MANCHESTER: Mitchell Starc struck an early blow before England’s Zak Crawley and Moeen Ali denied Australia another breakthrough on the second day of the fourth Test at Old Trafford on Thursday.
England were 61-1 in reply to Australia’s first-innings 317 at lunch, with Crawley 26 not out and Moeen unbeaten on 31.
In the process, Moeen became just the fourth England player after Ian Botham, Andrew Flintoff and current team-mate Stuart Broad to complete the Test ‘double’ of 3,000 runs and 200 wickets.
Both Crawley and Moeen gave England supporters numerous nervous moments as they repeatedly played and missed outside off stump attempting attacking shots against world Test champions Australia’s pace attack.
Yet in a match England have to win if they are to stand a chance of regaining the Ashes at 2-1 down with two to play, they somehow survived.
By contrast there was little Ben Duckett could do with a superb delivery from left-arm fast bowler Starc that jagged off the pitch and took the outside edge to have the opener caught behind for just one.
Moeen had been in red-ball retirement until the start of this series but was recalled following Jack Leach’s season-ending back injury.
And he was only batting at number three after Ollie Pope was ruled out from the remainder of the Ashes with a dislocated shoulder suffered in the second Test at Lord’s.
No member of England’s top order coveted the problem position, with Moeen seemingly acting as a ‘human shield’ for the middle-order shotmakers.
Two successive deliveries on Thursday summed up Moeen’s recent batting form.
He luckily edged Australia captain Pat Cummins past gully for four to go to 3,000 Test runs but he left-handed batsman drove the fast bowler’s next ball for an elegant boundary.
Crawley had made 20 when given out lbw to recalled all-rounder Cameron Green but the batsman’s review indicated the ball would have missed leg stump.
Earlier, Chris Woakes took his first five-wicket haul against Australia as the Ashes-holders were dismissed after resuming on 299-8 following a frustrating Thursday where several batsmen got in but none made more than the 51 achieved by both Marnus Labuschagne and Mitchell Marsh.
Despite bowling with an older ball as first change, Woakes had led England’s attack as veteran paceman Broad became just the fifth bowler in Test history to take 600 wickets.
James Anderson had gone wicketless Wednesday on his Lancashire home ground
But with Thursday’s first ball, delivered from the end named after him, England’s all-time leading wicket-taker had Cummins caught for one by skipper Ben Stokes at cover-point.
Woakes, who starred with bat and ball in England’s third-Test win at Headingley, was initially denied his fifth wicket by a no-ball after No 11 Josh Hazlewood edged to second slip.
There was no doubt, however, when Hazlewood, on four, edged high to Duckett at third slip to give the 34-year-old figures of 5-62 in 22.2 overs – Woakes’s fifth five-wicket haul in 47 Tests.
Starc was 36 not out, with Australia seeking a win that would give them their first Ashes series victory in England since 2001.