Ben Stokes the Ashes fire
BEN Stokes took three wickets for four runs to reignite England’s charge towards Ashes success at Trent Bridge on the second afternoon of the fourth Investec Test.
Chris Rogers (52) and David Warner (64) both went to the all-rounder, as four Australia wickets fell in under five overs.
Australia started their second innings just before lunch with a yawning deficit of 331 to wipe out and make England bat again.
Their two left-handed openers both made ducks as Stuart Broad dismantled Australia for 60 all out in a record 18.3 overs on the first morning.
But for almost 24 overs at their second attempt, they made a mockery of the first-innings debacle with a half-century each.
Stokes (three for 20) then suddenly intervened as Australia faltered to 138 for four and England hinted they could yet exact an innings defeat inside two days to retain the urn with a match to spare.
The ball was still swinging, with occasional movement off the pitch too, yet the hosts soon found their progress much harder-earned and did not always help themselves either, Warner dropped in the slips on 10 and 42 by Alastair Cook and then Ian Bell.
It seemed England’s luck was well and truly out when a third-umpire no-ball call reprieved Rogers after Mark Wood found extra bounce and Joe Root clung on low at third slip.
But Rogers had only two more runs when, in the next over from the Radcliffe Road end, Root took an even better catch in the same position diving one-handed away to his left, and this time Stokes had some foot behind the line.
Stokes struck with the last ball of his next over too, Warner mis-pulling a short ball for an easy catch by Broad at mid-on, and then Shaun Marsh recorded a double failure in the match when he too edged to Root.
The final wicket of the session was Broad’s but Stokes could not stay out of the action and played his part again with a low catch at cover to see off Steve Smith.
On a cloudy morning, England had consolidated their domination despite Mitchell Starc’s burst of three wickets for five runs.
Starc (six for 111) took advantage of helpful conditions as the hosts stumbled relatively from 274 for four to 332 for eight.
But Moeen Ali and Broad’s ninth-wicket stand of 58 in just 7.3 overs helped England to a declaration on 391 for nine.
Root began with an unbeaten 124 to his name but made only six more before edging an attempted drive at Starc behind.
The left-armer’s full-length swing was far too good for nightwatchman Wood, yorked after a clutch of early boundaries off Mitchell Johnson, and Jos Buttler, whose mediocre series with the bat continued when he was bowled off-stump, driving.
After Stokes then edged Josh Hazlewood behind down the leg-side, England’s array of low middle-order entertainers had thinned out with precious little to show for their efforts.
But Moeen was still in the equation and in Broad found a partner high on confidence after his brilliant career-best bowling.
Broad was very lucky to escape lbw sweeping at Nathan Lyon on six, via the most marginal of ‘umpire’s call’ vindications, before he and Moeen attacked the second new ball to power the lead past 300 after all.