England’s hopes of setting up a winner-takes-all Ashes decider were wiped out by the Manchester weather, with a fifth day washout in the fourth Test handing the urn to Australia.

The most pessimistic forecasts came to pass at Emirates Old Trafford as relentless rain meant the players never made it to the middle, salvaging a draw for the tourists and rendering their 2-1 series lead unassailable.

England arrived 61 ahead and needing five wickets to get over the line but left without a ball being bowled.

They have all but eliminated the concept of the draw since captain Ben Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum ushered in the ‘Bazball’ era more than a year ago, but – for the first time in 17 games at the helm – conditions finally left them with no cards to play.

After weeks of blockbuster entertainment in the closest, most exciting Ashes contest since 2005, a shootout for glory at the Kia Oval next week was on the cards if there had been enough time for England to convert their dominance.

Instead, dreams of a stirring comeback to beat their rivals for the first time since 2015 were swept away, leaving the holders to retain in circumstances that will surely ring hollow.

Australia made it clear they were more than happy to finish the job in the pavilion rather than out on the pitch, but any post-match celebrations may be slightly muted after this narrow escape.

There is still plenty to play for, with Australia bidding to claim a first outright win on English soil in 22 years while their opponents are seeking to square the ledger at 2-2 and preserve an undefeated streak under Stokes’ leadership. But a home win being taken off the table by the elements is the definition of a damp squib.

England had made all the running here, piling up a 275-run first-innings advantage and taking five of the 10 wickets they needed to finish the job before the skies turned against them.

Five of the last six sessions were lost without a ball bowled, leaving a 30-over window on Saturday afternoon as the only play possible on the wettest of weekends. England will be cursing their misfortune and have now lost the chance to be become just the second team in Ashes history to win from 2-0 down.

The momentum of the series swung when captain Ben Stokes embarked on a six-hitting rampage in the fourth innings at Lord’s, apparently sparked into life by Alex Carey’s controversial stumping of Jonny Bairstow, and, although his magnificent century was not enough to save that game, it set things on a new path.

England took the third Test at Headingley in relatively comfortably fashion – the first of three must-win games – and spent the first three days on the other side of the Pennines establishing an even more dominant position.

Zak Crawley’s outrageous 189 and an unbeaten 99 from Bairstow saw them pile up 592, their highest total against Australia in a dozen years, and an three-wicket blast from Mark Wood tightened their grip on the third evening as Australia stumbled to 113 for four.

That was as good as it got for the hosts, with Marnus Labuschagne making 111 and Mitch Marsh batting through what became the final session of the match to keep Australian heads above water.

The sides will reconvene in south London on Thursday for the final chapter in a memorable tour.

England face a battle with the elements as they try to force victory in the fourth Ashes Test and keep their hopes of a series win alive.

Only 30 overs were possible on Saturday, with plenty more rain forecast on what could be a frustrating final day at Emirates Old Trafford.

Australia are more than happy to settle for a draw that would see them retain their 2-1 lead and the urn, meaning England will be forced to make the running in whatever windows of play are possible.

They have already been frustrated by a 103-run stand between centurion Marnus Labuschagne and Mitch Marsh, but saw their prospects rise when Joe Root had the former caught behind.

There is little margin for error after their 275-run first-innings lead was whittled down to 61 by the tourists, who will resume on 214 for five.

View from the dressing room

Labuschagne scoffed at the very notion that Australia might make a bold bid for a win of their own on day five, making it clear England could expect nothing but resistance.

Tweet of the day

Leading meteorologist Simon King predicted no play at all over the weekend but is hoping to be proved wrong for the second day in a row.

England see the light

Midway through Saturday’s play, match officials Joel Wilson and Nitin Menon informed England captain Ben Stokes that the light had deteriorated to such an extent that he could no longer use his fast bowlers. That meant spin from both ends, with an out-of-sorts Moeen Ali backed up by Root. England were frustrated with the decision and will be hoping to use their full attack in any victory push, particularly the raw pace of Mark Wood. Wilson was also lampooned for wearing sunglasses at the same time that he was adjudicating on the quality of the light and may be advised against a repeat performance.

