The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) was "disgusted and appalled" by The Sun's reporting of a tragic family incident from Ben Stokes' past.

The newspaper published an article on Tuesday depicting alleged events that took place three years before Stokes was born, which he described via Twitter as "heartless" and "totally out of order".

Stokes claimed the story contained "serious inaccuracies" and "has grave and lifelong consequences" for his mother.

ECB CEO Tom Harrison said in a statement: "We, like the wider sporting world, are disgusted and appalled at the actions taken in revealing the tragic events from Ben's past.

"We are saddened that an intrusion of this magnitude was deemed necessary in order to sell newspapers or secure clicks.

"Ben's exploits this summer have cemented his place in cricket's history – we are sure the whole sport, and the country, stands behind him in support."

Stokes played a key role in England's Cricket World Cup triumph in July and a month later made a sensational 135 not out to secure a thrilling one-wicket victory over Australia in the third Ashes Test at Headingley.

England all-rounder Ben Stokes has branded a story in The Sun concerning a family tragedy "heartless" and "totally out of order".

The newspaper published an article on Tuesday depicting alleged events that took place three years before Stokes was born, which he describes as "deeply personal and traumatic".

Stokes claims the story contains "serious inaccuracies" and says the decision to publish "has grave and lifelong consequences" for his mother.

In a statement released via his Twitter account, Stokes said: "It is hard to find words that describe such low and despicable behaviour, disguised as journalism. I cannot conceive of anything more immoral, heartless or contemptuous to the feelings and circumstances of my family.

"To use my name as an excuse to shatter the privacy and private lives of - in particular - my parents, is utterly disgusting.

"The article also contains serious inaccuracies which has compounded the damage.

"Despite the fact that this has now been made public, I do please ask all concerned to respect my family's privacy and right to home life."

Stokes starred for England as they won the Cricket World Cup on home soil in July.

The 28-year-old was then involved as England drew the Ashes series with Australia, making a stunning 135 not out to secure a thrilling victory in the third Test at Headingley.

The 2019 Ashes certainly lived up to the pre-series hype.

England and Australia had no shortage of talent on display but also glaring holes in both sides were exposed over the course of five intriguing battles that provided plenty of twists and turns.

There were brilliant exhibitions of fast bowling. There were centuries (thanks largely to Steve Smith!). There was a fairy-tale finish for the ages, too, but in the end no outright winner.

Australia retained the Ashes but England's victory at The Oval in the fifth and final chapter means a 2-2 result, the first series draw between the rivals since 1972.

Here, Omnisport picks out the key moments as we recap each Test.

 

AUSTRALIA EIGHT DOWN, ANDERSON OUT

Tim Paine’s decision to bat first in the series opener appeared foolish when his side slipped to 122-8 on the opening day Edgbaston. Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes did the damage, but James Anderson was only able to bowl four overs before leaving the field.

His absence was keenly felt as, with Smith beginning his one-man crusade against the England attack, Australia’s last two wickets added 166 runs. Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyon showed the supposed batsmen how it should be done in bowler-friendly conditions, supporting their former captain, who finished up with 144 as a potentially disastrous first innings was transformed into a competitive total.

Anderson, meanwhile, only appeared again in the game to bat due to a calf problem. He attempted a comeback in time to play at his home ground of Old Trafford later in the series, but a setback on second XI duty for Lancashire scuppered that plan, meaning England's all-time leading wicket-taker in the longest format sent down just 24 deliveries against Australia.

 

ARCHER MAKES AN INSTANT IMPACT 

With Anderson out, England handed a debut to Jofra Archer for the second Test at Lord's. The pace bowler had been a key component of the one-day squad that won the Cricket World Cup on home soil earlier in the year but warned the public not to expect "miracles" in his Test bow.

There was no miracle – Archer was not quite able to bowl England to victory in the final session of a game that had seen the entire first day wiped out by rain – but his performance caused quite a stir.

He claimed five wickets in the match, struck down Smith with a seriously quick bouncer when the batsman was seemingly on course for a third successive triple-figure knock and, subsequently, played his part in Test history as the first concussion substitute was used. Marnus Labuschagne was laid low by a delivery from Archer too, yet beat the count to carry on batting and make a crucial half-century to secure a draw.

