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Smith, Cummins extend Australia's dominance


A collective bowling effort, Steven Smith doing the bulk of the scoring again setting England a big target of 383 and then bagging early wickets - Australia might like to term it as the perfect day. England did have their moments on Day 4 - when Jos Buttler kept Australia on the field longer than they would have wanted, and then Stuart Broad and Jofra Archer combined to rattle the top order. But the visitors, riding on Smith's brisk knock and Pat Cummins's double strike late in the day, continued to dominate the fourth Ashes Test at Old Trafford, Manchester and put themselves in a good position to retain the urn. 

Asked to bowl the first over after Australia set England a tall ask, Cummins gave his team a dream start by removing the half-centurions of England's first innings off successive deliveries for ducks. While Rory Burns got a leading edge when he attempted a flick, Joe Root was at the receiving end of a jaffa which hit the top of off stump. Joe Denly and Jason Roy had a nervous stay at the crease but they managed to come out unscathed, even scoring a couple of fours, as England went into Stumps on Saturday (September 7) on 18 for 2, still needing 365 more for victory. 

Having bowled England out for 301 and armed with a hefty lead of 196, Australia were in the position to call all the shots but that didn't prevent Broad from adding to his bunny tally. Trapping Warner in front for a six-ball nought, Broad dismissed the left-hander for the sixth time in eight innings in this series. Marcus Harris was also out leg-before to Broad, and cost Australia a review in the process. With Archer sending back Marnus Labuschagne and Travis Head, Australia's progress was checked by the England new-ball duo, who bowled 18 overs in tandem in what was a lively spell of fast bowling on a pitch with indifferent bounce. 

But England's all too familiar foe Smith did what he has been doing throughout the series - score plenty of runs and frustrate the opposition. He did struggle in the period before Tea but once he saw through the hostile spell from Broad and Archer, he had some entertainment in store for the final session. With boundaries to all parts of the park, Smith - who was on 19 off 38 at the end of the second session - got to his fifty off 62. With Matthew Wade providing solid support in a century partnership for the fifth wicket, Smith raced away to 82 before his outing ended off the 92nd ball he faced when he tried to go after Jack Leach. Despite Smith's wicket, and Wade following soon after, Australia delayed the declaration - probably mindful of what happened in the previous Test. Skipper Tim Paine took it upon himself to score some quick runs before signaling an end to Australia's innings. 

Earlier, Australia began the day by operating with Cummins and Nathan Lyon, who tested the England pair of Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow without any luck. But the second new ball had success written all over it as Mitchell Starc came up with a much-improved performance today. Unlike Day 3, Australia didn't lift their foot off the pressure pedal, which translated into wickets. Bairstow was the first to fall, attempting an extravagant drive only to be bowled by Starc. Hurried by pace and movement. Stokes and Buttler weren't really in control of their shot-making and the former eventually fell, edging a Starc delivery that shaped away late. 

Meanwhile, Australia lost their last available review when Paine decided to challenge the on-field decision from umpire Marais Erasmus, who gave Buttler not out to a Lyon delivery that he didn't offer any shot. Buttler employed a counter-attacking approach leading up to the lunch break and then added some useful runs with the tail to help England avoid the follow on. He put on 27 for the ninth-wicket with Broad, who was cleaned up by Starc for a 29-ball 5. Leach, having received a rousing welcome to the crease, assisted Buttler in helping England past 300 before Cummins ended the innings with the wicket of the middle-order batsman. 

Brief scores: Australia 497/8 decl. & 186/6 decl. (Steven Smith 82; Jofra Archer 3-45) lead England 301 & 18/2 (Joe Denly 10*; Pat Cummins 2-8) by 364 runs.

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