BIRMINGHAM, England: Pat Cummins threw off his helmet, tossed away his bat and wheeled away in celebration after playing a captain’s innings to win an Ashes classic for Australia on Tuesday.
England’s “Bazball” cricket revolution got a lesson from Down Under in an opening Test of the series that went down to the wire on the final day.
Chasing 281 at a raucous Edgbaston, the Australians reached the target inside the final hour for a two-wicket win after Usman Khawaja hit a patient 65 and Cummins finished the job with an unbeaten 44 containing two sixes and four fours.
“Both teams spoke a lot about playing your own style,” Cummins said about triumphing over England’s aggressive approach under Ben Stokes. “And that’s the beauty of this series. Two contrasting styles, playing to our strengths and that made for great entertainment.”
Cummins shared a match-winning ninth-wicket partnership of 55 with Nathan Lyon (16 not out), hitting the winning boundary against Ollie Robinson — Harry Brook failed to stop the ball at the rope — as Australia finished on 282-8. It disappointed the majority of a loud crowd that sensed another memorable victory at the Birmingham ground after England’s two-run win in the second Ashes Test in 2005.
“We are, of course, absolutely devastated,” Stokes said. “The lads are in pieces up there. But if that’s not attracting people to the game we love then I don’t know what will.”
Jubilant and possibly surprised Australian fans at the stadium chanted “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi” after their team’s remarkable win.
Khawaja, who hit his first Test century in England in the first innings, faced 197 deliveries as he anchored most of Australia’s successful run chase on a still-docile pitch before being dismissed by Stokes. Khawaja was taking the game away from England with Australia at 209-6, but Stokes’ fiery delivery was hit onto his stumps by the batter.
Khawaja was named the player of the match and said “it was an unbelievable game.”
“I watched Edgbaston 2005 on TV as a kid, I stayed up late,” Khawaja said. “I was there when Stokesy played that unbelievable innings at Headingley in the last Ashes (in England in 2019) but this has definitely got to be one of my favorite test matches I’ve ever played in.”
Eight wickets down, Australia were still chasing the win — with very good reason as it turned out — and Cummins smashed Joe Root, who was bowling spin while Moeen Ali was nursing a hurt spinning finger, for two sixes in the 83rd over.
England had delayed taking the new ball at 227-7 and it worked perfectly as Root claimed Alex Carey (20) to make the score 227-8 with Australia still needing 54 runs.
Cummins and Lyon then came to the crease and never left it, though Lyon was dropped by a flying Stokes at backward square leg in what could have been another twist.
England must win the five-match series to retake the urn from Australia. The tourists take the bragging rights into the second Test at Lord’s but both teams achieved their aim of making the series opener a showpiece for the longer format of cricket as it fights to keep players and TV viewers from focusing on franchise cricket.
The morning session was lost to rain and players took an early lunch before Australia resumed batting on 107-3, still needing 174 more runs.
They were contained early on by Jimmy Anderson and Broad, who had claimed the wickets of top-ranked Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith late on Friday to help set up a final-day thriller.
Despite losing in “Bazball” style, attack-minded England has shown almost anything can now happen in test cricket under Stokes’ captaincy.
His early declaration — on the first day, no less — with England at 393-8 drew grudging admiration from Australian fans. Bringing on part-timer Brook early on the second day to bowl at Smith drew gasps and left Australia batters not knowing what to expect next. Brook had previously remarked his gentle medium-pace was only employed “if the other boys are knackered.”
As well as the batting heroics, Lyon moved closer to joining the exclusive 500-wicket club in Tests after finishing with match figures of 8-229 on the fourth day when England finished its second innings 273 all out. Root reverse-ramped his way to 46 after his 118 not out in the first innings.
Lyon, who has taken 495 wickets, expressed genuine sympathy for England’s spinning spearhead Ali, who came out of Test retirement but struggled with a blistered spinning finger after bowling 33 overs for 2-147 in Australia’s first innings of 386.
Ali bowled again in the second innings, taking 1-57 from 14 overs, but was badly missed in the final hours.