 

HEADINGLEY MIRACLE - VOL II

At a venue where Ian Botham famously salvaged a seemingly lost cause to secure an unlikely Ashes victory in the 1981 series, Ben Stokes produced a performance at Headingley that will see him forever remembered in crick folklore.

Bowled out for just 67 in their first innings, England's valiant bid to reach a tough victory target of 359 appeared set to fall short when they slipped from 245-4 to 286-9 on the fourth afternoon. Yet Stokes refused to give in, choosing to go on the attack with a display of hitting that, with each boundary, raised the possibility of a stunning result.

The left-hander made 135 not out with eight sixes to drag his team over the line, aided by last-man Jack Leach surviving 17 balls and contributing a quick single that turned him into a cult hero. Australia failed to remain composed amid the carnage, wasting their final review and butchering a run-out chance when Lyon somehow fumbled a tame throw to the bowler's end.

 

SMITH AT THE DOUBLE

Having missed the defeat in Leeds due to concussion, Smith returned as the series shifted across the Pennines to Manchester – and made up for lost time with another telling contribution with the bat.  England's plans to rough him up with the short ball failed to pay off as the right-hander made his third Ashes double hundred, in the process taking his tally past 500 runs for a third successive series.

Given a life when dismissed off a no ball from spinner Leach, the former skipper finished up with 211 out of Australia's 497-8 declared. England avoided having to follow-on in reply but 82 from Smith second time around left Root's side needing another Herculean fourth-innings performance to keep the series alive.

While Stokes failed to fire again, it appeared the great escape could be on when Leach combined with Somerset colleague Craig Overton to push the game into the final hour. Fearing another opportunity was set to go begging, Paine turned to Labuschagne's leg spin. The move paid off as he dismissed Leach, opening the door just wide enough for the excellent Josh Hazlewood to wrap up victory in fading light as the tourists moved 2-1 ahead.

 

A PAINE-FUL DECISION & JOE 90

Perhaps it was the fact the urn was already retained, almost akin to a last-day-of-school situation, that led to captain Paine opting to bowl first after winning the toss. England failed to fully capitalise on the opportunity, posting 294, but Smith only (only!) made 82 as Archer's second six-wicket haul in the series secured a useful first-innings lead.

Following a dash home after day one to see the birth of his daughter, England opener Joe Denly celebrated the new arrival with a Test-best score of 94, helping to set Australia plenty in the final innings on a worn surface.

Broad dismissed David Warner for a seventh time in 10 innings – the opener finished the series with 95 runs (only Hazlewood posted a lower average for the visitors than the left-hander's 9.50) – and when Smith fell into England’s leg-side trap, it was just a matter of when, not if, the hosts would triumph. Matthew Wade went down swinging with a hundred, but the topsy-turvy series ended level.

Ben Stokes suggested an Ashes series draw was a fair result and was not interested in entertaining "what ifs" for England after they beat Australia in the fifth Test.

England ran out 135-run winners at the Oval on Sunday to earn a stalemate, yet their hopes of claiming the urn had been ended a week earlier in defeat at Old Trafford.

The triumph in the last Test was the first time England had got the better of a full-strength Australia, with the outstanding Steve Smith limited to just 23 in his second innings.

But Stokes did not want to reflect on how the series might have panned out had they produced the same level of performance earlier in the series.

"I don't think you can ever look back and say, 'What if this happened', 'What if we'd done this differently'," he said, having been named England's player of the series by Australia coach Justin Langer.

"I think it's just been a great series of cricket, to be honest. It's ebbed and flowed in certain areas throughout every game. I think that's shown in the end result with it being 2-2.

"There's been two very evenly matched teams and two very competitive teams, as Ashes cricket always is. I think everyone's been treated to another great Ashes series."

Stokes handed England a historic one-wicket win in the third Test at Headingley with a remarkable unbeaten knock of 135.

 

But having earlier suggested it would mean little if England did not regain the Ashes, the all-rounder indicated he still felt that way.

"It'll probably be something to look back on in a few years' time," he said.

