England’s push for victory on the penultimate day of the fourth Ashes Test was delayed by the forecast rain at Emirates Old Trafford.

There are growing fears the inclement weather in the north-west this weekend may not relent to give England a window to claim the six wickets they need for a series-levelling victory.

England have seized total control of this Test, with Australia needing 162 just to make the hosts bat again, after closing on 113 for four thanks to Mark Wood’s three-wicket burst on Friday evening.

However, overnight rain continued into Saturday morning and shelving a scheduled 11am start time, with England tweeting: “We’re going to be heavily delayed.”

England will have their eyes on the skies as they attempt to dodge the rain and turn three dominant days into victory in the fourth Ashes Test.

The hosts need to win at Emirates Old Trafford to have any chance of reclaiming the urn and have done everything in their power to set up a winning position.

A thumping first-innings lead of 275, built around Zak Crawley’s 189 and an unbeaten 99 from the stranded Jonny Bairstow, gave them full control before Australia slipped to 113 for four.

With Mark Wood tearing in to claim three for 17 and a cushion of 162 runs, England would back themselves to get the game moving over the weekend but may find the weather forecast harder to defeat than the tourists. Long, heavy showers are expected on Saturday and Sunday and the pressure will be on to maximise any passages of play that are possible.

With six sessions on the table they will be hoping a fresh bowling attack has enough time, but Australia seamer Josh Hazlewood has already broken cover to admit he would be happy to watch the heavens open. Marnus Labuschagne remains in place on 44 not out, with in-form all-rounder Mitch Marsh at the start of his innings.

England pile into toiling Australia

Crawley laid the foundations for England, who added 208 to their overnight score which took them to a formidable 592, with fifties for Ben Stokes, Harry Brook and Bairstow. This was England’s highest total in a home Test since August 2011, their best score in the Ashes since January 2011 at Sydney and the first time they have gone past 500 on their own shores against Australia since August 1985.

Tweet of the day

All eyes will be on the skies this weekend – and the view of the BBC lead weather presenter does not augur well.

Quote of the dayJonny 99

Bairstow was left high and dry, one short of a 13th Test ton, after number 11 batter James Anderson was trapped leg-before by Cameron Green. The previous delivery, Bairstow had turned down a risky return run which would have taken him to three figures. This was Bairstow’s second 99 at this ground – although on that occasion against South Africa six years ago Anderson was blameless as the Yorkshireman was lbw missing a sweep off Keshav Maharaj.

Pat down

An analysis of 23-0-129-1 makes for grim reading for the Australia captain, who doubtless would not have been consoled by claiming the wicket of his opposite number Ben Stokes. Former Australia skipper Ricky Ponting wondered aloud on Sky Sports whether Cummins was “starting to get a bit mentally and physically worn out”, having played in and captained the side in the World Test Championship final and four Ashes matches inside the last seven weeks. His partners in crime Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc hardly fared any better as the trio leaked a barely believable 392 between them from 75 overs.

Duck-ing the trend

Chris Woakes, whose priceless 32 not out got England over the line in the Headingley run-chase, nicked off from his first ball to collect England’s first duck of the series. In the last Ashes in 2021-22, there were 17 scoreless dismissals. Woakes’ fortunes improved with the ball in hand as he snared David Warner for the second time in the match courtesy of an inside edge on to his stumps.

Century Mark

Wood snaring the valuable wicket of Steve Smith for a second time in the match, after Australia’s vaunted number four was given the hurry up by a steeply rising bouncer, was Wood’s 100th Test wicket. It has taken Wood 30 matches and eight years to reach the milestone. Interestingly, the identity of his first Test wicket was a certain Brendon McCullum – now England head coach – at Lord’s in May 2015.

Jonny Bairstow took aim at his detractors, describing the criticism he has faced as “out of order” after lifting England into the boxseat in the fourth Ashes Test.

After bashing Australia’s tiring bowlers in his unbeaten 99 off 81 balls to help England to a mammoth 592 all out, an aggrieved Bairstow continued on the offensive at the end of the third day’s play.

While a golden summer with the bat last year meant he was destined to return after recovering from a horrific leg break he suffered last August, the decision for Bairstow to take on wicketkeeping duties against Australia has backfired as the Yorkshireman has dropped seven catches and missed a stumping.

England have resisted calls to restore gloveman Ben Foakes, dropped to facilitate the return of Bairstow, who believes his knockers have failed to take into account the severity of an injury in which he broke his left leg in three places and dislocated his ankle after slipping on a golf course.

“You’ve got to have a bit of perspective on it,” Bairstow told the BBC. “I’ve not played in months and I’ve not kept properly in three years.

“There’s obviously been a lot of talk and things like that, some of which I think has been a bit out of order to be honest but that’s part and parcel of people having an opinion.

“There are times when if people had a conversation with you individually and found out a bit more about the injury or the ankle and how everything’s going, they might have a slightly different view or perspective on it.”

He added on Sky Sports: “The leg break could have ended my career. There are times when you have aches and pains, and people say you’re limping – yeah I am at times! Because there’s a lot going on in my ankle.”

