Poms out of miracles as Aussies crack Ashes code
Pat Cummins provided the blueprint for his bowling brothers to rip in to England and retain the Ashes with Australia needing just eight wickets on a fifth day wicket even batting genius Steve Smith would struggle on.
While hometown coach Trevor Bayliss said his men lived in hope after the miraculous win in the third Test at Headingley, a run chase even beyond that record 359, still needing another 366 to win in 98 overs, could be too much to muster.
Cummins rocked England with two wickets in two balls to start the second innings before they limped to stumps at 2-18 with embattled opener Joe Denly and Jason Roy needing to start again on the final day.
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Smith, who carved out another masterful 81 on day four as Australia put one hand on the Ashes urn, said even he felt "pretty vulnerable" on a wearing wicket which should aid the visitor's cause.
He said the ball from Cummins to remove England captain Joe Root for zero, which hit the seam before hitting his off stump, was the ball the Aussie quicks would look to replicate with monotony in order to achieve a victory which would ensure Australia retained the Ashes.
"I think it will be pretty difficult (for England)," Smith said.
"Particularly while the ball is hard. I found when I first went out to the middle, when you bowl a good length, there was enough up and down and sideways movement.
"My first 20 or 30 balls, I felt pretty vulnerable when they were bowling that good length. Patty hit it beautifully tonight, I think that ball to Root is a blueprint of what we need to do tomorrow ... keep hitting that top of the stump length and let the pitch do its thing.
"For us it's pretty clear what we need to do … quicks hit the good length, Gaza (Nathan Lyon) hit the rough as much as possible and when he bowls to left handers just pitch it on the stumps and try and hit the stumps as much as possible and bring LBW and caught behind the wicket into play.
"It's just about relaxing and going out and just enjoying it and hopefully executing our skills well enough to bowl England out."
Bayliss hit out at the Australian-nature of the Old Trafford wicket which was also offering spin and bounce for Nathan Lyon, who looked dangerous without taking a wicket.
But the England coach tried to remain positive in the face of what seems a huge mountain for his men to climb.
"I'm always positive, I think we can do it," Bayliss said.
"We've had a chat in the changing room, we're certainly not going out thinking it's all over. There's no use playing at this level (if you don't), they believe they are good enough to bat for 98 overs and save the game."