All eyes on Anderson

Things have yet to click for England’s record wicket-taker this summer, with just four wickets at 76.75. He has been pushed to the periphery at key stages and while the 40-year-old would love to be the man to drive the team onwards on his final Ashes appearance at his home ground, he may have to wait his turn. The Lancashire faithful will be with him all the way, but Anderson needs to find his missing X factor in a hurry to give them the show they want.

Cashback for the crowd

After a thrilling series of daily entertainment, Saturday’s ticket holders were forced to watch the weather wipe out two full sessions. Supporters were treated to just 30 overs of action in the middle, but their disappointment was mitigated by the news they would receive a 50 per cent refund. Just one more delivery would have taken them beyond the cut-off point. For once, England’s slack over-rate offered something for fans to feel good about.

The mayors of Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire have pleaded with the England and Wales Cricket Board to reconsider its northern snub for the 2027 men’s Ashes.

England captain Ben Stokes admitted earlier this week he was “devastated” by the allocation for the five-Test series in four years’ time, with both Headingley and Emirates Old Trafford missing out.

It means that the most northerly of the grounds will be Trent Bridge, which has not staged a men’s Ashes Test since 2015, while Edgbaston, Lord’s, the Kia Oval and the Ageas Bowl are also host venues.

An uneven geographical split has been labelled “disappointing” and “remarkable” by Greater Manchester’s Andy Burnham and West Yorkshire’s Tracy Brabin in an open letter to ECB chair Richard Thompson.

“We are writing to express our disappointment at the English Cricket Board’s announcement of match venues for the Men’s Ashes in 2027,” wrote the mayors.

“Headingley and Old Trafford are two of England’s most iconic cricket grounds, and home to historic Ashes moments from Ian Botham’s heroics in 1981 to Ben Stokes’ own ‘Miracle of Headingley’ in 2019.

“Very few grounds attract support as passionate or indeed as diverse as Headingley and Old Trafford – as a number of England players themselves have acknowledged in recent days.

“It feels even more remarkable therefore that an area so passionate about cricket, with a population of over 15 million people, misses out on a Men’s Ashes Test in 2027 while the South hosts three.”

This last point has drawn scrutiny, with traditional London venues Lord’s and the Kia Oval joined by the Ageas Bowl, which will stage its first men’s Ashes Test in 2027.

Headingley will play host to the women’s Ashes Test in four years’ time while the Yorkshire ground and Old Trafford both return to the men’s programme for the 2031 series between the old rivals.

“It does not feel right at a time when cricket needs to do more to spread interest in the game around the country that London consistently hosts three Tests every summer,” Burnham and Brabin added.

“Next year for example, Lord’s hosts one third of England’s Men’s Tests whilst Headingley doesn’t get any.

“The rivalry between Lancashire and Yorkshire within cricket is legendary, but this is an issue that unites both sides of the Pennines.

“We urge you to think again and ensure people in the North of England get the opportunity to witness more iconic Ashes moments in 2027.”

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.

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.

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.

England will be looking to press the accelerator on day two of their must-win Ashes Test as they bid to beat Australia and the weather forecast at Emirates Old Trafford.

The hosts enjoyed a productive first day with the ball as they reduced their opponents to 299 for eight, but with predictions of heavy rain over the weekend, they need to move fast to get ahead of the game.

Chris Woakes did everything in his power to advance the cause, collecting a superb four for 52 including all-rounders Cameron Green and Mitchell Marsh in the same over, while Stuart Broad bagged two to become the fifth bowler in Test history to reach the 600 mark.

England’s task now is to round things off as swiftly as they can before setting about a potentially explosive innings of their own. The ‘Bazball’ era has thrown up plenty of thrilling batting but rarely have they had to race against the clock with such high stakes.

While Australia can allow themselves the luxury of letting the match take its natural course, safe in the knowledge that a draw would see them retain the urn, England skipper Ben Stokes has made it clear he wants his side to do pull every lever they can to force a result.

With another full-house ready to roar them on the scene is set, but England must be careful not to go too hard, too often and blow up their own chances before the real storms arrive on Saturday.

