4th Test: Cummins swings Australia closer to retaining Ashes
Pat Cummins took four England wickets in the final innings. © AFP

Pat Cummins dismissed Ben Stokes for just one as Australia closed in on an Ashes-clinching win by reducing England to 87-4 at lunch on the fifth day of the fourth Test at Old Trafford on Sunday. England still need a further 296 runs to reach a huge target of 383, whereas Australia require six more wickets for a victory that would see them keep the Ashes at 2-1 up with one to play in the five-Test series.

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Cummins, the world’s top-ranked Test bowler, has taken all the wickets to fall in a return of 4-23 in 11 overs that included two in two balls on Saturday, with the pacer dismissing England captain Joe Root for a golden duck – the skipper’s third nought in five innings. Joe Denly was 48 not out and Jonny Bairstow two not out at the lunch break.

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Stokes, whose stunning 135 not out had seen England to a dramatic series-levelling win in the third Test at Headingley, fell for just one on Sunday when Cummins cut one back to the left-handed batsman, with Australia captain and wicketkeeper Tim Paine holding a good diving catch off the inside edge. Allrounder Stokes did not even wait for umpire Marais Erasmus to raise his finger, with England then 74-4.

England resumed on 18-2, knowing the most they had made in the fourth innings to win a Test was the 362-9 they made at Headingley Their immediate goal, however, was to bat out the fifth day for a draw – something they had not done since Matt Prior led a rearguard action against New Zealand at Auckland in 2013 – in order to keep the series level ahead of next week’s finale at the Oval.

Denly was 10 not out and Jason Roy eight not out as play started under sunny skies. The pair survived some testing early deliveries from Josh Hazlewood and Cummins before Denly was fortunate to see a loose drive off left-arm quick Mitchell Starc fly over the slips for four. But Denly swept offspinner Nathan Lyon for a well-struck boundary.

Denly, however, almost gave his wicket away when, despite England’s desperate position, he lofted a sweep off Lyon that just dropped short of deep midwicket. World Cup-winner Roy, who has struggled to transfer his one-day form into the Test arena, defended solidly before getting well forward to cover-drive Starc, bowling from around the wicket, for four.

England got through the first hour without losing a wicket. Cummins, however, struck again when a fine-off cutter got through a gap between bat and pad to bowl Roy for 31.

Brief scores: England 301 & 87/4 (Joe Denly 48*; Pat Cummins 4-23) trail Australia 497/8 decl. & 186/6 decl. by 295 runs