London: Lethal opening spells by Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins rattled England’s top order, but a resilient half-century partnership between Ben Stokes and Ben Duckett provided a glimmer of hope in the second Ashes Test against Australia at Lord’s. At the close of play on the fourth day, England were 114/4, with Duckett unbeaten on 50 and Stokes on 29.
Facing a challenging target of 371 runs, England began their chase in the final session of the day. However, Australia made a memorable start as Mitchell Starc dismissed Zak Crawley and Ollie Pope in quick succession, leaving England reeling at 13/2. Ben Duckett and Joe Root tried to stabilise the innings, but Pat Cummins struck to remove Root, continuing his disappointing form in the Test. England found themselves at 41/3, and in the same over, Cummins bowled Harry Brook for just four runs. England further slumped to 45/4, desperately needing a substantial partnership to revive their hopes.
However, it was Stokes and Duckett who answered the call, stitching together a resilient partnership to restore England’s innings. The duo showed a mix of controlled aggression and strategic rotation of the strike, reaching their 50-run partnership in 69 balls. England crossed the 100-run mark in the 25th over, with Duckett reaching his fifty in 62 balls, including six fours. Although there was a momentary scare when Duckett’s catch was referred to the third umpire, it was deemed not out, allowing the partnership to flourish. Stokes and Duckett safely guided England through the remaining session without any further loss of wickets.
Earlier in the day, England’s bowlers, led by Josh Tongue, Stuart Broad, and Ollie Robinson, put up a spirited display to bundle out Australia for 279 in their second innings. This gave England a chance to win the five-match series. Australia began the second session at 22/4, with Cameron Green and Alex Carey at the crease. They held a lead of 313 runs. Ollie Robinson’s brilliant catch, off the bowling of Tongue, dismissed Green for 18 runs. Robinson struck again to dismiss Carey, thanks to a fantastic catch by Joe Root. Stuart Broad also contributed by taking the wickets of Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, and Nathan Lyon. Australia was eventually bowled out for 279 runs.
England’s probing bowling spells provided crucial breakthroughs, but the advantage still lay with Australia, who went into Lunch with a lead of over 300 runs. At the end of the first session, Australia were 222/4, with Cameron Green and Alex Carey unbeaten. Usman Khawaja’s solid knock of 77 and Steve Smith’s contribution of 34 set the foundation for Australia’s lead.
With England requiring a challenging 257 runs to win on the final day, the Test match is finely poised. The performances of Ben Duckett and Ben Stokes will be crucial in determining England’s fate. The home team will be hoping for a strong start from their remaining batsmen to mount a successful chase and level the series.