Broad joins elite company

Broad moved to 599 Test wickets by pinning Usman Khawaja in front, bringing the enticing prospect of David Warner being the England seamer’s landmark scalp. Warner did not fall to Broad for the 18th time in his Test career. But Broad would not be denied as his bouncer drew a false shot out of Travis Head. Long-time opening bowling partner James Anderson is the only other seamer to reach the landmark.

Stokes out to make history

Pat Cummins’ misery at the coin toss continued, calling incorrectly for the fourth time in a row, which allowed England’s bowlers first use of the pitch. When it was put to Stokes that no team has won at this ground after winning the toss and electing to invite their opponents to bat, the England captain said: “It would be a nice time to be the first to do that.”

Broad overtakes Botham

Broad joining the exclusive 600 club was the talk of the town but the wicket that got him there – when Head injudiciously hooked to Joe Root at long leg – was also significant as it moved him on to 149 dismissals against Australia, taking him ahead of Sir Ian Botham’s tally versus the old enemy.

Unlucky for some

Marnus Labuschagne’s struggles in this series have been well-documented but those who have fulfilled the first drop role for England have hardly fared any better. Labuschagne’s 47 in the first innings at Lord’s was the top-score from a number three batter after three Tests but he went four better to record his first fifty of the series – before then missing a straight one from Moeen Ali and departing lbw.

Stat’s all, folks

Chris Woakes continues to excel on his return to the Test side as he snared Warner, Cameron Green, Mitch Marsh and Alex Carey to finish the day as the pick of the attack with four for 52. The dismissals of all-rounders Green and Marsh was the first time in Woakes’ Test career he has claimed two wickets in a single over.

Ollie’s op

Ollie Pope took to his social channels to announce he has gone under the knife on the dislocated right shoulder that ruled the England vice captain out of the last three Tests. Pope suffered the injury when fielding in the second Ashes Test at Lord’s and exacerbated the problem later on in the match amid some miscommunication between England and the match officials. Scans highlighted the extent of the damage and Pope, who has twice suffered dislocations to his left shoulder, has started the road to recovery.

Stuart Broad admitted his “addiction” to Test cricket has carried him to 600 wickets, a prestigious milestone he savoured even more after reaching it at the end named after James Anderson.

The English pair are great friends, long-time opening bowling partners and now the only non-spinners to have got to the landmark, which has only been attained by three other people in history.

Broad’s moment came just after tea on day one of the fourth Ashes Test at Emirates Old Trafford, when Travis Head injudiciously hooked a bumper and Joe Root gobbled up a low catch in the deep.

“Never in my dreams did I think that would be a thing,” Broad said. “It’s got a nice ring to it, getting my 600th wicket from the James Anderson End. There’s something pretty special about that.”

After Australia closed on 299 for eight, Broad reflected on his insatiable ambition flourishing in the Ben Stokes-Brendon McCullum axis, under whom he has taken 87 wickets in 14 Tests, having previously feared for his international future after being overlooked for the Caribbean tour in March 2022.

“I have definitely got an addiction to Test cricket and the competitive side of it,” Broad said. “Ultimately Baz and Stokesy have given me a new lease of life in a way.

“It is such a free changing room. There is no fear of failure or judgement, it’s about moving the game forward and that suits me. I owe a lot in the last 14 months to the way Baz and Stokes have brought energy to the group.

“I have been able to match that and move myself forward as a player. I have found it really enjoyable, I would argue it’s been the most enjoyable year of my Test career which is an awesome thing to say at 37 years old.”

The dismissal of Head was also significant for Broad as he moved to 149 Test wickets against Australia, a record for an England bowler, eclipsing the previous benchmark held by Sir Ian Botham.

Broad, a four-time Ashes winner, revealed his outlook was shaped by watching Australia’s dominance of England in the 1990s and early 2000s, ultimately snapped during a seminal series in 2005.

“I grew up completely obsessed watching Ashes cricket and I suppose that’s why some of my heroes are Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, some of the great Aussie team,” Broad said.

