Birmingham: A superb rearguard innings of 44 not out by skipper Pat Cummins and his crucial 55-run partnership for the ninth wicket with Nathan Lyon (16 not out) helped Australia scamper to a two-wicket victory over England in the nail-biting first Ashes Test of the 2023 series at the Edgbaston here on Tuesday.
Chasing a fourth innings target of 218 to win the match, Australia, who ended Day Four at 107/3, were in trouble after losing Alex Carey for 20 with the score 227/8.
The first game of the new ICC World Test Championship cycle ended in dramatic fashion, with Cummins playing a captain’s knock to steer his side to a famous victory in the Birmingham twilight.
Despite losing the first session of the day because of rain, England, who declared their first innings at 393/8 and bowled out for 272 in their second, were sniffing their chances as they only needed two wickets with Australia needing 54 runs.
However, Cummins and Lyon shared an unfinished 55-run partnership for the ninth wicket as they gave Australia the winning start in their attempt to wrest back the Urn in England after many years.
England looked favourites when Cummins came to the crease, but the skipper added 18 runs alongside Alex Carey and then played the decisive part in the match-winning stand with Nathan Lyon as the opening match of the Ashes went down to the wire.
It was Cummins who hit the winning runs, ending on 44 not out and embraced by the unbeaten Lyon (16 not out).
Rain washed out the whole first session to compress the day’s play, with Australia resuming on 107/3 and all results still possible when play did start on a cloudy afternoon.
Needing 174 to win, Usman Khawaja and Scott Boland made England sweat for the early breakthrough before Stuart Broad lured the edge from the nightwatchman. Boland’s 20 was his highest Test score to date.
Australia bided their time, with Travis Head seeing off a spell of short-pitched bowling.
But Moeen Ali, who struggled throughout the day with a finger injury, produced a superb delivery to tie Head up in knots, with Joe Root taking a sharp catch at first slip.
Glimmer of hope
The tourists were well-placed, five wickets down, at tea. But England did get a glimmer of hope when Cameron Green’s 66-ball vigil came to an end when he chopped an Ollie Robinson ball onto his stumps to depart for 28.
And Khawaja’s defiant 197-ball 65 came to an end in the same fashion when he was undone by a slower ball from England captain Stokes.
England delayed taking the new ball, and the decision paid off in style when part-time spinner Root clung on to a sharp caught and bowled chance (his third such tricky opportunity) to remove Alex Carey for 20 with Australia still requiring 54 runs to win.
Tension ran high
Tension was high as England tried everything to get the remaining wickets they needed. But Cummins and Lyon held their nerve to wrap up a famous victory.
The win gives Australia a 1-0 lead in the series with four Tests to play. The second Test will start at Lord’s next Wednesday.
And the result is the first in the new cycle of the World Test Championship, with defending champions Australia getting points on the board at the first time of asking.
England 393/8d & 273 lost to Australia 286 & 282/8 in 92.3 overs (Usman Khawaja 65, David Warner 36, Pat Cummins 44 not out; Stuart Broad 3-64, Ollie Robinson 2-43) by two wickets.