There is a perception that Bairstow tends to perform well when he feels he has a point to prove and Australia’s bowlers bore the brunt of any ill-feeling he had after flaying 10 fours and four sixes as he amassed his highest score since his injury.

However, Bairstow, who was left stranded one run short of three figures after last man James Anderson fell lbw to Cameron Green, insisted he does not need to be fired up to be at his best.

“Everyone thinks I play better when people have a go at me,” Bairstow said. “It gets a bit tiresome, to be honest.

“I’ve played a lot of cricket now. To keep being told you’re rubbish – if I was that rubbish I wouldn’t have played 94 Tests.

“To score 99 you’re pretty happy, aren’t you. I put on a really nice partnership at the end with Jimmy.”

Bairstow snaffled two catches as Mark Wood’s three-wicket haul helped reduce Australia to 113 for four, still trailing by 162, but unsettled weather over the weekend could dampen their victory push at Emirates Old Trafford.

“The weather is the weather, I’m not Michael Fish,” Bairstow said with a smile. “In the circumstances of the game to get 275 in front and then to take four wickets tonight for 100 is all we could have done.”

As well as his work behind the stumps coming under scrutiny, Bairstow was at the centre of the series’ biggest flash point as he was opportunistically stumped by Australia wicketkeeper Alex Carey at Lord’s.

Bairstow stepped out of his crease believing the ball to be dead after ducking a Green bouncer but Carey gathered the ball and in one motion threw down the stumps earlier this month, prompting controversy to the extent that the Prime Ministers of both England and Australia had their say.

“It wasn’t the way I wanted to be out down at Lord’s,” Bairstow added. “That is part and parcel of the game. We have seen it in other occasions. I have heard about it in club cricket.

“That’s not necessarily what you want to be hearing. The example for me when you are looking at young kids coming up. You want to be playing the game and play it how I have always played it, you play it tough, you play it fair.”

Australia’s Josh Hazlewood admitted he would be happier to watch it rain than try and wrestle the fourth Ashes Test from England’s grasp.

The tourists have been comprehensively outplayed over three days at Emirates Old Trafford, watching the hosts pile up a 275-run first-innings lead before being reduced to 113 for four in the evening session.

Their only realistic hope of avoiding defeat lies in the skies, with a dismal weekend weather forecast threatening to drown out the fixture.

A damp draw would be enough for Australia to retain the urn, albeit in the flattest of fashions, but Hazlewood welcomed the prospect.

“It would be great to lose a few overs here and there and make our job a bit easier hanging in there, that’s pretty obvious,” he said.

“I would be very pleased. It is forecast, but the forecast can change all the time. There’s rain around but rain and light plays a big part in cricket and has done forever.

“We’re a long way behind, as you can see on the scoreboard. We’re well behind and it’s easy to see that.”

Hazlewood, who took a five-wicket haul amid an attacking blitz from England, stood firm behind his skipper Pat Cummins after what has surely been the most difficult few days of his tenure.

Cummins has looked reactive and muddled in the field, returned the worst bowling figures of his career (one for 129), misread two catches and got out to the first ball of day two.

“It’s a good learning experience,” said Hazlewood.

“He hasn’t been captain for a long period of time and we’ve probably had the better rub of the green for the whole period he’s been captain. He’ll no doubt sit down with the coaches and go through a few things, but he’s a very quick learner.

“Hopefully it doesn’t happen again but in those positions he is still very calm… nothing flustered at any stage.”

Jonny Bairstow was stranded one short of a dazzling Ashes century and Mark Wood blew a hole in Australia’s top order as England continued their fourth Test domination of Australia.

Bairstow was left high and dry on 99 not out from just 81 balls as England blazed their way to 592 on day three at Emirates Old Trafford, building on Zak Crawley’s 189-run blitz on Thursday.

That gave them a commanding lead of 275 over their increasingly beleaguered rivals, who made an uncertain 113 for four in reply and now find themselves relying on a poor weekend weather forecast to escape with a draw.

Wood, once again hurdling the 90mph barrier to unsettle the Australians, claimed three for 17 as Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith and Travis Head all succumbed.

Bairstow has had an eventful series – falling victim to a deeply controversial stumping at Lord’s, making some costly wicketkeeping errors and even tussling with a Just Stop Oil protester – but put himself in the thick of things for all the right reasons with an outstanding innings.

England were 67 ahead overnight and 120 in front when he arrived at the crease, but his dominant strokeplay piled on the misery for the Australians.

Despite a ring of boundary riders trying to shut him down he hammered four sixes and 10 fours to carry his side to their highest Ashes total at home since 1985.

Bairstow’s controlled aggression was deserving of a hundred but, after expertly managing the strike for the majority of his time with the tail, he found himself stuck at the non-striker’s end after deciding against a risky second that could have got him there.

Last man James Anderson was trapped lbw by Cameron Green’s next ball, stopping Bairstow in his tracks and making him just the third English batter to finish undefeated on 99.

Sir Geoffrey Boycott (1979) and Alex Tudor (1999) are the only others to suffer that fate, but Bairstow was grinning broadly as he left the pitch.