“As a kid you are influenced by winning sides. It also built up my steeliness to want to be part of England teams that could win the Ashes after going through a whole childhood without us lifting them.

“I probably grew up with a bit more of an Australian mindset rather than a sort of England mindset of the 90s.”

Broad has been an ever-present in these Ashes, having been expected to take more of a backseat due to the congested schedule, but he has risen to the challenge as the leading wicket-taker in the series.

“His statistics speak for themselves,” Australia batter Marnus Labuschagne said. “We know that if conditions are good for bowling, he’s always going to be a handful.

“But he’s shown through the series and through his career that when it’s not, he can still keep it tight, wait for his opportunity and work a batter out.”

Chris Woakes continues to excel on his Test return, following up a star all-round showing on his comeback at Headingley with figures of four for 52 that on another day would have taken top billing.

“An England Test side with Chris Woakes in England is a pretty formidable side,” Broad added. “He was exceptional and deserves five in the morning, hopefully.

“We all know what a talent Chris Woakes has been and what a servant he’s been to English cricket. He’s a pleasure to play with and knows exactly what he’s doing. He’s been exceptional since coming back in at Leeds.”

England hopes of rounding up quick Australian wickets met with resistance at Emirates Old Trafford, where the tourists reached 107 for two on the first morning of the fourth Ashes Test.

In placid batting conditions Ben Stokes gambled by sending Australia in first, motivated by his side’s 2-1 deficit in the series and the threat of a weekend washout, but in need of early breakthroughs to justify the call.

Stuart Broad responded by taking out in-form opener Usman Khawaja for three, moving to 599 Test wickets in the process, but England managed only one more before lunch when Chris Woakes had David Warner caught behind for 32.

Neither Marnus Labuschagne (29no) nor Steve Smith (33no) started convincingly, but the pair survived to score briskly in the last half-hour and leave the home side needing some afternoon inspiration.

For the fourth time in a row Australia skipper Pat Cummins called wrong at the toss, leaving Stokes to make his margin call.

He handed Broad an immediate chance to tighten his grip over Warner, having snapped him up for the 17th time at Headingley last time out.

The left-hander, who survived heavy scrutiny over his place this week, bagged two ducks on this ground on his last visit four years ago but ruled out a repeat performance off the first ball of the game, slapping a wide loosener from Broad through cover for four.

The crowd were eager to see the returning James Anderson make his mark at the end that bears his name but, despite a typically solid start, it was Broad who got things going.

Nobody has batted longer or made more runs in the series than Khawaja, but he was first fall on this occasion, plumb lbw to a full ball angled in from round the wicket.

Labuschagne has had a much leaner time of it and his struggles continued initially, comprehensively beaten on the outside edge by Anderson on nought and completely misreading an inswinger from Broad moments later.

The arrival of Mark Wood dialled up the pace but, unlike the previous match, Australia managed to use it to their advantage.

His four-over spell went for 21 – as well as four byes – and a thick edge to third man from Labuschagne was as close as he got to a breakthrough.

Instead, it was Woakes who checked Warner’s growing confidence. Setting up camp outside his off stump and drawing a couple of poor shots, he eventually pushed his length a fraction fuller. Warner drove, snicked through to Jonny Bairstow and was on his way.

Smith was next up and almost gifted England a chance with an opening stroke that was entirely out of character.

He stepped inside the line of his first ball from Woakes, hooking straight towards Wood at fine-leg. Had he been stationed on the rope it would have been a regulation catch, but he was several metres in and saw the ball clear his despairing dive en route to a one-bounce four.

The runs began to flow with greater ease as lunch approached, both batters showing greater control and a two-over spell from Moeen Ali costing 17.

Ben Stokes insists his England side are ready to give everything they have to level the Ashes and take a memorable series all the way to the wire.

The hosts find themselves 2-1 down after three pulsating games, losing tight finishes at Edgbaston and Lord’s before coming through strongly at Headingley to keep their hopes of regaining the urn alive.

Another win this week at Emirates Old Trafford would tee up a winner-takes-all decider at the Kia Oval, while Australia are looking to seal an outright victory on English soil for the first time in 22 years.

