World Cup-winners England have been brought down to earth by Australia who managed to successfully retain the Ashes Urn in England for the first time in 18 years.

Led by Steve Smith’s double hundred, Australia defeated England by 185 runs in the 4th Test of Ashes 2019 and took an unbeatable 2-1 lead in the 5-Test series. Even if England go on to win the 5th and final Test in Oval, Tim Paine’s men will head home with the Ashes Urn, considering they had won the Ashes 2017-18 4-1 at home.

Australia were under some pressure after the 3rd Test in Leeds which went England’s way after Ben Stokes and Jack Leach pulled off a miracle. Joe Root’s men leveled the series at 1-1 with the confidence-boosting win that came after Stokes single-handedly helped the hosts chase a record-breaking target of 359 at Headingley in August.

Smith special nullifies England’s Leeds win momentum

Ben Stokes’s Headingley heroics that came a month after his World Cup-winning effort at Lord’s was expected to fire up England to stage a strong fightback in the 4th Test in Manchester but World No. 1 Test batsman Steve Smith played spoilsport with spectacular shows of Test match batting at Old Trafford.

Steve Smith had missed the 2nd innings of the drawn Lord’s Test after being hit on the neck by a vicious Jofra Archer bouncer. He was ruled out of the Leeds Test that was, it is safe to say, stolen away from Australia.

However, Steve Smith returned to Ashes 2019 in style, hitting a class filled 211 in the first innings of the 4th Test that gave Australia a total of 497 in the first innings. Smith was out of a no-ball when he was batting on 118 after which the former Australia captain went on to double his score thanks to Jack Leach’s no-ball.

England posted 301 in the first innings after half-centuries from captain Joe Root and opener Rory Burns but they were made to fight hard to avoid the follow-on. A quickfire 41 from Jos Buttler helped them go past the follow-on mark.

Smith prevents Australia collapse

Australia were in a spot of bother at 44 for 4 in their 2nd innings but Steve Smith came out and slammed a quick fire 82 before getting out while selflessly trying to up the ante towards close of play on Day 4.

England valiant Sunday fight in vain

In chase of 383, England were jolted early when Pat Cummins removed Rory Burns and Joe Root in successive balls in the 2nd over of the innings. Cummins’s delivery to get the England captain was a fast bowler’s delight as it pitched on good length and moved enough to hit the top of off-stump.

England faced an uphill task on Day 5 to draw the Test, let alone think of winning it. However, sturdy batting efforts from Joe Denly (53), Jason Roy (31), Jos Buttler (34) and Craig Overton (21) helped them take the match into the final session.

A defiant stand for the 7th wicket between Birthday Boy Jos Buttler and Craig Overton on Sunday frustrated Australia but Josh Hazlewood’s ripper ended Buttler’s resistance. Jos Buttler and Craig Overton batted 21.1 overs. Overton and Jack Leach batted 14 overs but the valiant efforts end in vain.

Marnus Labuschagne was brought on in a brilliant move by Tim Paine and the part-time leg-spinner did the job by using the rough outside the off-stump to remove Jack Leach and hit the final nail in the coffin.

While Steve Smith has scored more than 600 runs in Ashes 2019, re-establishing his numero uno status in the longest format of the game, Australia should be given credit for the way they have handled their pacers in the series so far.

Mitchell Starc, who was not picked for the 1st 3 Tests, was the star of the first innings, picking up 3/80, Pat Cummins stole the show in the 2nd innings with figures of x/xx. Josh Hazlewood troubled the England batsmen with his control and finished the Manchester Test with 5 wickets across 2 innings with top quality spells.

England will now face Australia at the Oval, London from September 12. Having lost the Ashes Urn, Joe Root’s men would want to earn a consolation win and make sure the final scoreline doesn’t look ugly.

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