England 384 for 4 (Crawley 189, Root 84, Moeen 54) lead Australia 317 (Labuschagne 51, Marsh 51, Woakes 5-62) by 67 runs
With rain expected to wipe out the fourth and fifth days, Ben Stokes hinted the day before this Test that England would adjust their strategy accordingly by doubling-down on their ultra-attacking style with the bat. True to their captain’s word, they overhauled Australia’s first-innings 317 inside 55 overs.
And it was Crawley who led the way. He flicked the first ball of England’s innings past Alex Carey for four and, after a shaky start before lunch, he batted with utter disdain against the best seam attack in the world throughout the afternoon. His first Ashes hundred took only 93 balls, the fourth-fastest by an Englishman, and left Pat Cummins and his bowlers floundering.
He fell 11 runs short of a second Test double-hundred, bottom-edging a swing across the line onto his own stumps, but by that stage he had become the leading run-scorer in the series. It served as vindication of England’s faith in an opening batter who had arrived at the ground on Thursday morning with an average below 30, yet has come to represent their progress under Stokes and Brendon McCullum.
Australia were a bowler down by the close after Mitchell Starc damaged his left shoulder while diving in the field. Despite the wicket of Root for 84, bowled by a ball which shot through low from Josh Hazlewood, they lacked any semblance of control; their decision not to field a frontline spinner for the first time in a decade was exposed as a blunder.