The stakes are clear for both teams, but England have the added wrinkle of knowing a rain-affected draw would be enough for Australia to retain the urn as holders.

The weather forecast predicts things to take a turn for the worse over the weekend, meaning much of the running will need to be done in the first three days.

“Everything is on the line. The team knows there’s no point holding anything back in this game,” Stokes said.

“Everyone is going to go out there this week and throw absolutely everything at it. If we were to shy away from the task at hand, then I think that wouldn’t get my best out of us as a team in terms of the personnel that we have at the moment.

“Obviously knowing we need to win this one, knowing that we could have a bit of weather around taking some time out of the game, that probably suits us even more to be honest.

“It would be amazing (to go 2-2), that last game would be everywhere. If that does happen and we do go to The Oval level, we’ll be challenging 2005 for one of the best series in England.”

Australia abandon spin

In 1993 at the Old Trafford, the late Shane Warne delivered his famous ‘ball of the century’ to dismiss Mike Gatting. Thirty years down the line and Australia have decided to go in without a specialist spin bowler for the first time in 120 Tests. The last time they picked an XI without a specialist slow bowler was against India in January 2012, when they went for an all-seam attack at the WACA. Nathan Lyon would have been certain to play had he not torn a calf at Lord’s, but his stand-in, Todd Murphy, was only trusted with 10 overs in the third Test and has been axed in favour of the returning Cameron Green.

Anderson eyes the honours board

James Anderson has taken five wickets in an innings 32 times in his Test career, more than any other English bowler in history. Yet he has never managed it at his home ground, despite having the Pavilion End renamed after him. His best figures of four for 38 came against South Africa in 2017 and the 40-year-old would dearly love to go one better and etch his name on the honours board in what could be his final appearance here. He struggled to make an impression on docile surfaces in the first two Tests and will be eager to make his mark.

Broad’s latest landmark

Anderson’s new-ball partner Stuart Broad is the top wicket-taker in the series with 16 and needs just two more to reach the magical figure of 600. That would make him the fifth member in one of cricket’s most exclusive clubs. David Warner accounts for 17 of Broad’s scalps and the Englishman will be licking his lips at the prospect of renewing that rivalry after the left-hander was spared the axe.

Social media moment

After Sir Alastair Cook incorrectly implicated Australia wicketkeeper Alex Carey in failing to pay a barber in Leeds, despite the gloveman not having his hair cut, Carey finally took the plunge and got his locks trimmed in Manchester. Steve Smith was on hand to vouch for his payment.

Data point

England have recalled James Anderson for the fourth Ashes Test at Old Trafford.

The 40-year-old Lancashire seamer will feature on home turf as he returns to the team in place of Ollie Robinson, the only change to the side that defeated Australia at Headingley in the third Test.

England kept the Ashes alive in Leeds after Yorkshireman Harry Brook steered the hosts to victory with 75 runs before Chris Woakes and Mark Wood’s match-winning partnership saw them over the line.

Ben Stokes’ side are 2-1 down in the series with another must-win game on the line in Manchester.

Another tweak to the side sees Moeen Ali promoted to bat at number three, with Ollie Pope ruled out for the rest of the series.

Brook had originally occupied the vacant spot, but all-rounder Ali, who was dismissed for five while batting at three in the second innings, was unexpectedly promoted after asking head coach Brendon McCullum if he could bat there.

“When I took the role on I asked for 10 other selfless cricketers,” England captain Stokes said post-match at Headingley.

“And that little moment of Mo going to Baz (McCullum) and saying, ‘I want the opportunity’ is everything that we’re about as a team.”

Alice Capsey warned Australia that England are yet to play their best cricket despite levelling the Women’s Ashes by winning the opening ODI at Bristol.

England secured a nerve-shredding two-wicket win to wipe out the 6-0 deficit suffered after losing the series’ solitary Test and the opening T20 clash.

Australia need to win only one of the two remaining ODIs at Southampton and Taunton to retain the Ashes but they have now lost three consecutive games for the first time since 2017.

