Josh Hazlewood struck the final blow as Australia beat battling England by 185 runs on a tense final day of the fourth Test at a raucous Old Trafford to retain the urn.
England resumed on Sunday in deep trouble on 18-2 and needing a highly improbable 383 to win, but more realistically to bat out for a draw which would give them the chance of a series victory with one match remaining at The Oval next week.
The outstanding Pat Cummins (4-43) removed Jason Roy and Headingley hero Ben Stokes before lunch, but England had hope of saving the match when they were six wickets down at tea, with Joe Denly (53) one of only two men to depart in the afternoon session.
England continued to show resistance as Jos Buttler made 34 off 111 balls on his 29th birthday, while Craig Overton and Jack Leach also dug in with the backing of a packed crowd in Manchester.
Overton and Leach fended off 14 overs in a gritty ninth-wicket stand before part-time spinner Marnus Labuschagne got rid of his fellow tweaker – who soaked up 51 balls after being promoted above Stuart Broad – to silence a lively crowd.
After the clocked ticked into the final hour with 13.3 overs remaining, Hazlewood ended Overton’s defiant knock of 21 off 105 deliveries to dismiss England for 197, sparking wild Australia celebrations as they avoided more final-day agony and took a 2-1 lead.
Roy hit Mitchell Starc for four with a glorious cover drive in an encouraging start for England, but was gone when Cummins removed his off stump with a brilliant delivery, which nipped back through the gate at the end of the 18th over of the day.
Stokes soon followed after inside-edging a pumped-up Cummins behind, walking off without the finger being raised by umpire Marais Erasmus in a huge moment late in the morning session.
Denly had a second half-century in as many Tests when he punched Cummins down the ground to the boundary just after lunch, but fended Nathan Lyon to Labuschagne at short leg to become the spinner’s first victim of the match.
Bairstow (25) and Buttler looked comfortable as they played with a mixture of attack and defence, but Starc ended a sixth-wicket stand of 45 by snaring the former leg before with the first ball after a drinks break.
Overton had a reprieve after being given out lbw for five, with the third umpire taking a long time to overturn the decision despite the fact Cummins’ delivery appeared to strike the paceman’s bat before hitting his pad outside the line of off stump.
Buttler looked to hold the key to England’s survival hopes, but lost his off stump soon after tea offering no shot to one from Hazlewood that nipped in off the seam.
Jofra Archer’s short stay was ended when he fell lbw to Lyon, but Somerset duo Leach – promoted above Stuart Broad – and Overton resembled top-order batsmen as they played with great composure and showed solid defence.
Roars from the crowd grew louder as the overs ticked by, but Leach was gone when he prodded Labuschagne to short leg and Hazlewood ended a pulsating Test by trapping Overton lbw to ensure it was England left heartbroken on the final day a fortnight after Stokes stunned Australia in Leeds.
CUMMINS GETS AUSTRALIA GOING
The hostile Cummins capped an outstanding match by playing a huge part on such a crucial day.
He charged in time and again from the Brian Statham End threatening relentlessly, getting the only two wickets in the morning session – including the big one of Stokes – and proved why he is the top-ranked bowler in the world.
SOMERSET STEEL UNABLE TO SAVE ENGLAND
Overton was brought in for his prowess with the ball, but showed his quality with the bat along with his former team-mate Buttler, who batted with application to hang around after being criticised for some loose strokes during the series.
Leach again demonstrated his powers of concentration and ability at the crease after playing such a great support role for Stokes in the third Test and when making 92 against Ireland, but England were unable to see it out as Australia claimed a deserved win.
MOMENT OF THE DAY
The wicket of Stokes was always going to be a big one for Australia and seeing the all-rounder depart so early was a massive blow for England, with Cummins the man to achieve what Australia failed to do at Headingley.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Australia have retained the Ashes for the first time since the 2002/03 series.
– Cummins has got Buttler out four times in this series.
– Lyon’s dismissal of Denly was his first wicket in 308 deliveries.
– Roy has been bowled more often than any other batsman in the series (four). He has been cleaned up in his last three knocks.