He has been eyeing a measure of revenge ever since his divisive dismissal in the second Test at Lord’s and helped himself to a healthy portion.

Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood were both on the receiving end of muscular sixes thrashed into the leg-side, but Bairstow would have taken most satisfaction from the pair of furious blows off Pat Cummins, the Australia captain who refused to withdraw the appeal at Lord’s.

Cummins, who has looked bereft of energy and inspiration this week, ended up with figures of one for 129, the worst analysis of his career.

Bairstow also took liberties against fellow wicketkeeper Alex Carey, the man who threw down his stumps to kick off the ‘spirit of cricket’ rumpus in the first place.

In a bid to shield Anderson from the strike, Bairstow charged through for a bye on several occasions despite the ball carrying cleanly through to Carey’s gloves.

To the audible delight of the crowd, Carey repeatedly failed to hit the target from exactly the same range he had done so two games ago.

England’s day started in typically lively fashion, with a morning session that added 122 runs and four wickets to the scoreboard in just 24 overs.

There were half-centuries for Ben Stokes (51) and Harry Brook (61), and some success for Hazlewood, who finished with five for 126 amid the carnage.

Bairstow was afforded a centurion’s ovation as he left the field, the Manchester crowd overlooking the small matter of a missing single, but did not linger over the moment. His mind was already trained on the next job, with 12 overs to bowl before tea.

Wood was brought on for the 10th and needed just two deliveries to have Usman Khawaja caught behind.

Australia began the evening session on 39 for one, and proceeded to cough up more top-order talent on a pitch that was playing true.

David Warner was first for 28, continuing a poor series by steering Woakes back into his stumps with an uncertain poke outside off.

Woakes thought he had Smith for a duck but saw the TV umpire rule in the batter’s favour when assessing an uncertain slip catch. It looked an extremely close call but the indifferent reaction of the catcher, Joe Root, might have settled it.

In the end it took Wood’s hostility to keep England on the front foot. After bowling just three overs out of the first 28, he returned for a final blast and took Smith and Head with him.

Smith gloved a catch down leg, clearly hurried by the speed, and Head got into an awful position as he fended a rapid bouncer away from his chest and straight to Ben Duckett at gully.

Anita Asante feels there have been “important steps” taken with regard to the diversity issue in English women’s football but has stressed it will take some time to see them bear fruit.

During England’s run to winning Euro 2022, Asante wrote in the Guardian about the lack of diversity in a squad featuring just three members from black, Asian or mixed heritage backgrounds out of 23, with the player pathway and access to football for girls in schools among the issues the former Lioness pointed to as problems.

In February, the Football Association announced a revamped women’s and girls’ pathway that it said would make the game more diverse and accessible, with up to 70 ‘Emerging Talent Centres’ being established across the country.

In March the Government announced a package to boost school sport and equal access to it, something the FA is set to help deliver, following England’s players calling for change just after the Euros.

More recently, an England squad for this summer’s World Cup has been named that has only two players from black, Asian or mixed heritage backgrounds, while a major independent review has said the FA should “urgently address the lack of diversity across the women’s game in both on and off pitch roles”, recommending it audits the existing workforce and uses the data to create a workforce strategy.

Asked for her thoughts on the current picture, Asante told the PA news agency: “I think the main thing is these issues and discussions have been taken seriously for the first time by the FA.

“They launched the emerging talent centres, they’ve got a list of different programmes, and the England girls launched the initiative with the Government.

“I think those were important steps, but this is still a very short-term window we’re looking at in terms of that progress. To see the fruits of that progress I think is going to take a lot longer.

“The review is a welcome one, because it still highlights that that is an issue. It’s about how can the recommendations be implemented for the long-term, to see the changes we want to see.”

The ex-Arsenal, Chelsea and Aston Villa defender added: “If you look at the structures of governance in sport – are the institutions themselves reflective of diverse communities? Because I can talk about this all day long, but I don’t have the influence or the power. It’s people within.

“How important do they feel diversity is? What channels are they using to make things change?”

Asante feels a broad issue at grassroots level feeding into the current situation is that while participation interest has “gone up exponentially” since the Euros, “the infrastructure hasn’t moved on with that” with regard to staff, volunteers and facilities in place.

She has also emphasised her feeling that the FA utilising former players within the pathway, such as England greats Rachel Yankey and Mary Phillip, would be a “powerful tool”.

Asante, who won 71 England caps, has been working as a first-team coach at Bristol City Women since retiring from playing last summer.

And she said: “One of the reasons I took on this role was I felt it was important to give back in the way I could – to give players a different experience by meeting someone like me maybe from my background and journey in the game, and also to try to be a positive role model for others that might want to become coaches or just be involved in football somehow.”

An FA spokesperson said: “We are making progress in improving the diversity of our talent pathway and the wider game.

“However, these are long-term challenges, and they require all of football’s stakeholders to play their part if we are to drive lasting change.”