“We were 6-0 down but we took a lot of confidence from the Test match because we saw how close we were to winning that,” said number three batter Capsey, 18, who struck 40 from 34 balls in England’s victorious reply of 267 for eight.

“We had another narrow loss in the opening T20 at Edgbaston, but we were pretty confident that once we got that first win we would go on a streak.

“The whole series we haven’t been at our best. In the T20s we were playing at 80 per cent and we weren’t at our best again here.

“But to get over the line in pressure moments when previously we would have crumbled a little bit is great. We were so calm out there, which is something we have focused on.

“It’s really exciting we haven’t played our best cricket and it’s six-all.”

The power hitting of Capsey and Tammy Beaumont was in danger of going to waste after England had reached 103 for one in the 12th over, chasing 264 to win.

Wickets fell at regular intervals and it was left to skipper Heather Knight and Kate Cross, coming in at 10, to get England over the line.

Cross joined Knight in the 44th over, with their partnership of 32 proving pivotal as England triumphed with 11 balls to spare.

Knight made 75 from 86 balls while Cross’ cameo of 19 from 20 deliveries included an audacious ramp shot over the head of Australia’s wicketkeeping captain Alyssa Healey.

Capsey said: “Crossy batted brilliantly – she can bat at three! She came in and played to her strengths.

“We saw her bravery whether it was the ramp or hitting Jonno (Jess Jonassen) down the ground. It was unbelievable to watch.

“She loves the ramp and probably plays it the best out of the whole group. If you don’t see a Kate Cross ramp you might be asking her: ‘Are you OK?'”

Looking ahead to the Ashes’ climax, Capsey added: “We’ve shown a lot of fight in this series that previously we might not have.

“Australia are the most successful cricket team and we knew it was going to be a real challenge.

“We were the underdogs coming into the series but we have put the pressure on the Aussies. They are still a quality side and we go again at the Ageas (in Southampton).”

Australia benefited from the hosts spilling four catches while wicketkeeper Amy Jones missed out on a stumping from a legside wide.

“It would have been really nice to snatch that one at the end when they were under the pump and eight down,” said Australia batter Beth Mooney, who top scored for the tourists with an unbeaten 81.

“We certainly haven’t put out best foot forward at this point and we know we’ve got to give a lot more when it comes to executing our skills.

“I don’t think we’re that far off. Unfortunately we didn’t capitalise on the opportunities to put pressure on England.

“We’ve let ourselves down in the last couple of games, but there’s no complacency.”

Dan Lawrence delivered a message to England ahead of the fourth Ashes Test, bludgeoning nine sixes as he recorded a second successive LV= Insurance County Championship hundred for Essex.

After missing out at Headingley last week as England went with an extra bowler following Ollie Pope’s injury, Lawrence, celebrating his 26th birthday, took the attack to Lancashire to rescue Essex from nought for two at Blackpool.

He was out from the final ball of day three but his belligerent 135 off 125 deliveries was his third century of the season and lifted Essex to 292 for eight and a lead of 429 in the Division One clash.

Lawrence is in the squad for next week’s penultimate Test at Emirates Old Trafford and his recent form could give England something to think about as they mull over whether to change a winning XI.

Essex were also bolstered by Doug Bracewell’s unbeaten 61 off 35 balls after earlier bowling Lancashire out for 145, with Sam Cook taking four for 42 while Paul Walter chipped in with three wickets.

Half-centuries from Dom Sibley and Tom Latham carried Division One leaders Surrey to a lead of 156 against Nottinghamshire at the Kia Oval.

Nottinghamshire carved out a 44-run advantage on first innings, largely thanks to 145 from Will Young, whose time at the crease was ended by an excellent agile catch from England discard Ben Foakes.

Surrey captain Rory Burns bagged his second duck of the match but Sibley’s 87 and Latham’s 60, plus 25 from Foakes, carried the hosts to 200 for five at stumps.

Warwickshire recorded an innings-and-46-run win inside three days over Kent, who were all out for 332 second time around at Canterbury, where Oliver Hannon-Dalby collected four for 59.

