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Root dismissal a ‘blueprint’ – Smith backs bowlers to follow Cummins’ template

by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

Australia batsman Steve Smith feels his side should target a good length on a seaming Old Trafford track on the final morning of the fourth Ashes Test, following the template employed by Pat Cummins in the late stages of the penultimate day.

“Patty hit it beautifully tonight,” Smith told reporters at the end of the fourth day’s play. “I think that ball to Root is a blueprint of what we need to do tomorrow, first thing in the morning, and the quicks to keep hitting that top-of-the-stump length and let the pitch do its thing.

“Mix in with a good bouncer to play with their feet, and maybe get a bit of up and down [bounce] as well.”

Cummins prised out two wickets in the opening over of England’s second innings, following up Rory Burns’ dismissal with a ball that hit an inch-perfect length before angling in, and seaming just enough to crash into the top of Joe Root’s off-stump.

Root’s dismissal left England at 0-2 after their first four balls; by stumps, that had changed to 18-2, with the hosts still facing a 365-run deficit.

Australia had themselves faced the onslaught of a moving new ball in their second innings; Stuart Broad pocketed David Warner’s wicket for the sixth time in the series, handing the Australian opener his first-ever pair. The score read 28-2 when Smith, the first-innings double-centurion, walked out to extinguish the fire.

“I found when I first went out to the middle, when you bowl a good length, there was enough up and down and sideways movement,” Smith said.

“My first 20 or 30 balls, I felt pretty vulnerable when they were bowling that good length.”

Australia further stumbled to 44-4, but Smith held one end up to score 82 – astonishingly his lowest score of the series – as Australia declared at 186-6, leaving England with less than four sessions to chase 383.

England had faced a similarly daunting target on the final day of the third Test too, but managed to sneak through with just a wicket in hand, spearheaded by an incredible ton from Ben Stokes. This time, though, Australia have a firmer grip going into the final day, and Smith wants his teammates to de-clutter their minds, and earnestly follow their bowling plans.

“It’s just about relaxing and going out and just enjoying it and, hopefully, executing our skills well enough to bowl England out tomorrow,” Smith said.

“For us, it’s pretty clear what we need to do tomorrow; quicks hit the good length, ‘Gazza’ [Nathan Lyon] hit the rough as much as possible, and when he bowls to the left-handers, just pitch it on the stumps and try and hit the stumps as much as possible and bring lbw and caught behind the wicket into play.”

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