a few deliveries from Moeen Ali that ripped right past them. After bowling several consecutive maiden overs, Robinson started to lose his line and length, which provided enough of opportunities for Warner and Khawaja to hit some simple boundaries.
Warner appeared to be at ease, but just then, a delivery from Robinson from around the wicket hit the outside edge of his bat and went to the keeper.
Labuschagne settled down at the crease quickly. He began by reverse-sweeping Moeen for a boundary and continued by hitting the barrier a few more times. His tenure, however, was brief. He was caught by Broad to the ‘keeper edging an outswinger for the second time in the game.
After an initial half-century stand, Australia was unable to capitalize, as England managed to take another wicket late in the day. Smith was also dismissed for an outswinger after attempting to drive at a full delivery but instead only edging to the keeper.
For the final 20 minutes of play, Boland, who had been called in as a nightwatchman, did a good job of keeping Khawaja safe at the other end and even scored three boundaries to push Australia past the 100-run barrier.