Felix Organ (97) and Kyle Abbott (89) put on 177 for the ninth wicket for Hampshire, who were asked to follow-on after posting 330 in response to Somerset’s 500. Hampshire closed on 34 for two at Taunton.

Sam Whiteman’s 114 plus 85 not out from Emilio Gay ushered rock-bottom Northamptonshire to 372 for seven and a lead of 314 against fellow strugglers Middlesex at Merchant Taylors’ School.

Matthew Potts took four for 55 as Division Two leaders Durham completed a nine-wicket victory over Gloucestershire at Chester-le-Street.

Potts’ haul included bowling Gloucestershire’s top-three of Ben Charlesworth, Chris Dent and Oliver Price as the visitors were all out for 188, and Durham knocked off a 52-run target in 11.4 overs.

Ben Coad’s five for 33 led to Worcestershire being skittled for 242 in reply to Yorkshire’s 407 at New Road, where the hosts were grateful for nightwatchmen Ben Gibbon and Adam Finch as they ended the day on 22 without loss in their follow-on.

James Coles’ 101 not out steered Sussex from 72 for four to 193 for five and a lead of 188 against Derbyshire, who were earlier all out for 407 after Brooke Guest’s 105 at Hove.

Michael Neser, an outside bet for Australia in Manchester next week, thumped an unbeaten 176 as Glamorgan rallied from 93 for seven to post 403 for nine declared against Leicestershire, who closed on 28 without loss in their rain-hit clash.

England’s assistant coach Paul Collingwood believes this summer’s Ashes excitement could spark a cricket boom in the country.

Three thrilling Tests and three nerve-racking finishes at Edgbaston, Lord’s and Headingley mean this is already the most exciting men’s Ashes in a generation, while the women’s series is also reaching new heights as it plays out in front of record crowds.

Collingwood made a fleeting appearance in the final match of the 2005 series against Australia, a rivalry that became a national obsession and made mainstream stars of players like Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen.

That still stands as a high watermark for Test cricket in modern times and, although the Ashes in no longer on free-to-air television, Sky Sports have reported record viewing figures for both series and Collingwood feels a real connection is being made with old and new followers.

A fitting climax looks all but certain, with England 2-1 down and seeking a rousing comeback victory and Australia aiming for a first away win since 2001.

“It’s been enthralling, gripping stuff and it feels like it’s not just the the regular cricket fans who are switching on, it’s reaching a bit further than that,” Collingwood told the PA news agency ahead of next week’s fourth Test at Emirates Old Trafford.

“People just can’t wait for the cricket to be on. The 2005 Ashes was an inspiration for people to get involved, to go out there have have a try and participation went through the roof. That’s what we want.

“It really feels like there’s nothing better going on in the sporting world right now. These guys are entertainers. When the team is playing like it is, it’s amazing to watch, there hasn’t been an hour when it’s been boring.

“I’m sitting on the edge of my seat watching and you don’t want to move. The Ashes is one step on the journey this side wants to go on in taking this exciting brand of cricket on and we hope everyone will follow us.

“Baz (McCullum, head coach) and Ben Stokes didn’t keep it a secret when they took over – they want Test cricket to be as entertaining as it can be and that’s been behind everything we’ve done over the last year.”

Both teams have had a chance to get away after England kept the series alive with victory in Leeds, the last significant gap in the schedule before the contest concludes with back-to-back Tests.

There are selection issues to settle on both sides and injury niggles to monitor. England will recall record wicket-taker James Anderson at his home ground, with Ollie Robinson likeliest to make way on grounds of fitness and form, but they will look to keep the majority of their winning team together in Manchester.

“This break will have recharged the batteries, which we needed because it’s been high intensity stuff and it can be draining,” Collingwood said.

“It’s even draining for us on the sidelines. The guys have shown they can make good decisions under pressure, but it’ll be good to get those bodies and minds back in shape.

“As coaches it’s about creating a relaxed environment and making sure the boys enjoy themselves, that’s what really allows them to bring their best game into Test matches.

“You want to be at 100% and I think in my career I tended to hit 60 or 70% because there was always that fear of making mistakes.

“These guys aren’t worried about negative consequences and it allows them to show their skills off.”

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