"You know the saying that you'd probably give it all back if it meant we ended up lifting the urn at the end. But I'll come to that innings in a few years' time."

Stokes said he and the team are "100 per cent" behind captain Joe Root, while he picked out Rory Burns and Joe Denly for praise at the top of the order.

"Everyone who has come into the Test team has put their hand up and shown they can compete at the highest level," he said.

As well as Burns and Denly, Jofra Archer was another breakout star, collecting the player of the match honours in the fifth Test after taking 6-62 in Australia's first innings.

Archer, who shone on his debut in the second Test but later lacked consistency, said: "I went wicketless in two innings as well, you know?

"It's Test cricket for you. One day, it might be there; the next innings, it might not be. You have to keep going.

"There will be good days and there will be bad days. It's not every day I'm going to get a wicket. I might go wicketless for a few innings. I have to keep going. The team will back me up regardless."

Joe Denly narrowly missed out on a first Test century but England punished the Australia attack to close day three of the fifth and final Ashes Test with a 382-run lead.

Needing a win to draw the series having already missed out on regaining the urn, England began day three with an advantage of 78 at The Oval.

Denly, whose wife gave birth to their second child on Friday, was the talisman for the hosts as they pressed home that advantage, the right-hander confident and fluent in compiling the highest score of his brief Test career.

The opener stuck 14 fours and a six and combined with Ben Stokes (67) for a crucial third-wicket partnership of 127 to take away any realistic chance the tourists had of winning the match.

Australia face the prospect of having to bat out the majority of the final two days to claim a first series win in England since 2001.

They did, however, deny Denly as the Kent batsman fell six runs shy of his maiden three-figure score in the longest format, though that will come as little solace following a chastening day in the field that ended with England 313-8 and 382 runs ahead.

Denly and opening partner Rory Burns provided an early indication of what was to follow by adding 45 to their overnight total before the latter bottom-edged Nathan Lyon (3-65) behind.

Lyon bolstered Australia's hopes by removing Joe Root cheaply for 21, but England's Headingley hero Stokes provided the ideal partner for Denly.

Their entertaining 221-ball stand saw the duo build an advantage that should prove a match-winning one, though they were each the subject of fortunate reprieves.

Stokes was dropped by Steve Smith and he and Denly, who reached his fourth Test half-century by striking Josh Hazlewood for four, made Australia count the cost of that missed opportunity.

In a theme that developed throughout the day, they consistently dispatched anything pitched wide, while Stokes showed relish in attacking the spin, sweeping Lyon for a four and six in successive deliveries.

He brought up his fifty by smacking a Marnus Labuschagne full toss for six, compounding Australia's frustration after Denly survived an lbw appeal off Mitchell Marsh they elected not to review, Hawkeye showing the ball would have hit the stumps.

Stokes, playing as a specialist batsman due to a shoulder injury, went to a stunning delivery from Lyon that should provide encouragement for England spinner Jack Leach in the final innings.

Denly came up short three overs later when he edged Peter Siddle (2-52) to slip, though his departure did not halt England's momentum.

Jos Buttler ​– who also escaped what should have been a successful claim for lbw – unfurled a series of wondrous cover drives en route to an eye-catching 47. He and Chris Woakes (6) were each dismissed by stunning catches as Australia made late inroads on a difficult day for the tourists.

 

A GAME TOO FAR FOR AUSSIES

The Australia attack, led by Pat Cummins, has had the edge for the majority of the series, but they looked tired, frustrated and out of ideas as England piled on the runs. Perhaps this was a game too far for Cummins and company.

STOKES ROUNDS OFF INCREDIBLE SUMMER

From his World-Cup winning display in arguably the greatest game ever at Lord's to his heroics in the third Test in Leeds, this truly has been the summer of Stokes for England. Though unable to contribute with the ball in this match, the all-rounder was again imperious with the bat in the second innings, and his stand with Denly looks like being one that ensures a drawn series.

MOMENT OF THE DAY

Denly will have been bitterly disappointed not to get to his century, with Siddle earning his reward for applying consistent pressure after he reached the nineties. However, the ovation he received as he left the field was richly deserved following a performance that should do his hopes of retaining a place in the line-up the power of good.

