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Australia wins Ashes classic as Cummins finishes off 2-wicket win over England in 1st test

BIRMINGHAM (AP) — Pat Cummins threw off his helmet, tossed away his bat and wheeled away in celebration after playing a captain’s innings to help Australia win an Ashes classic on Tuesday.

Australia captain Pat Cummins celebrates after beating England during day five of the first Ashes Test cricket match, at Edgbaston, Birmingham, England on June 20. PHOTO: AP

England’s “Bazball” cricket revolution got a lesson from Down Under in a series-opening test that went down to the wire on the fifth and final day.

Chasing 281 at a raucous Edgbaston, the Australians reached the target inside the final hour for a two-wicket victory after opener Usman Khawaja hit a patient 65 and Cummins finished the job with an unbeaten 44 containing two sixes and four fours.

“Both teams spoke a lot about playing your own style,” Cummins said about triumphing over England’s high-stakes attacking approach under Ben Stokes. “And that’s the beauty of this series. Two contrasting styles, playing to our strengths and that made for great entertainment.”

Cummins shared a match-winning ninth-wicket partnership of 55 with tailender Nathan Lyon (16 not out), hitting the winning boundary against Ollie Robinson — Harry Brook failed to stop the ball at the rope — as Australia reached 282-8. It disappointed the majority of a loud home crowd that sensed another memorable victory at the Birmingham ground after England’s two-run win in the second Ashes test in 2005.

“We are, of course, absolutely devastated,” Stokes said. “The lads are in pieces up there. But if that’s (the tight match) not attracting people to the game we love, then I don’t know what will.”

Jubilant and possibly surprised Australian fans at the stadium chanted “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie” after their team’s remarkable win.

Khawaja, who hit his first test century in England in the first innings, faced 197 deliveries as he anchored most of Australia’s successful run chase on a rain-reduced day before Stokes entered the bowling attack and picked up a vital wicket. Khawaja was taking the game away from England with Australia at 209-6, but Stokes’ fiery delivery was hit onto his stumps by the batter.

Khawaja was voted player of the match and said “it was an unbelievable game.”

“I watched Edgbaston 2005 on TV as a kid, I stayed up late,” Khawaja said. “I was there when Stokesy played that unbelievable innings at Headingley in the last Ashes (in England in 2019) but this has definitely got to be one of my favourite test matches I’ve ever played in.”

Australia won the World Test Championship final against India in London last week, but seemed to be behind the game for most of the Ashes series opener against England.

Eight wickets down with all the recognised batters out, Australia was still chasing the win — with very good reason as it turned out — and Cummins smashed Joe Root, who was bowling spin while Moeen Ali was nursing a blistered spinning finger, for two sixes in the 83rd over.

England had delayed taking the new ball at 227-7 and it worked perfectly as Root claimed Alex Carey (20) to make the score 227-8 with Australia still needing 54 runs.

Lyon joined Cummins at the crease and didn’t leave it, although he was dropped by a flying Stokes at backward square leg in what could have been another twist.

England must win the five-match series to retake the urn from Australia. The tourists take the bragging rights into the second test at Lord’s but both teams achieved their aim of making the series opener a showpiece for cricket’s longest format as it fights to keep players and TV viewers from focusing on franchise games.

The morning session was lost to rain and players took an early lunch before Australia resumed batting on 107-3, still needing 174 runs for victory.

They were contained early on by veteran pace bowlers Jimmy Anderson and Broad, who had claimed the wickets of top-ranked Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith late on Friday to help set up a final-day thriller.

Despite losing in “Bazball” style, attack-minded England has shown almost anything can now happen in test cricket under Stokes’ captaincy.

His early declaration — on the first day, no less — with England at 393-8 drew grudging admiration from Australian fans for its audacity but in retrospect the decision lost England vital runs, particularly as Root was still out there.

“I’m a captain who saw it as an opportunity to pounce on Australia,” Stokes said after the game. “The way in which we played and took Australia on actually allowed us to be able to do that. If we didn’t declare, would we have got that excitement like we did at the end?”

Bringing on part-timer Brook early on the second day to bowl at Smith drew gasps and left Australia batters not knowing what to expect next from Stokes. Brook had previously remarked his gentle medium-pace was only employed “if the other boys are knackered.”

As well as the batting heroics, Lyon moved closer to joining the exclusive 500-wicket club in tests after returning match figures of 8-229 when England finished its second innings 273 all out. Root reverse-ramped his way to 46 after his 118 not out in the first innings.

Off-spinner Lyon, who has taken 495 wickets, expressed genuine sympathy for England’s spinning spearhead Ali, who came out of test retirement but struggled with a blistered spinning finger after bowling 33 overs for 2-147 in Australia’s first innings of 386.

Ali bowled again in the second innings, taking 1-57 from 14 overs, but was badly missed in the final hours.