Cricket: Talking points from day three of the fourth Ashes Test in Manchester – New Zealand Herald

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Australia finished day three of the fourth Ashes Test with a flurry, taking late wickets as England’s batsmen crumbled in fading light.

The home side is still 297 runs behind Australia heading into day four.

CROWD SLEDGES NATHAN LYON

Captain Tim Paine spoke a lot about Australia needing to move on from its barely-believable loss at Headingley but Nathan Lyon was being given constant reminders about his personal nightmare that unfolded in Leeds.

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Australia lost the third Test by one wicket thanks to Ben Stokes’ incredible partnership with Jack Leach but it could have been so different had Lyon held onto the ball during a run-out chance when England needed two runs to win.

Lyon could have won the match – and the Ashes – for Australia by running Leach out but the off-spinner dropped the ball and Stokes hit the winning runs the next over.

The crowd at Old Trafford wasn’t letting Lyon forget about that torturous moment. In the afternoon, the ever-enthusiastic spectators in the western grandstand started cheering every time Lyon caught the ball at the nonstriker’s end when it was lobbed back to him during his overs.

The crowd started a low rumble when the ball was being passed along to different fielders, then exploded into a roar when it landed safely in Lyon’s hands before each delivery.

The biggest cheer was saved for shortly after tea, when Lyon put down a return throw, sparking the stand into life as everyone stood up and celebrated while making plenty of noise.

Lyon was a broken man after that Headingley disaster, needing to be consoled by Paine in the immediate aftermath, but England supporters showed him no sympathy.

IMAGE THAT WILL MAKE ALL MEN SICK

We’ve seen plenty of batsmen get hit in the head this series but Joe Root copped a frightening blow a little lower down in a moment that would have made every viewer wince.

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Mitchell Starc swung a ball back in to the England captain and smashed his middle stump – but not the one with any bails on it. The eye-watering knock to the nether regions brought Root to his knees as he crumbled to the floor.

He stayed down then even when he got to his feet play still had to be stopped for a while as the 28-year-old tried to regain his composure.

It became painfully clear why Root was taking so long to face up again when he called for a replacement box. Starc’s delivery broke the green piece of equipment Root was wearing to protect the most vulnerable part of his body and he had to call for a new one.

PAT CUMMINS GETS ON A ROLL

Amid all the rotation of the Australian quicks this series, we saw once again why Pat Cummins is always the first bowler inked on the team sheet.

He’s the only speedster to have played all four Tests this series and with spells like the one he delivered after tea, it’s no surprise why.

Cummins gave Root a serious working over as he challenged him every ball in a lengthy spell defined by unwavering accuracy and hostility. Cummins bowled with serious heat and went past Root’s outside edge on several occasions, and also found the inside edge with balls that jagged back off a length.

Root was lucky to survive when he edged between Paine and David Warner in the cordon, both men standing motionless as the ball split the pair when Paine, wearing the gloves, should have snaffled the catch.

Next over was an eventful one. Cummins had an LBW shout turned down, Root edged another ball through the slips for four, he played and missed and then Cummins clipped him on the gloves with a sharp, rising delivery the batsman knew nothing about.

Later, another short ball caught Root on the hop and found the shoulder of his bat before beating England’s best player outside off stump twice in the following over.

The BBC’s Jonathan Agnew said: “This is compelling viewing – Pat Cummins has bowled absolutely beautifully but got nothing to show for it.”

ROOT AND BURNS STICK SOLID

England’s batting has been brittle all series but just like they did during the third Test at Headingley, the hosts showed grit and determination to keep themselves in the contest.

Root played a brilliant captain’s knock and Rory Burns was effective if not always pretty in grinding out an impressive 81 as they combined for a 141-run, third-wicket partnership.

Burns, who scored a century at Edgbaston and a half century at Lord’s, was better able to deal with the onslaught of short balls that came his way after the Aussies pinpointed his inability to play bouncers as his biggest weakness.

The left-hander also took advantage of anything wide and played Nathan Lyon perfectly, cutting him through the off side whenever the off-spinner dropped short.

Root batted well but will be upset at failing to convert a half century into a ton yet again.

Coming to the crease in the second over of the day, the England skipper showed plenty of resolve in scoring 71. He had a torrid time facing Cummins’ sensational spell after tea, but somehow survived and gutsed things out.

DRS DEBACLE CONTINUES

Paine’s shocking use of the Decision Review System (DRS) continued as he got another challenge wrong.

He went upstairs when the umpire kept his finger down for an LBW shout after Cummins struck Root on the pad.

But Hawkeye showed the ball struck Root outside the line of off stump and was missing the pegs. It was the 10th incorrect review Paine has made this series.

He joked after the last Test in Leeds he might need to give up responsibility of the reviews but he made the decision this time and it came back to bite him.

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