Aussies Retain The Ashes With Tense Fourth Test Win
England dragged the fourth Ashes Test deep into its final session but Marnus Labuschagne and Josh Hazlewood stepped up late as Australia retained the urn with a dramatic 185-run victory at Old Trafford.
Tim Paine's team, accused of choking under pressure as Ben Stokes snatched an astonishing one-wicket win in the third Test, tensely yet successfully bounced back to bank a 2-1 series lead.
Craig Overton and Jack Leach's ninth-wicket stand started at 4.58pm (local time) and was snapped by Labuschagne's legspin after 64 minutes and no shortage of tense moments.
Labuschagne landed one in the rough to dismiss Leach with help from Matthew Wade at short leg then Hazlewood completed victory at 6.14pm by trapping Overton lbw.
The batsman's review briefly delayed Australia's celebrations as England, rolled for 197 after being set a target of 383, fell 81 balls short of salvaging a draw.
Overton, Joe Denly and Jos Buttler faced a combined 339 deliveries, giving their team hope of completing a great escape on a par with Monty Panesar and Jimmy Anderson's Cardiff miracle in 2009.
Paine achieved something beyond the reach of Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke in becoming the first Australian captain to retain the urn in England since Steve Waugh in 2001.
The series finale starts in London on Thursday but regardless of the result at the Oval, Australia will keep hold of the urn thanks to their 4-0 series win in 2017-18.
Steve Smith set up Sunday's win with superb knocks of 211 and 82, while Pat Cummins knocked over both Rory Burns and Joe Root late on day four with consecutive balls.
"It was always one I wanted to tick off my bucket list, to get the urn over here. Obviously there's another game left but to know it's coming home, that's extremely exciting," Smith said.
The hosts refused to fold meekly as Cummins led an inspired push for victory in Manchester.
Cummins fired out Jason Roy and Stokes in Sunday's morning session, while Nathan Lyon and Mitchell Starc removed Denly and Jonny Bairstow respectively after lunch.
Buttler and Overton then spent 21 overs at the crease together, marching into the rooms at tea full of confidence they could get the job done.
Hazlewood, who produced career-best figures of 9-115 in his team's Headingley heartbreak, broke the stubborn partnership with a sensational delivery.
Buttler shouldered arms to what he thought was an unthreatening ball outside off stump, only to watch on in disbelief as it disturbed the bails.
Lyon, nursing a cut on his spinning finger and presumably some form of mental baggage resulting from his role in the Leeds capitulation, trapped Jofra Archer lbw in the next over.
The floodlights came on and Australia took the second new ball but Overton and Leach dug in as Cummins fumed at time-wasting tactics.
Paine's decision to throw the ball to Labuschagne, the most inexperienced member of the XI, proved a masterstroke.
Featured image: AAP