By Rounaq Sehrawat: A masterclass in Test batting from Usman Khawaja and a heroic knock from captain Pat Cummins on the final day guided Australia to a thrilling two-wicket win over England at Edgbaston. Australia chased down a 281-run target with just 27 balls remaining to go 1-0 up in the five-match Ashes 2023 series.
Australia started Day 5 at 107 for 3 after rain played spoilsport once again and delayed the start of play, washing out the first session entirely.
England pacer Stuart Broad, picked up where he left off on Day 4, and provided the first breakthrough for his side on Day 5, dismissing Australia’s nightwatchman Scott Boland. The in-form Travis Head was the next batter in, but could only score 16 runs before being dismissed by spin-bowling all-rounder Moeen Ali in the 45th over.
Khawaja then stitched an important 49-run stand with Cameron Green and went on to complete his 22nd half-century in Test cricket. However, Green could not support the Aussie opener for long, dragging an Ollie Robinson delivery onto his stumps. Green departed after scoring 28 runs off 66 balls, hitting two boundaries.
England captain Ben Stokes provided the all-important breakthrough for his side in the 72nd over, sending Khawaja back to the pavilion after he chopped a good-length delivery onto the stumps.
It was a tense affair from then on as Australia looked to increase the scoring-rate while also being cautious with just three wickets remaining. With Stokes at one end and Root on the other, England tried to put the Aussie batters under pressure and it finally paid off when Alex Carey stepped out to smash Root for a six but ended up hitting it straight at him, who held on to a fabulous catch to deal a near-fatal blow to Australia.
Stokes hands Australia a lifeline
Just when it seemed like the match was firmly in England’s favour, Cummins hammered Root for two sixes in the 83rd over to bring the required target down to 37 runs off 14 overs. In the very next over, Stokes dropped an easy catch to give Nathan Lyon and Australia a lifeline.
Following the dropped catch, Australia rose from the ‘ashes’ and went on to chase down the target with 27 balls and two wickets remaining. Cummins remained unbeaten on 44 off 73 balls, and was ably supported by Lyon, who chipped in with 16 runs off 28 deliveries.
Earlier in the match, England smashed their way through Day 1 and, to the surprise of many, declared on the same day after posting 393 for 8 on the scoreboard. In reply, Australia batted through Day 2 and most of Day 3, scoring 386 runs on the back of Khawaja’s first hundred on English soil.
In the second innings, England were bowled out for 273 runs, setting a 281-run target for the Baggy Greens to chase. Australia ended Day 4 at 107 for 3, requiring 174 more runs on Day 5 to win the match.
Khawaja was Australia’s standout batter throughout the course of the first Test. Incredibly, the 36-year-old batted on all five days of the Test match, hitting a century in the first innings, which was his first on English soil, and topped it up with a gritty 197-ball 65 in the second innings.
Nathan Lyon was Australia’s most-effective bowler, claiming four wickets each in both innings. With this performance, Lyon also became the first bowler to go past the 150-wicket mark in the World Test Championships.
With this win, Australia took a 1-0 lead in the five-match Ashes 2023 series with the next match set to be played at Lord’s on June 28.