OPTA FACTS

- Ben Stokes has more 50s in this Test series than in any other (4).

- Stokes has surpassed 400 Ashes 2019 runs - the only England batsman to do so.

- Joe Root has averaged 32.5 in this Ashes; only once before has he recorded a lower rate in a multi-game home Test series (v Sri Lanka, 2016 - 21.8).

- Only the wicketkeepers have claimed more catches than Steve Smith (12) in the series.

- Only Alastair Cook and Keaton Jennings have scored more Test runs as an opener for England since Andrew Strauss' retirement than Rory Burns.

Joe Denly and Ben Stokes pressed home England's advantage with an unbroken century stand in a wicket-less afternoon session on day three of the final Ashes Test at The Oval.

England, striving to secure a 2-2 series draw after the tourists retained the urn at Old Trafford, were 193-2 at tea on a sunny Saturday in London - leading by 262 runs on a good pitch.

Nathan Lyon removed Rory Burns (20) and Joe Root (21) before lunch, but Denly was unbeaten on his highest Test score of 82 not out after putting on 106 for the third wicket with Stokes (57no).

Stokes was dropped on seven by Steve Smith, while Denly - whose wife gave birth to their second child this week  - was fortunate not to be given out leg before off Mitchell Marsh after being put down by Marcus Harris on day three.

Harris was unable to field after having seven stitches in his left hand to repair split webbing sustained when he spilled Denly before he had got off the mark on Friday.

Burns and Denly started positively after England resumed on nine without loss, but the highest opening stand of the series was halted at 54 when the left-hander chased a wide one from Lyon and feathered behind.

Root fell tamely, edging the spinner to Smith at first slip before lunch, and Stokes should have departed in the same fashion, only for the best Test batsman in the world to drop a simple chance.

Denly, struck on the box by Pat Cummins in the morning session, had a fourth Test half-century courtesy of a wristy boundary off Josh Hazlewood.

Stokes swept Lyon for four and six off back-to-back deliveries and there was more frustration for Australia when Denly survived an lbw appeal off Marsh that should have been answered in the affirmative and Tim Paine opted not to review.

Vice-captain Stokes, playing as a specialist batsman due to a shoulder injury, raised his bat after hammering a Marnus Labuschagne full toss for six. Denly then brought up the century stand by driving the spinner for four as he closed in on a maiden Test hundred.

Australia took two wickets in the afternoon session but England captain Joe Root had an unbeaten half-century at tea after being dropped three times on day one of the fifth Ashes Test at the Oval.

England, unable to regain the urn but attempting to salvage a 2-2 draw, were 86-1 at lunch with Joe Denly falling to Pat Cummins for just 14 after Tim Paine won the toss and surprisingly opted to bowl.

Josh Hazlewood dismissed Rory Burns (47) while Mitchell Marsh - in for Travis Head - sent Ben Stokes (20) back to the pavilion, but Root (57 not out) and Jonny Bairstow (22no) saw England through to 169-3 at tea.

Root was given three lives by the sloppy tourists, who took a 2-1 lead with victory at Old Trafford, as he passed 7,000 Test runs on a good pitch under blue skies in London. 

A juggling Smith caught Denly at the third attempt to end an opening stand of 27 - the highest of the series - and the excellent Cummins should have had a second wicket when the recalled Peter Siddle put Root down on 24 at deep backward square-leg.

Root had just another run to his name when he was spilled by wicketkeeper Paine after Cummins drew an edge, while the home skipper was on 30 when Smith dropped a tough chance diving to his right at second slip, Siddle the unfortunate bowler on that occasion.

England's premier batsman drove Hazlewood for four to reach a notable personal milestone after lunch and Burns looked well set before he tamely top-edged the same bowler to Marsh at mid on, having struck seven boundaries in an otherwise assured knock.

Stokes, playing as a specialist batsman due to a shoulder injury, struck Cummins for back-to-back boundaries before gifting a wicket to Marsh, attempting to pull the all-rounder but ballooning to Nathan Lyon for 20.