When her World Cup squad was announced, England boss Sarina Wiegman expressed her hope that ongoing work would lead to “more players from different backgrounds in the national team”, while stressing it “takes a little more time.”

Among the mixed results in the Football Leadership Diversity Code update for 2021-22 that it published in October, the FA reported women’s clubs reaching a 15 per cent pledge of new coaching hires coming from black, Asian or mixed heritage backgrounds.

Jonny Bairstow was stranded one short of a dazzling Ashes century as England hammered home their advantage on day three of the fourth Test at Emirates Old Trafford.

Building on Thursday’s 189-run blitz from centurion Zak Crawley, England piled up a huge score of 592 – their fifth highest home total against Australia and their biggest against their rivals since 2011 in Sydney.

That established a handsome 275-run lead, with Mark Wood removing Usman Khawaja just before tea to leave the tourists on 39 for one as they clung to the prospect of bad weather saving them over the weekend.

England were 67 in front overnight and 120 ahead when Bairstow arrived at the crease on 437 for five, but he piled on the agony with a fearsome knock of 99 not out in 81 balls.

He hit four violent sixes and 10 boundaries, doing some major damage to both the scoreboard and the ailing morale of the visiting attack.

A brilliant ton was at hand but, after expertly managing the tail for the majority of his innings, he left himself stuck one short at the non-striker’s end after deciding against taking a risky second.

Last man James Anderson was trapped lbw by Cameron Green’s next ball, stopping Bairstow in his tracks and making him just the third English batter to finish an innings undefeated on 99.

Sir Geoffrey Boycott (1979) and Alex Tudor (1999) are the only others to suffer that fate, but Bairstow was grinning broadly as he left the pitch having enjoyed his delayed retribution against Australia.

He has been eyeing a measure of revenge ever since his controversial stumping in the second Test at Lord’s and helped himself to a healthy portion here.

He showed off his mighty ball-striking ability in the afternoon session, flogging Pat Cummins for two muscular sixes and dealing out one apiece to Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, despite a ring of nine fielders nominally protecting the boundaries.

Bairstow also took some liberties against fellow wicketkeeper Alex Carey, the man who controversially threw down his stumps to kick off a rumpus about the spirit of cricket at Lord’s. In a bid to shield Anderson from the strike, Bairstow charged through for a bye on several occasions despite the ball carrying cleanly through to Carey’s gloves.

To the audible delight of the crowd, Carey repeatedly failed to hit the target from exactly the same range he had done so two games ago.

Anderson’s dismissal left England with 12 overs to begin making inroads and Wood got the job done with his second ball after replacing James Anderson.

Tempting Khawaja into an indiscretion outside off stump, he snared a thin edge which everyone on the field appeared to hear except the batter.

Khawaja called for DRS and watched as UltraEdge confirmed his fate.

England had earlier started the day in typically lively fashion, with Ben Stokes (51) and Harry Brook (61) banking half-centuries in a morning session that contained 122 runs and four wickets in 24 overs.

Hazlewood finished with five-for as he mopped up but conceded 126, while fellow seamers Starc and Cummins shelled 137 and 129 respectively.

Harry Brook and Ben Stokes made half-centuries as England advanced their lead to 189 on the third morning of the fourth Ashes Test.

Starting 67 in front after the thrills and spills of Zak Crawley’s dashing century, the hosts continued to stretch their advantage at Emirates Old Trafford.

Captain Stokes reached 51 before being bowled off the inside edge by opposite number Pat Cummins, with Brook making 61 before a mis-hit hook off Josh Hazlewood picked out fine-leg.

At the lunch break they had moved to 506 for eight, with 122 runs and four wickets in two hours of rapid-fire entertainment.

Resuming on 384 for four, England began positively with 38 runs from the first six overs. Stokes and Brook had both played carefully on the second evening but showed early intent.

Stokes was swinging from the hip almost immediately, missing his first couple of attempts before nailing a couple of unforgiving blows through mid-wicket.

Brook came to life in Mitchell Starc’s sixth over, lacing a pair of cover drives then staying on the back foot to guide a third boundary to wide of gully.

Australia’s best chance of parting the pair looked to be a run out, with half-chances opening up as they looked to snatch every available scoring option.

Stokes laid another blow on Hazlewood as he reached a third fifty of the series in 72 balls but did not get the chance to stick around, playing Cummins into his stumps as he continued to attack.

Brook followed his skipper to a half-century, chasing ones and twos as Australia finally found a way to dry up the fours, but came unstuck when the tourists took the new ball.

It was the first time in the series they have done so and the move paid off when Brook top-edged a Hazlewood bouncer to Starc as he marshalled the ropes at fine-leg.

Jonny Bairstow ensured England had enough in the tank to breach the 500-mark, racing to 41no in just 31 balls including 15 off his last five balls of the session.

But Hazlewood was whittling away at the other end, Chris Woakes caught behind for a duck and Mark Wood cleaned up off the last ball of the session.

England’s unlikely World Cup mascot will be watching the Lionesses from his forever home as Dave the cat settles into his new surroundings.

While football might not have come home from Qatar, stray cat Dave did after the friendly feline became a firm favourite of the squad as he roamed freely around England’s Al Wakrah training base.

