The Ashes 2023 series has reached its crucial stage, with England and Australia battling it out in the fourth test. On the fourth day of the match, England displayed their dominance as they pushed for a decider. Despite gloomy weather conditions in Manchester, Marnus Labuschagne managed to make his first away Ashes century before falling to Joe Root. Let’s delve into the details of this gripping day of cricket.
A Gloomy Start to the Day
The morning began with heavy rain lashing down, raising doubts about the possibility of any play. However, as the hours wore on, the forecast improved, allowing a window for the clean-up and the start of play at 2.45pm. England, determined to replicate their previous evening’s intensity, hoped to make significant inroads into the Australian batting lineup.
Labuschagne’s Aggressive Century
Marnus Labuschagne, who had already shown promise with his half-century on the opening day, continued his aggressive approach. Taking advantage of loose deliveries, Labuschagne punished England’s quicks with confident strokes. The old ball failed to offer much assistance, possibly hindered by dampness from the outfield. Labuschagne’s partnership with Mitchell Marsh yielded 103 runs in 31 overs, with both batsmen looking in control.
Root’s Unconventional Bowling
As the light began to fade and the umpires deemed it too dark for pace, Ben Stokes was instructed to bring on Joe Root’s unconventional seam-up swinging deliveries. Initially, this decision seemed questionable to England captain Root himself. However, the move paid off as Root and Moeen Ali troubled the Australian batsmen with turn and bounce. Labuschagne, undeterred, displayed his positive intent by hitting Root for two sixes in an over.
Labuschagne’s Scare and Century
Labuschagne, on 93, had a moment of anxiety when Root’s delivery took the outside edge and flew towards slip. Zak Crawley couldn’t grasp the catch, much to England’s disappointment. However, in the next over, Labuschagne nudged Moeen Ali into the offside and sprinted for a single, reaching his 11th Test century. This milestone marked his first century in 24 innings and only his second overseas.
Labuschagne’s innings was cut short when another of Root’s slingy deliveries bounced unexpectedly. Labuschagne attempted a cut shot, resulting in a top edge that was well held by Jonny Bairstow after a rebound. The on-field umpire, Nitin Menon, initially did not give the decision, but England promptly reviewed it. Labuschagne, frustrated with his dismissal, threw his bat in the air, indicating he knew he was out.
England’s Near Misses
England continued to pose a threat, with Root nearly dismissing Mitchell Marsh in a similar fashion. Marsh’s inside edge flew low to Harry Brook’s left at short leg, but Brook couldn’t hold on. The tension grew in the final moments of the session when Cameron Green, struggling for confidence with the bat, lunged forward, resulting in the ball ballooning to slip. England reviewed the decision, suspecting an inside edge, but the ball had only hit the pad.
Rain Interrupts Play
Just as England seemed to be gaining momentum, steady drizzle returned, forcing the players off the field shortly before 6.30pm. The weather forecast for the following day was bleak, with warnings of heavy rain in the northwest of the country, including Manchester. Despite the interruption, England clung to the hope of a small window of opportunity to force victory.
The Path to Victory
With the second new ball just nine overs away, England had a chance to exploit it. However, the umpires took a light reading, potentially delaying the availability of the new ball. Australia, still 61 runs behind, needed to surpass England’s total to take the lead. If they managed to achieve this, it would eat into valuable time and increase their chances of retaining the Ashes. A draw, on the other hand, would allow Australia to secure a 2-1 lead and retain the Ashes before heading to The Oval.
The fourth day of the Ashes 2023 test match provided enthralling moments as Marnus Labuschagne showcased his batting prowess with a century. England’s unconventional bowling tactics and near misses added to the excitement. However, rain interrupted play, leaving the outcome of the match uncertain. The stage is set for a thrilling fifth day, where both teams will closely monitor the weather forecasts, hoping for a chance to secure victory.