Bairstow started positively with two fours off as many balls from Siddle - preferred to Mitchell Starc - and Root reached 50 as the Yorkshire duo combined for an unbroken stand of 39.

Joe Root insists Jason Roy has not reached the end of the road in his Test career after the batsman was dropped by England for the final Ashes match against Australia.

Roy came into England's squad for the Ashes on the back of an impressive World Cup, but the 29-year-old - who opened the batting for the first three Tests before dropping to number four at Old Trafford - has failed to recapture the form he has shown in one-day cricket.

With all-rounder Ben Stokes having sustained a shoulder injury in the fourth Test, England have brought in Sam Curran as an extra bowler. That meant Roy, who accumulated just 110 runs from eight innings, misses out, while Chris Woakes has replaced Craig Overton.

Root, however, has no doubt Roy will work on improving his game in order to force his way back into consideration ahead of England's tour of New Zealand in November.

"It's always tough to leave guys out, but Stokesy suffered a shoulder injury in the last game and won't be able to bowl the overs you'd normally expect him to, and with that we've had to change the balance of the side," Root told a news conference.

"Jason's the unfortunate one to miss out. He's had an opportunity to come in and play Test cricket, get a feel for it.

"It's not quite gone how he would have liked but I’m sure he’ll go away, work extremely hard and come again and that’s what you'd expect of guys when they get left out.

"I'm sure he'll have that attitude, want to prove a point and get himself back into the side."

"Yes," Root said, when asked if he had spoken to Roy, who made his Test debut against Ireland in July.

"When you leave someone out you obviously have those conversations, and he’s very aware of where he's at and what he needs to do to get himself to the best place to perform in Test cricket."

Outgoing England coach Trevor Bayliss said on Tuesday that, despite media speculation, there was "no pressure" on Root's position as captain despite the team's failure to regain the Ashes.

And the Yorkshire batsman is adamant his side have plenty to play for heading into the final Test at The Oval.

"[It was] bitterly disappointing to not have got the Ashes back, but we haven't lost anything yet, we've got to make sure we square the series up and there's Test Championship points to play for as well which could make a huge difference," Root said.

"There's plenty to play for, the guys are very aware of that and determined to make sure we make the series 2-2.

"In terms of my own captaincy, I know the direction I want to take this team in and it's about starting that now, not after this series. We need to use this as a stepping stone, win this game, have a really strong winter and move forward as a group."

Jason Roy has been dropped from England's side for the final Ashes Test at The Oval after his poor form throughout the series, with Ben Stokes passed fit to bat.

Roy has failed to establish himself, either as an opener alongside Rory Burns or when switched to number four for the Old Trafford Test.

The 29-year-old's highest score came in Manchester, when he made 31 as England desperately attempted to keep the series alive, to no avail, and Roy has now made way for Sam Curran.

Craig Overton proved resilient with the bat in England's second innings at Old Trafford before he was eventually dismissed by Josh Hazlewood, but the Somerset bowler has been replaced by Chris Woakes.

Stokes will play as a specialist batsman, with the all-rounder unable to bowl due to a shoulder injury.

Australia captain Tim Paine confirmed one change to his 12-man squad, with Mitchell Marsh replacing Travis Head.

England team for fifth Ashes Test: Joe Root (c), Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Jack Leach, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes.

England have named an unchanged 13-man squad for the fifth Ashes Test, despite seeing their Ashes hopes end at Old Trafford on Sunday.

Joe Root's side suffered a 185-run defeat in Manchester, the result meaning Australia - who won the 2017-18 series 4-0 on home soil - hold a 2-1 lead and are already certain to retain the urn.

However, rather than swing the axe following the fourth Test result, the selectors have opted to stick with the same group of players as they look to square the five-match series with victory at the Oval.

The show of faith gives a further opportunity to England's misfiring batsmen.

Only Ben Stokes, who made centuries at Lord's and Headingley, the second of which secured a remarkable one-wicket win, and opener Roy Burns average above 40 against Australia's potent bowling attack this year.

Jason Roy retains his place despite making just 110 runs in eight innings. After struggling as an opener, the right-hander was moved into the middle order at Old Trafford, making scores of 22 and 31.