Manchester City duo John Stones and Kyle Walker were pictured with Dave on most evenings and the latter said the team would adopt the cat if Gareth Southgate’s men won the World Cup.

Despite their quarter-final exit at the hands of France, Dave was still given the chance to travel to the UK and was eventually rehomed by the Football Association’s media operations manager Anna Bush and her family.

“There was a discussion around wanting Dave to end up with a family with young children, so I put my hand up and volunteered and my children are absolutely delighted,” she told the PA news agency.

“They’ve never had a pet before and what a first pet to have! They (the players) are aware and delighted. He’s got a new home and a family to look after him.”

He left Al Wakrah in December, just two hours after the squad had departed for home, and headed to a veterinary clinic where he had blood tests and vaccinations.

After being in quarantine for months he was welcomed by his new family, instantly taking to his  surroundings and showing he picked up a keen eye for football after his stint as England’s top cat.

While Dave lived the life of a stray during the men’s World Cup, he can watch the women attempt to follow up their Euros success from last summer in the comfort of his new home.

The Bush family even have a way of making sure Dave – who now has his own Instagram page – is part of any success Down Under as he offers up his match predictions, with a little incentive to back Sarina Wiegman and her team.

“He has settled in so well,” added Bush.

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“He loves the surrounding area and loves it in the sun – he is finding his feet and absolutely loves watching my two boys play football in the garden.

“One of them actually coloured in both of the crests ahead of the Champions League and wanted Manchester City to win so he put a few treats down (on the City crest) and so Dave predicted that Man City were going to win the Champions League final and they did!

“Now we have to start doing that for the Women’s World Cup I suppose – bring on England on Saturday.”

England boss Sarina Wiegman vowed the Lionesses would do “everything” they can to bring home a first World Cup when they begin their campaign against Haiti in Brisbane on Saturday.

Wiegman also provided a welcome update on captain Millie Bright, who is fit to start tomorrow’s contest after concerns she was still recovering from the knee injury she sustained in March which required surgery.

The World Cup trophy is one that has so far eluded both England and Wiegman, who led the Netherlands to the final four years ago in France but fell to defeat at the hands of the United States.

Asked if England could lift the trophy this year, she said: “We’re here and we have a dream, and of course there’s always a chance to win the World Cup, and many more countries can win the World Cup I think, but of course we’re going to give our everything starting tomorrow.”

FIFA world number four England are ranked 49 places above Saturday opponents Haiti, who beat Chile in the qualifying play-off to reach a maiden World Cup.

The Lionesses are heavy favourites to top Group D, which also includes 13th-ranked Denmark and number 14 China.

Wiegman, however, was quick to dismiss the idea that facing lower-ranked opposition puts England in a position of having more to lose, perhaps more so than when they kicked off their winning Euro 2022 campaign against Austria last summer.

“The pressure is always something. Everyone expected England to win anyway. This is for tomorrow and also last year, and that was also for the Austria game for the European Championships,” she added.

“So that’s not different. What we’re just trying to do is play our game and focus on what we have to do and how we can win, and that’s basically what we do all the time, so bring it back to what actions we need to take as a team.”

Wiegman said she has “basically decided” on her starting XI for tomorrow but would not reveal whether or not the players had already been informed.

The Lionesses begin their sixth World Cup still having not come to an agreement with the Football Association over issues surrounding performance-based bonus payments and commercial structures.

On Tuesday, Bright posted a statement on Twitter on behalf of the team which said they were “disappointed that a resolution has still not been achieved” but would “pause discussions, with full intentions of revisiting them following the tournament”.

The skipper, who will wear a FIFA-sanctioned ‘Unite for Inclusion’ armband in Saturday’s contest, reiterated that those discussions are now fully parked.

“Obviously it’s not a situation everyone wants to be in, but I think as players we’re not just programmed to play football,” Bright said.

“Sometimes we have to have these conversations. But we have a very professional group and football is always at the front of everything. So as players now our heads are in the game, they always have been on the game.

“Everything is on hold with those sorts of questions. We’ll address the situation at a later date, but for now it’s all about the tournament.”

Earlier, Haiti manager Nicolas Delepine took a lighthearted stab at the Lionesses, who have not scored in their last three matches including the behind-closed-doors training game with Canada on the Sunshine Coast a week ago which ended in a goalless draw not for official records.

He told a press conference: “It’s going to be a difficult game, for sure. And if I have to talk about the strengths of England, I’ll be here all day.

“In big competitions England are tough opponents. They played well in the European Championships.

“We’re expecting a high intensity game. They are a difficult team to play against, they are attacking with threats everywhere but they maybe have a problem with finishing.”

Zak Crawley produced an instant Ashes classic as England seized control of the must-win fourth Test with a barnstorming display on day two at Emirates Old Trafford.

Crawley crashed and smashed his way to 189 runs from 182 balls as the hosts bullied Australia with a heavy dose of ‘Bazball’ bravado.

After bowling the tourists out for 317 with two early wickets, England wiped out the deficit in just 55 overs and finished 67 ahead on 384 for four.

