England on cusp of win in Ashes opener

Stuart Broad decimated Australia’s top order as England charged toward victory on day four of the Ashes opener.

The tourists were 7-162 at tea on Saturday, needing a miracle to avoid defeat in Cardiff.

Rain is predicted for Sunday, but not of the biblical proportions Australia require to avoid going down 1-0 in the five-Test series.

At any rate it’s hard to see how the game will go to a fifth day.

Broad removed Steve Smith and Michael Clarke amid a shocking post-lunch collapse of 4-9.

Having been set a victory target of 412 runs, the visitors were always going to struggle.

Don Bradman’s Invincibles are the only side to have pulled off a similar run-chase in Ashes history.

Bradman and Arthur Morris scored tons in Leeds during that Test in 1948, chasing down 404 with seven wickets in hand.

Australia started positively on Saturday.

David Warner and Smith both looked set, leaving their side reasonably well placed at 1-97.

When Warner was at the crease, the visitors’ hopes of victory were slim but existent.

Offspinner Moeen Ali put paid to that, engineering the all-important breakthrough with the final ball before lunch.

Ali, who had been hit out of the attack earlier in the morning session, trapped Warner lbw with a ball that stayed low.

It unravelled spectacularly for Australia after the meal break.

Broad, who started the day with three maidens and bowled magnificently, found the edge of Smith’s bat with his fourth ball after lunch.

Ian Bell snaffled the catch gleefully in the slips cordon, having done the same to dismiss Chris Rogers off the bowling of Broad.

Clarke went soon after, awkwardly driving a ball straight to Ben Stokes at point.

Adam Voges was caught behind, stuck on the back foot against Mark Wood, while Brad Haddin fell victim to a spectacular catch from Alastair Cook.

Shane Watson and Mitchell Johnson halted the slump in a 29-run stand, but it was temporary respite for the tourists.

For the 29th time in his Test career, Watson was trapped lbw.

The allrounder reviewed Marais Erasmus’ decision, but ball-tracking technology deemed it to be ‘umpire’s call’.

Johnson was 26 not out at tea, while Mitchell Starc was on four.

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