All-rounder Stokes may yet feature as a specialist batsman in the Ashes finale, which begins on Thursday, with England to assess his injured shoulder in the coming days.

The fifth Test will be Trevor Bayliss' last as England coach - the Australian had already announced he would be leaving the role at the end of the series.

Pat Cummins claimed the prized scalp of Ben Stokes in the morning session to leave Australia needing another six wickets to retain the Ashes at Old Trafford.

England started the final day in deep trouble on 18-2 - requiring a highly unlikely 365 more runs to win - after Cummins dismissed Rory Burns and Joe Root without scoring late on Saturday.

Jason Roy (31) and Joe Denly (48 not out) knuckled down in a third-wicket stand of 66 before the former was bowled - for the fourth time in the series - by the outstanding Cummins.

Stokes, England's saviour at Headingley a fortnight ago, was unable to come to the rescue again as he walked after nicking Cummins behind for only one.

Denly and Jonny Bairstow made it through to lunch with England 87-4, with a minimum of 71 overs to bat out for an unlikely draw and avoid going 2-1 down with one match to play.

Roy got forward with conviction in the first hour and dispatched Cummins past midwicket for four, with Denly also digging in.

Mitchell Starc troubled Denly with a short ball after replacing Cummins, the batsman flashing the left-arm quick over the slips for a streaky boundary as Australia strived for a breakthrough.

Nathan Lyon was again cheered each time he caught the ball after his costly botched run out in Leeds and the noise was cranked up when Cummins hurled the ball past him for overthrows.

Roy hit Starc for four with a glorious cover drive just before the drinks break, but was gone when Cummins removed his off stump with a brilliant delivery, which nipped back through the gate.

Stokes came out to a huge roar, but was soon heading back to the pavilion looking dejected after inside-edging a pumped-up Cummins behind, walking off without the finger being raised by umpire Marais Erasmus in a huge moment with lunch looming.

Australia closed in on a victory in the fourth Ashes Test that would ensure they retain the urn as Steve Smith again punished England, who were quickly reduced to 18-2 having been set 383 on day four.

Mitchell Starc, Smith and Pat Cummins each enjoyed their time in the spotlight on Saturday, with Australia reclaiming command of proceedings each time their hosts appeared to have been granted a glimmer of hope at Old Trafford.

Starc took 3-80 and excelled with the new ball as England, who resumed on 200-5, were dismissed for 301 in their first innings to concede a lead of 196.

The talismanic Smith - a double-centurion in Australia's first dig - then shone once more with the bat to stretch his side's advantage.

England reduced their opponents to 44-4 before Smith hit 82 off 92 balls - another wonderful innings yet incredibly his lowest score of the series to date - and Tim Paine declared on 186-6 in a bid to make swift progress against the fragile home top order.

Paine got what he wanted almost immediately as Cummins started with a double-wicket-maiden, dismissing Rory Burns and Joe Root. England duly stumbled through to stumps, three long sessions away from a draw that would keep the series alive - or, more unlikely still, requiring 365 to follow up their Headingley triumph with another stunning comeback victory.

In the morning session, England never truly recovered from the break up of the Burns-Root partnership on day three, with Starc getting movement out of the new ball to bowl Jonny Bairstow (17) before swiftly adding the big wicket of Ben Stokes (26).

Jos Buttler (41) was almost solely responsible for at least lifting England past the follow-on target of 298 before he fell to Cummins.

Australia then wobbled when batting again, with Stuart Broad continuing his domination of David Warner, trapping the opener for a third consecutive duck.

Broad kept the pressure on and got Marcus Harris (6) too, before Jofra Archer accounted for Marnus Labuschagne and Travis Head in a pacy spell.

However, Smith initially dug in and then came out firing after tea, surviving brief scares as he came close to dragging on and then almost fell to a stunning attempted catch from Stokes.

While other batsmen struggled for fluency, Smith was able to score freely with some increasingly expansive strokeplay. His attempts to lift the run-rate eventually gifted a wicket to Leach as Stokes was picked out at long-off.