The speed of their assault was motivated partially by the threat of bad weather over the weekend and Crawley was the ideal man to lead the way. He unloaded 21 fours and three sixes, repaying the rock-solid faith Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum have shown him.

The 25-year-old’s inconsistency has attracted criticism and he arrived at the crease with an underpowered Test average of 28.65. But he has a maverick quality that appeals to the current regime and could not have picked a better stage to spread his wings with a fourth ton.

At 2-1 down with two to play England have no option but to win this game, regardless of the coming rain, and Crawley has given them every chance.

Moeen Ali (54) and Joe Root (84) offered lively support, with Harry Brook and Stokes unbeaten overnight.

England were into their work swiftly, James Anderson removing Pat Cummins with the first ball of the morning and Chris Woakes completing a well-deserved five-for to end the innings.

Crawley started as he meant to go on, brushing the first ball of the innings off his hip for four, and refused to let Ben Duckett’s third-over dismissal knock him off course.

He weathered a couple of early scares, edging inches in front of slip on 12 and given out lbw on 20 before successfully calling for DRS, but held his nerve to reach the lunch break intact.

Moeen’s promotion to number three came with low expectations – not least from himself – but he proved a perfect ally, sharing the burden with a flurry of four boundaries in eight deliveries.

From a promising foundation of 61 for one, England proceeded to play two outrageous hours of adrenaline-fuelled cricket in the afternoon session. In the space of 25 overs they scored 178 runs, with a run-rate of 7.12 that would not have been unacceptable in a T20.

Crawley was a conundrum Australia simply could not crack. A couple of inside edges skated dangerously close to his stumps and more than one thick outside edge climbed over the cordon, but even his errors raced through to the ropes.

When he did find his timing, he looked imperious. He showed Cameron Green the full face of his bat as he stroked elegantly down the ground, walked across his stumps to open up fine-leg and drove through cover with style.

He even made sure to hammer home Australia’s folly in leaving out a specialist spinner. When part-timer Travis Head took a turn, Crawley reverse swept his first ball for four and then stooped to launch the follow-up into the stands.

Moeen fell for 54, well caught at midwicket by Usman Khawaja to give Mitchell Starc a second success, but a partnership of 121 represented a job well done.

Crawley and Root ensured the momentum did not go with him, the latter immediately negating Australia short-ball tactics with some expertly judged hooks.

A delicious cover drive took Crawley within one blow his hundred and he got there off just 93 balls with a lobbed cut shot that is unlikely to be found in any coaching manual. The crowd roared him on, but the reaction on the balcony, from team-mates who have repeatedly rallied to his defence in the lean times, was even more telling.

Root ensured the fun kept coming, dipping into his bag of tricks to reverse ramp Mitchell Marsh over for six. The tea interval did little to revive the away side’s flagging spirits, Cummins unable to rouse his side by word or deed.

He gave himself a four-over burst at the start of the evening and shipped 30 including back-to-back straight fours that took Crawley to 150. At one stage Cummins attempted to review an lbw appeal that had hit Root’s bat, making the signal with comic timing as the umpire signalled no-ball. When England picked up three overthrows for some sloppy backing up at the bowler’s end, it was no surprise to find the captain was the culprit.

England took the lead in fitting style, Crawley stepping inside the line and blazing Marsh high over wide long-on for six. The quickest double hundred in Ashes history was beckoning when Crawley came to an abrupt end, dragging a short ball from Green back into his stumps.

He walked off to a well-earned ovation, having restated the mercurial skills which have made him a mainstay of the Bazball era.

Root was well placed to follow him to a ton but found himself bowled by one that shot through low from Josh Hazlewood. Brook and Stokes put on a calm 33 before stumps but more fireworks are likely as England look to move things forward on day three.

England’s Mary Earps has revealed the public high of winning Euro 2022 and being named FIFA women’s goalkeeper of the year resulted in an unwelcome private battle to “feel human again”.

The Manchester United keeper, set to start in the Lionesses’ World Cup opener against Haiti on Saturday, has cemented her place as England’s number one since the arrival of boss Sarina Wiegman, whom Earps often credits for reigniting a career she once thought had ground to a halt.

Though the 30-year-old loved “experiencing almost how the Kardashians live” at FIFAs swanky February awards ceremony in Paris, she was surprised by the corresponding lows in the aftermath.

Earps, speaking from England’s team hotel in Brisbane, said: “I was speaking with Micah Richards and Jamie Carragher, and we were talking about the difference between winning a tournament and then having a disappointing tournament and how different it’s to come back from that. And I was saying for me personally, I felt like that was the hardest thing I ever did.

“Okay, that’s an exaggeration. Not the hardest thing I ever did, but it was the hardest footballing thing to come back to.

“Like you’ve been on this massive high for so long and then you come back to normal life where you are not in this bubble, you’re not living in this little world, you’re not surrounded by people.

“And it’s absolutely a life of privilege, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a lot to adjust to coming back and going back to training every day.

