Zak Crawley smashed a scintillating
182-ball 189 to put England in a dominating position on day two of the fourth
Test at Old Trafford. The opener added 206 runs in just 178 balls for the third
wicket with Joe Root to put Australia to the sword, powering England to 384 for
4 at the close of play. With the threat of rain looming large on days 4 and 5,
the hosts doubled down on their aggressive approach to force a result, wiping
out Australia’s first-innings advantage in just 55 overs and taking a 67-run
lead at stumps.
England’s perfect day began with Jimmy
Anderson picking up a wicket off the first ball of the morning, with Pat
Cummins chipping his drive to Ben Stokes at cover. Mitchell Starc swung his bat
to take Australia past 300 before Chris Woakes nicked off Hazlewood to complete
his five-fer and end their innings on 317.
England endured a shaky start with the bat
as Ben Duckett departed in the second over, edging behind to Mitchell Starc,
while Crawley survived a close LBW call that was overturned via DRS. However,
it didn’t take long for the hosts to get into their stride as Moeen Ali and Zak
Crawley put the pressure back on the Australian attack either side of Lunch.
The pair struck a flurry of picturesque drives off the pacers and went after
part-time spinner Travis Head, adding 121 for the second wicket.
Promoted to number three, Ali repaid
England’s faith by lacing his first Test fifty since 2019 before picking out
Usman Khawaja at midwicket to depart for 54. Ali’s departure though, did little
to stop the carnage as Joe Root and Zak Crawley plundered the Australian
attack. Root stormed out of the gates in fourth gear, manipulating the field to
perfection to bring up a quickfire half-century, while Crawley took just 26
balls to score his second fifty as he brought up his fourth Test ton.
The duo punished a lacklustre bowling
effort from the visitors in a sensational afternoon session that cost Australia
178 runs in just 25 overs. Crawley put on a batting exhibition as he
accelerated after Tea. The opener looked on course for a double century but
eventually departed on 189, chopping onto his own stumps to end the mammoth
stand on 206.
Root, meanwhile, fell to a delivery that
scuttled along the turf from Josh Hazlewood with England 36 ahead. Ben Stokes
and Harry Brook grew that advantage to 67 by the end of day’s play, leaving the
hosts in pole position to win the fourth Test and level the series at 2-2.