England kept their Ashes hopes alive in a thrilling manner as Harry Brook’s impressive knock of 75, followed by Chris Woakes and Mark Wood’s crucial contributions, secured a nerve-wracking three-wicket victory over Australia on the fourth day of the third Test at Headingley.
By successfully chasing down a target of 251, England reduced their series deficit to 2-1 and maintained their aspirations of achieving a rare feat: becoming only the second team, after Don Bradman’s Australia in 1936/37, to win the Ashes from a 2-0 disadvantage.
The Ashes seemed to be slipping away from England when captain Ben Stokes (13) and Jonny Bairstow (5) were dismissed by Mitchell Starc (5-78) after lunch. At that point, England were struggling at 171-6, still 80 runs away from victory.
However, Harry Brook, who was pushed down the batting order to his preferred position of No. 5, displayed exceptional batting skills on his home ground. He played an array of scintillating drives and cuts while maintaining composure. Brook’s brilliant innings came to an end when England needed 21 runs, adding a late twist to the dramatic Test match.
The responsibility of securing the win then fell on the shoulders of Chris Woakes (32 not out) and Mark Wood (16 not out off 8 balls). The duo formed a vital partnership of 59 runs for the seventh wicket. Wood hammered a six over fine leg off Australia captain Pat Cummins and followed it up with a four through the covers against Mitchell Starc. Finally, it was Chris Woakes who hit the winning boundary off Starc, causing the crowd at Headingley to erupt in celebration.
Australia missed the opportunity to retain the Ashes at the earliest possible stage and will now focus on winning the series at Emirates Old Trafford starting from Wednesday, July 19, with the match broadcast live on Sky Sports.
If England secures victory in Manchester, it would set up an exciting winner-takes-all finale at The Kia Oval at the end of the month, a fitting end to this captivating series.
The fact that England is still in contention owes much to the contributions of Ben Stokes. His battling innings of 80 runs in the first innings, despite a glute issue, revived the team from a precarious position of 142-7, helping them reach a total of 237 in response to Australia’s 263.
Although Stokes couldn’t replicate his heroics from four years ago on the same ground against Australia, he watched as Harry Brook, Chris Woakes, and Mark Wood stepped up as the heroes of Headingley in this memorable Test match.Embed from Getty Images
England’s valiant struggle persists despite the fruitless brilliance of Starc’s five-wicket haul.
England entered the match with a significant advantage according to the Win Predictor, starting the day’s play at 27-0. However, the overcast skies provided Australia with confidence as they aimed to make early breakthroughs. Their hopes were realized when Mitchell Starc dismissed Ben Duckett for 23, trapping him lbw, and later bowled Moeen Ali, hitting the leg stump, reducing England to 60-2 from their initial 42-0.
Joe Root, who had scored 21 runs, formed partnerships in the thirties with opener Zak Crawley (44) and Dominic Brook. However, Root’s dismissal to a short delivery from Pat Cummins left England at 131-4, still 120 runs away from their target.
Crawley’s innings exemplified his international career, showcasing elegant strokes before losing his wicket without making substantial progress. He nicked the ball behind the wicket to wicketkeeper Alex Carey off the bowling of Mitchell Marsh.
Crawley’s departure coincided with a change of ball, which provided Australia with movement. Root, too, fell victim to the new ball as he gloved it down the leg-side to Carey while attempting a pull shot.
During the second session, Ben Stokes was caught behind off Starc after hitting him for a boundary through the covers just one ball earlier. Jonny Bairstow also dragged a delivery from Starc onto his stumps, further igniting Australia’s spirits.
However, Dominic Brook displayed an impressive performance, reaching a fifty off just 67 balls and becoming the fastest player to reach 1,000 Test runs in terms of balls faced (1,058). Unfortunately, he eventually fell to Starc after contributing significantly with his bat.
Australia’s last opportunity arose when Alex Carey, who had received criticism earlier for his stumping of Bairstow at Lord’s and a controversial haircut, dropped Mark Wood on 14 runs when England required only four more to win.