“Not at that intensity, not at that pressure, but also with that comes an incredible adrenaline rush. And not having that every day, it was hard to find your feet as to what normal felt like. And it probably took me till after December to feel human again.

“And then obviously the FIFA Best came and I felt like I had to start all over again.

“It’s a privilege to be in that situation and a problem that I would love to have every single year, but it was definitely hard to adjust.”

England vice-captain Earps may need to repeat that process again should the Lionesses, among the tournament favourites, lift the trophy that has eluded them in five previous World Cup appearances.

At the beginning of 2021, Earps was on the verge of quitting football altogether. Her contract at United was coming to an end and she had not featured for England since November 2019.

Yet Wiegman saw something in Earps when she took the reins in September 2021 and recalled the Nottingham native and 2019 World Cup veteran as part of her first selected squad, handing her a fresh start in England’s 8-0 victory over North Macedonia to begin the World Cup qualifiers.

Earps, who was also offered a new deal with United, has seized the opportunity with both gloves ever since and was instrumental in ensuring four of the Lionesses’ six matches in their unbeaten run to lift the Euro 2022 trophy were clean-sheet victories.

Perhaps Earps’ path is most aptly illustrated by her journey to and from the FIFA awards, where she had a personal security guard named Johnny and the “surreal” experience of discussing the finer points of goalkeeping with Argentinian World Cup winner Emiliano Martinez and Arsene Wenger.

Earps took EasyJet on the way there, but flew business class on the way back, where she was closer to the front than she had ever been in her life.

Yet before the Golden Gloves, the first-class keeper was determined to elevate England to new heights.

She added: “I always thought it was there. I didn’t think that it would burn as deeply as it’s burning. It’s like a fire in your belly that I’ve always had. But I think you’re always trying to achieve things that you don’t know if it’s going to be possible.

“You’re like, that’s what you’re striving for, you’re striving for this excellence and you’re constantly on this pursuit of, ‘How far can I go? How high can I go?’

“And to actually achieve those things just makes me want to fill my cabinet with even more trophies and medals really. It doesn’t make me feel like, ‘Job done’, which I thought that it would. It makes me just want to do more, do better.”

Flanker Lewis Ludlam says England’s players are self-policing the consumption of sweet treats in a bid to be in peak condition for a shot at World Cup glory.

Steve Borthwick’s preliminary squad are in the midst of preparations for the tournament in France, which kicks off in just seven weeks’ time.

Players were last week put through their paces in the heat of Italy before returning to home soil to continue building towards next month’s four warm-up fixtures.

Northampton captain Ludlam revealed diet rules and weight monitoring have been relaxed slightly since head coach Borthwick replaced Eddie Jones.

Yet, after exclaiming he had not “seen cake in weeks” after spotting a buffet at the team’s Surrey training base, the 27-year-old insists players are not allowing each other to give in to temptation.

“The regime has changed in that it’s not as much forced upon you – you’ve got the trust to do everything the right way so we are in the best position to go and put ourselves in the best spot this World Cup,” he said.

“There’s a general feeling amongst the squad that we’ve got to be on the money and making sure we’re making decisions so we are better rugby players the next week and the next month.

“It is a good group of lads and we keep each other in check.

“There might be a birthday cake here and there but I think the lads are pretty understanding of what’s ahead of us.

“In the grand scheme of things, it is a short time in our career when we can be really on it to give ourselves the chance of creating some really special memories.”

England take on Wales home and away in early August and then face Six Nations champions Ireland in Dublin and Fiji at Twickenham before heading to France to begin their Pool D campaign against Argentina on September 9 in Marseille.

Borthwick’s appointment last December led to Saints star Ludlam being surrounded at Test level by a management team previously in charge of his club’s fierce rivals Leicester.

The 19-cap back-row forward initially found it strange setting aside hostilities and having old enemies as allies.

But he believes the England setup – led by former Tigers coaches Borthwick, Richard Wigglesworth, Aled Walters, Kevin Sinfield and Tom Harrison – is beginning to feel like a club environment.

“It was weird to get over in the beginning, especially Tom, who obviously loves Leicester and having been up against him a few times,” said Ludlam.

“Now, because we’ve been in camp for a long period of time – we don’t normally get this long period without games – it’s starting to feel like a club coming together rather than an international team where you’re only in for six weeks or whatever.

“It’s starting to come together really nicely into one unit.”

England’s final 33-man World Cup selection is due to be announced on August 7.

Injured quintet Billy Vunipola, Mako Vunipola, Ollie Lawrence, Ollie Chessum and Jack Walker, who were not included in Borthwick’s initial 41-strong training squad, are continuing their rehabilitation.

“They’re good, they’re on their programmes and working extremely hard to get themselves ready,” said scrum coach Harrison.

“Everyone’s got different timescales but they’re doing their best to be available.”

Moeen Ali reached the Test all-rounder’s benchmark of 3,000 runs and 200 wickets as he batted against Australia at Old Trafford.

The England spinner, promoted to number three in the batting order for the fourth Ashes Test, flashed a Pat Cummins delivery wide of gully to reach 24 for his innings and exactly 3,000 runs in the format before immediately celebrating with a more authentic boundary through the covers.

