England completed a crushing eight-wicket win over Australia before tea on Day 3 of the third Test at Edgbaston, taking a 2-1 lead in an Ashes series which already ranks as one of the most unpredictable of the modern era.
Some rearguard fight from Peter Nevill and Mitchell Starc saw Australia reach 265 all out during the first session after the pair resumed on 7/168, setting England 121 for victory. But the hosts mowed down the modest target in 32 over with eight wickets in hand.
Nevill (59) was the first man out after he and Starc added 49 to the overnight total (and recorded the biggest partnership of the match – 64), caught behind off Steve Finn, who claimed his second six-for in Tests and finished with career-best figures of 6/79.
Josh Hazlewood fell to Ben Stokes for 11, while Starc brought up the fifth half-century of his 20-Test career to enhance his status as a potential all-rounder, playing some fine strokes and clubbing one of only three sixes hit in the match.
Great ball Mitchell Starc. Bowled poorly in first innings but has been superb today with bat and now ball #ashes
— Chris Barrett (@ChrisBarrett_) July 31, 2015
Starc was the last man out for 58, while Nathan Lyon finished unbeaten on 12.
England survived the two overs before lunch, but Starc gave Australia a glimmer of hope when he bowled Alistair Cook for 7 in the third over after the resumption.
But despite the loss of struggling opener Adam Lyth for 12 (lbw b Hazlewood) with the score on 51, the hosts cruised to victory with the rejuvenated Ian Bell (65 not out off 90 balls) and Joe Root (38 not out off 63 balls) plundering 16 boundaries and a six between them to snuff out any chance of an Aussie miracle.
It represented a spectacular comeback for England after the Lord’s massacre, achieving the turnaround with just two changes – Jonny Bairstow for Ballance and Finn for Mark Wood – to a side that was hopelessly outclassed less than a fortnight earlier.
For Australia, the performances in London and Birmingham also could not have been more disparate, with only a handful of the unchanged line-up providing anything like their best form during this extraordinarily brief Edgbaston clash.
The biggest concern to come out of the match for England was the side strain injury to Day 1 hero James Anderson, who has already been ruled out of contention for the fourth Test.
Stud of the day
Bell’s return to form could not have been more timely for England, backing up his rollicking 53 from Day 1 with an outstanding 65 not out that featured 10 fours. The veteran was under intense pressure after posting just one half-century in his previous 12 innings, but the ‘Sherminator’ proved what a dangerous proposition he can be when he’s in good touch. It was a tremendous response to being elevated to the vital No.3 spot after Gary Ballance was axed.
What a game! The crowd & atmosphere were amazing. So pleased for @finnysteve Great to have him back! Thanks everyone for all your support.
— Ian Bell (@Ian_Bell) July 31, 2015
Stud of the match
James Anderson was devastating with the ball in Australia’s first innings and Ian Bell’s revival was crucial, but it’s impossible to go past the recalled Steve Finn, who enjoyed a dream Test comeback. The pivotal moments on the first two days were his dismissals of Steve Smith and Clarke in each of Australia’s innings, while career-best figures in the tourists second dig – with spearhead Anderson leaving England a bowler short – was a fine reward.
Jos Buttler’s outstanding leg-side catch to get rid of Nevill was the beginning of the end for Australia, their chances of setting a half-decent target evaporating with the keeper’s departure. Michael Clarke dropped Bell with England on 36, which cruelled any chance the tourists had of defending their meagre offering with the bat.
Where to now for Australia? Adam Voges is almost certain to be dropped, Mitch Marsh probably would be too if there were a better option available than recalling Shane Watson, while the subpar fast-bowling trio have done enough in this series to hold their spots. Michael Clarke’s form with the bat – averaging 18.8 this series – is becoming a major drawback for Australia, and was exacerbated by a rare Steve Smith double-failure.
Anderson’s injury leaves a big hole as England looks to wrap up the Ashes at Trent Bridge from next Thursday, and the hosts only have to glance back to Lord’s to remember how fleeting form can be. Opener Adam Lyth must be on borrowed time with an average of 12 so far in this Ashes campaign, particularly when captain Cook is also struggling for runs. That England holds a series lead with an average opening stand of 11 and a top of just 19 is a minor miracle.
History is now against the visitors, but it’s debatable whether England has a greater capacity to press on to a series victory than Australia does of coming back to retain the urn.
— Kevin Pietersen (@KP24) July 31, 2015
- Australia’s middle order (No.3 to 6) have made single-digit scores 20 times in Tests – 16 in Ashes matches, and nearly twice in this match but for Voges’ 16 in the first innings.
- Nevill and Starc reaching 50 represented just the second time two Australian batsman batting No.7 or lower have scored half-centuries in the second innings of an Ashes Test in England.
- The only team to come back from a 2-1 deficit and win an Ashes series was the Bradman-inspired Australian team of 1936-37.