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The Ashes are within Australia's grasp after England imploded late on day four of the fourth test in the face of a Pat Cummins onslaught.

Australia declared at 186-6 with a lead of 382 about 40 minutes before stumps and enjoyed the perfect start to its bowling innings as Cummins struck twice in the first over to dismiss England's first innings heroes Rory Burns and Joe Root.

Burns scored 81 in the first dig but fell third ball of this innings, getting a leading edge that was caught by Travis Head at mid-off. Next ball Cummins knocked over Joe Root for a golden duck with an absolute beauty that clipped the top of the captain's off stump.

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Woefully out-of-form Jason Roy survived the hat-trick ball but Australia will like its chances of taking the remaining eight wickets needed for victory as England heads into day five at 18-2.

A wearing surface will bring spinner Nathan Lyon into play and also help the quicks with some uneven bounce if they attack the stumps.

"For us it's pretty clear what we need to do tomorrow – quicks hit the good length, Gazza (Lyon) hit the rough as much as possible and when he bowls to 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," Steve Smith said after stumps.

"It's just about relaxing and going out and just enjoying it and hopefully executing our skills well enough to bowl England out tomorrow."

On the brilliant ball Cummins bowled to dismiss Root, Smith added: "It's the length we've been trying to hit on Root, particularly early in the innings.

"It's worked a few times. He's got out first ball a couple of times and early on a few times with a very similar ball. That's the sort of length we tried to hit. Fortunately Patty did it first ball.