Matthew Wade departed to a rejuvenated Archer, before Paine smashed a quick unbeaten 23 off 18 and then declared mid-over, teeing up Cummins to dish out some early damage.

Burns fell victim to the third ball when a leading edge looped to a sprawling Head at cover, while Root's defences were breached immediately by a gorgeous delivery that took off stump.

Jason Roy saw off the hat-trick ball and survived the remaining 6.2 overs alongside Joe Denly, but England's hopes of regaining the urn appear slim with a day to play.

 

STARC CONTRAST TO DAY THREE

Starc, recalled for this Test, is not always the most consistent of bowlers and struggled a little on Friday, ending the third day on figures of 0-41.

He proved his worth on day four with two huge early wickets in a new-ball spell. After bowling Bairstow through the gate with an inswinger, he tempted an edge from Stokes, who had scored 161 runs since his previous dismissal in the first innings at Headingley.

ARCHER BACK AT IT BUT SMITH SUPREME

Archer endured the first really tough innings of his international career earlier in this match, his figures of 0-97 including a gruelling spell bowling to Smith. The wicket of Labuschagne here came as a huge relief.

But that battle with Smith still provided Archer with little reward. Until his dismissal at the hands of Leach, the Australia star, a little like Stokes in Leeds, appeared to be in one-day mode as he blasted the ball around Old Trafford.

MOMENT OF THE DAY

England were already in big trouble after losing Burns in the first over of their second innings. Their hopes of salvaging a draw receded sharply when the next ball from Cummins beat Root all ends up to leave the hosts 0-2.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Broad has got Warner six times in this series.
- Warner has had three ducks in a row. Prior to this run, he had never failed to score in successive Test innings.
- Broad has nine wickets from openers this series. Cummins has the next most on six.
- Smith has five successive Test half-centuries - his best such run.
- The Australia star has scored 293 runs in this Test match; his highest tally in a match.
- Having completed their highest successful run chase (359) at Headingley, England need to achieve the feat again to win this contest.
- Burns' duck was his first in Test cricket.

Mitchell Starc's brilliant new-ball burst in the morning session strengthened Australia's grip on the fourth Ashes Test at Old Trafford.

England resumed under grey skies in trouble on 200-5 in reply to the tourists' 497-8 declared, after Josh Hazlewood did late damage on the third day.

Joe Root's side were 278-8 at lunch on Saturday, with Jonny Bairstow (17) and Headingley hero Ben Stokes (26) dismissed by the excellent Starc (2-66) before Pat Cummins saw the back of Jofra Archer.

Jos Buttler was unbeaten on 26, but England trailed by a mammoth 219 and needed another 20 runs to avoid the follow-on as Australia scented a victory that would give them a 2-1 lead - and ensure they retain the urn.

Starc struggled on day three of his first match of the series, but showed his class with the second new ball by generating late swing to bowl Bairstow, who was punished for attempting an extravagant drive. 

Stokes rode his luck, almost chopping on before the dangerous Starc spilled him off his own bowling when he was on 19.

The all-rounder did not last much longer, though, and was furious with himself after edging Starc into the safe hands of Steve Smith, who took his third catch of the innings at second slip.

Archer was fortunate not to be run out casually going through for a single and it was no surprise when he was caught behind off Cummins with an ugly waft, reducing England to 256-8.

Buttler struck five boundaries as he took a positive approach and Stuart Broad was still there at the break after receiving treatment on his elbow, but Australia remained in complete control. 

Steve Smith was in formidable form once again, scoring a brilliant double century to put Australia in a commanding position on day two of the fourth Ashes Test against England at Old Trafford.

Former Australia captain Smith marked his return to the line-up after missing the previous match at Headingley – which saw the hosts draw level in the series at 1-1 thanks to Ben Stokes' heroics – due to concussion with a stunning 211.

Tim Paine (58) was put down twice and Mitchell Starc (54 not out) cut loose to add to England's frustrations on a tough day in Manchester, Australia eventually declaring on 497-8 in the final session.

Smith looked out of sorts early on and was dropped by Jofra Archer on 65, but he held firm and brought up his 11th Ashes hundred – a tally only the great Don Bradman has bettered.

