England will require more heroics from Ben Stokes if they are to pull off an unlikely victory over Australia on Sunday and level an Ashes series threatening to slide out of their control.
Chasing 371 for victory at Lord’s, England had their top-order ripped apart by Aussie pace duo Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins as they stumbled to 114-4 at the close of day four.
But with captain Stokes still there, Ben Duckett unbeaten on 50 after a massive let-off just before stumps and the destructive Jonny Bairstow still to come in, there is still hope, according to England’s batting coach Marcus Trescothick.
“I think there’s always hope with Ben there, two Bens there, Jonny coming in and the bowlers,” Trescothick told the BBC.
“If someone can get a big score, we can challenge them and try and overcome it. We’re still fairly upbeat, we’re a positive unit. We have good days and bad days, you enjoy it on a good day, but you don’t get too down on a bad day.
“You take the rough with the smooth.”
Needing only six wickets and with England’s long tail, Australia are within touching distance of going 2-0 ahead in the series and only once in the history of the Ashes has a side come back from such a deficit to win.
But they will be wary of Stokes who memorably scored an unbeaten 135 against them at Headingley in 2019 when England chased down 359 despite being 286-9.
If England do score 257 runs to emerge triumphant on Sunday it would be only the second time a team has successfully chased down a target of 300 plus at Lord’s after West Indies made the 342 required in 1984.
It would also be the second-highest successful run chase in the long history of the Ashes although way short of the 404 Australia knocked to win at Headingley in 1948.
The way Starc and Cummins bowled on Saturday evening would suggest Australia are unlikely to let victory slip through their fingers, although they were clearly rattled as England opener Duckett was controversially reprieved when caught on the boundary by Starc just before the close of play on Saturday.
Duckett deflected a bouncer from Cameron Green and was caught on the fine leg boundary by a diving Starc who initially pouched the ball cleanly. Despite being given out, Duckett was called back after third umpire Marais Erasmus decided it was not a clean catch, with Starc not in control of ‘ball and body’.
“England have the best of the conditions and now they are getting the best of the rules,” former Australian bowling great Glenn McGrath told the BBC.
“If that is not out, then every other catch that’s ever been taken should not be out. That is a disgrace. If that’s England taking that catch, that is out!”
Barring something extraordinary on Sunday, it will become a minor detail but England have taken unpredictability to new levels under coach Brendon McCullum and the sell-out crowd at Lord’s could yet be in for a treat.
“We’ll see, it makes it an exciting day. Whatever happens tomorrow, it’s going to be an exciting final day,” Trescothick said.