Pat Cummins' AUS pull off sensational win over ENG in first Ashes Test | Crickit
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Pat Cummins' Australia pull off sensational win over England in first Ashes Test at Edgbaston

By, Mumbai
Jun 21, 2023 07:08 PM IST

Skipper Pat Cummins hits the winning boundary to clinch a two-wicket victory to end a nail-biting contest at Edgbaston.

It was intense. It was high quality. It was a nail-biter. It was quintessential Ashes cricket. And in the end, with a mere 4.3 overs left in the match, it was Australia, powered by a Herculean Usman Khawaja effort and heroic knocks by Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon, who completed a famous two-wicket victory in the first Test of the five-match series at Edgbaston in Birmingham.

Australia's Pat Cummins (R) celebrates with Australia's Nathan Lyon after winning the first Ashes Test (AFP)
Australia's Pat Cummins (R) celebrates with Australia's Nathan Lyon after winning the first Ashes Test (AFP)

With a maximum of 67 overs remaining, England needed seven wickets to win while Australia required 174 runs. That was the equation when play finally began on day five after lunch was taken early. With rain beating down all morning, the first couple of hours were washed out even as the spectators kept trickling into the stadium.

Once the action began, though, it moved along rapidly and fortunes kept swinging back and forth. Khawaja, who had scored 141 runs in the first innings, got 68 in the second and became just the 13th man in history to bat on all five days of a Test match. But it came down to valiant performances by skipper Cummins (44*) and Lyon (16*) to take the visitors to an improbable win.

For Australian fans, it would’ve probably been impossible to not be reminded of the 2005 Ashes Test at Edgbaston. Their team was set a target of 282 in that match and ended up suffering an agonising two-run defeat. But this time, with the target being 281 at the same venue, the Aussies held their nerves in remarkable fashion and got the job done.

All eyes were on Khawaja on day five as Australia had already lost the key wickets of Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith. Scott Boland was at the other end and fell early, but he had done well to remain unbeaten overnight and add a 32-run partnership for the fourth wicket.

Travis Head was in next and seemed confident, having hit a half-century in the first innings. The left-hander smacked Moeen Ali for two fours in three balls but the off-spinner responded with an excellent delivery that jumped and caught the outside edge. Cameron Green also got a start but chopped one on from Ollie Robinson.

At that point, Australia needed 89 runs to win with four wickets in hand and it was still difficult to say which team was on top. But then Stokes, as he has often done in his career, stepped up and dismissed Khawaja. It was an astonishing moment as there was hardly any reaction from either player in the middle even as the crowd erupted. It seemed the game was in England’s hands, but Australia weren’t done yet.

Alex Carey looked to go on the offensive and hit a couple of boundaries but he too was sent packing as Joe Root took a brilliant return catch. Australia needed 54 runs to win with Cummins and Nathan Lyon at the crease and Josh Hazlewood to follow. It would’ve taken a brave person to bet against England at that point, but Australia again weren’t done yet.

Cummins first hit Root for two sixes in an over to bring the required runs down to 37. England, perhaps surprisingly, delayed taking the new ball and the two right-handed batters kept ticking the scoreboard over. One knew that England could turn the match on its head again with one wicket, but Cummins and Lyon showed nerves of steel to keep finding runs and close out the contest.

Heading into the last day, even as fans hoped for the rain to stay away, one couldn’t help but marvel at the decision of Stokes and Co to declare on Day 1 itself. After all, it ensured all those watching were treated to a proper battle in the end. It remained, arguably, the most significant moment of the match. Root was batting on 118 and England had two wickets in hand. Yet, they decided to declare.

In hindsight, of course, it didn’t turn out to be a fruitful decision but there’s little doubt that England will persist with this ultra-aggressive approach. Since Stokes took over as captain and Brendon McCullum as coach, the team has won 11 of its 14 Tests. Their go-for-broke mentality has infused a sense of freshness in the longest format of the game and if the first Test is anything to go by, we’re in for a fascinating tussle between two high-quality sides in this edition of the Ashes.

For Australia, this is a dream start. It was billed as a clash between England’s ‘Bazball’ juggernaut and Australia’s waiting game, and it’s the world champions who have taken round one. While touring, the Australian men’s team last won the Ashes 22 years ago, with England claiming four of the five series at home during this period. But Cummins and Co have the firepower to retain the urn and their triumph at Edgbaston will provide them a massive confidence boost.

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