Jack Leach (2-83) thought he had Smith out on 118 but the spinner overstepped, and the 30-year-old took full advantage of the reprieves to dish out further punishment.

England were dealt a late blow when Matthew Wade snaffled Joe Denly superbly at short leg off Pat Cummins, though Rory Burns and nightwatchman Craig Overton held firm in the closing overs as the hosts reached 23-1.

Smith appeared flustered when Australia resumed on 170-3 and would have been dismissed in the opening session had Archer been able to hold on to a tough caught-and-bowled chance.

Stuart Broad (3-97) got the breakthrough by trapping Travis Head (19) leg before and Australia were 224-5 when Wade (16) skied Leach to Joe Root following a short rain delay.

Paine was put down by Jason Roy at second slip on nine in the first over after lunch as the wheels came off for England, the Australia skipper and Smith building a 145-run stand for the sixth wicket.

It could have been very different for England had Leach not been pinged for a no ball when Smith edged to Stokes at slip, while Sam Curran – on for Stokes, who left the field briefly due to a shoulder issue – failed to hold on when Paine pulled Archer (0-97) straight to him when one shy of his half-century.

Starc provided the perfect foil for the expansive Smith after the losses of Paine and Cummins, launching Broad for four successive fours.

Smith received a warm ovation after reverse sweeping England skipper Root to backward point to end his superb knock, though Starc and Nathan Lyon (26no) heaped yet more misery on the lacklustre hosts.

 

SMITH PRODUCES ANOTHER MASTERCLASS

His fidgety start did not suggest his third-best score in Tests was on the cards, but Smith soon regained his composure and was in fine fettle after a rain-shortened opening day.

Smith hit 24 fours and a pair of sixes in an outstanding innings that means all three of his double centuries in the longest format have come in Ashes matches.

ENGLAND REQUIRE SOMETHING SPECIAL

Smith's work undoubtedly has England on the back foot and they will require a seriously impressive day with the bat if they are to keep their hopes of regaining the urn alive.

After a battling second-innings half-century at Headingley, Denly failed to do anything to ease ongoing questions over the state of the hosts' top order.

MOMENT OF THE DAY

Smith's double ton would not have come to pass had Archer reacted quicker to the opportunity off his own bowling in the opening session.

The paceman was down on his haunches after seeing the top-ranked Test batsman's shot down the ground slip through his fingers.  

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Starc scored his first Test half-century since February 2017 (against India).
- Archer registered his worst red-ball figures (0-97).
- Smith has more runs in four innings than anyone else in Test cricket in 2019.
- Paine ended a run of 17 Test innings without a half-century.

Ben Stokes was troubled by a shoulder injury as Steve Smith and Tim Paine heaped further pain on abysmal England to put Australia in command at tea on day two of the fourth Ashes Test.

The tourists will start the final session on 369-5 with the astonishing Smith unbeaten on 173 - his third century and biggest score of the series so far - and Paine 58 not out in a stand of 145, but it could have been a very different story at Old Trafford on Thursday.

Smith was dropped by Jofra Archer on 65 and had a huge reprieve when he edged Jack Leach to Stokes at first slip with 118 to his name, replays showing the spinner had overstepped.

Paine was also given two lives and made England suffer by scoring his first half-century of the series as the wheels came off for Joe Root's side.

Headingley hero Stokes spent a short time off the field in an extended afternoon session due to rain on day one. While he did return, England were reeling after levelling the series in such dramatic fashion in Leeds.

Archer put Smith down in the second over of the day after Australia resumed on 170-3, but Stuart Broad - the pick of the bowlers with 3-74 - got the breakthrough by trapping Travis Head leg before.

Matthew Wade had a rush of blood and was caught by Root off Leach, yet the busy Smith reached three figures yet again before lunch after playing with increasing fluency following a somewhat shaky start.

England lost the plot following lunch, Jason Roy dropping Paine off Archer on nine at second slip before Smith was given another let-off when he nicked to Stokes, Leach paying the price for a no-ball.

Paine was spilled again, this by Sam Curran - on for Stokes, one short of a half-century and he was still there with the magnificent Smith at tea, the pair putting Australia in a great position.

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