He is the 16th player and the fourth Englishman to reach both landmarks and, here, the PA news agency looks at that select group.

Awesome foursome

Moeen brought up 200 wickets with the scalp of Steve Smith in Australia’s second innings of the third Test at Headingley.

With Ollie Pope out injured, he put his hand up to bat at three in England’s chase in Leeds and would have had hopes of making the 28 runs he needed to tick off both marks in one match.

Just five were forthcoming but he took his opportunity on the second morning in Manchester.

Moeen’s five centuries include a best of 155 not out against Sri Lanka in 2016 while he also has five five-wicket hauls, his best figures being six for 53 against South Africa in 2017.

He joins team-mate Stuart Broad and past greats Sir Ian Botham and Andrew Flintoff, in the 3,000/200 club.

Broad had his own moment in the spotlight on day one of the fourth Test with his 600th wicket, just the fifth man ever to achieve that feat, which he paired with his 3,640 runs at 18.10 in his 165 Tests prior to this, with a best of 169 against Pakistan at Lord’s in 2010.

Botham amassed 5,200 runs at 33.54, with 14 centuries and a best of 208, adding 383 wickets at 28.40 to stake a firm claim as statistically England’s greatest all-rounder – he is also the only one of the quartet to have a higher average batting than bowling.

Flintoff reached 3,845 runs and 226 wickets, in only 79 Tests compared to Botham’s 102. Moeen has taken 67 games to reach 3,000 and 200.

Captain Ben Stokes has over 6,000 runs under his belt and could add his name to the list this series, if his troublesome knee allows him to add the three wickets he still needs.

Sweet 16

England have more representatives than any other nation in the group of elite all-rounders, after Moeen broke the previous tie with New Zealand.

The Black Caps have three names on the list in Sir Richard Hadlee, Chris Cairns and Daniel Vettori.

South Africa and India have two apiece – Shaun Pollock and Jacques Kallis for the former and Kapil Dev and Ravichandran Ashwin for the latter, with five other countries having one each.

West Indies great Sir Garry Sobers was the first to achieve the feat, with Imran Khan following as Pakistan’s only representative – Wasim Akram came up 102 runs short.

Australia spinner Shane Warne, Sri Lanka seamer Chaminda Vaas and Bangladesh’s former captain Shakib al Hasan complete the list.

Kallis has by far the most runs of the 16 players with 13,289, over 5,000 clear of Sobers (8,032) with Dev and Botham the only others over 5,000.

Warne, with 708, comfortably tops Broad as the leading wicket-taker with Ashwin next on 486.

England made an encouraging start with bat and ball as they attempted to take control of their must-win Ashes Test at Emirates Old Trafford.

The hosts snapped up Australia’s last two wickets as the tourists bowed out for 317, and recovered well from the early loss of Ben Duckett to reach 61 for one at lunch.

Moeen Ali’s experimental promotion to number three was beginning to pay off, with the all-rounder reeling off five boundaries on his way to 31 not out and Zak Crawley was unbeaten on 26.

The growing sense that the game was unfolding in England’s favour was strengthened when Cameron Green had Crawley lbw, only for ball-tracking to show the ball disappearing past the leg stump.

With plenty of rain forecast over the weekend, the home side know they must move fast to set the game up and land the victory they need to keep the series alive, but after four sessions the building blocks are in place.

They enjoyed the perfect start, hometown hero James Anderson striking with the first ball of the day following 17 wicketless overs on Wednesday.

It was far from his best delivery, served up a fraction full outside off stump, but it got the desired response as Pat Cummins lifted a gentle catch straight to Ben Stokes at point to make it 299 for nine.

Anderson, bowling from the end that bears his name, took the acclaim in what could yet be his last appearance at this ground.

England looked to have wrapped things up in the next over, number 11 Josh Hazlewood fencing Chris Woakes to slip, but the TV umpire called a marginal no-ball as the seamer nudged the line.

Australia cashed in another 17 runs but Woakes’ hopes of a first five-for against Australia were only on pause, Hazlewood clipping to third slip to end the innings.

The English reply began with four off the first delivery, Crawley brushing Starc fine off his hip to keep the cheers coming from the stands.

It was not long before they turned to groans though, Duckett lasting only six balls as he pressed forward and nicked Starc tamely into Alex Carey’s gloves.

That meant an early appearance for Moeen, who promptly threw his hands at the fourth delivery he faced and hit fresh air. Crawley was also bested when he edged Hazlewood just in front of the cordon, but the attacking instincts of the pair began to pay off.

Crawley whipped Hazlewood smartly through midwicket as his timing returned and Moeen hit the boundary ropes four times in eight deliveries as he unfurled a couple of picturesque drives and took his career tally beyond 3,000 Test runs.

Green thought he had Crawley when umpire Joel Wilson raised his finger, but a wise referral spared the opener and brought one of the biggest roars of the day.

Crawley signed off the session with a sweet cover drive off Cummins, leaving Australia with questions to answer in the afternoon.

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