England win thriller to keep Ashes series alive

Sports Sunday 09/July/2023 20:51 PM
By: Times News Service
England win thriller to keep Ashes series alive

LEEDS: England kept their Ashes hopes alive by beating Australia by three wickets in another Headingley thriller on Sunday.

Harry Brook hit a superb 75 but it was left to bowlers Chris Woakes and Mark Wood to drag the hosts over the line in pursuit of 251 on the fourth day of the third Test.

Brook’s mature knock took them to within 21 of victory, after talisman Ben Stokes fell for 13 following lunch with 90 still needed.

Brook put on 59 with Woakes before top-edging a cut off Mitchell Starc, who almost won the series for Australia with a vicious 5-78.

That wicket brought Wood to the crease amid gripping tension and he hit Pat Cummins for six and thrashed Starc for four to spark jubilant scenes in the stands.

With four needed, Wood was dropped by Australia wicketkeeper Alex Carey and Woakes, who finished unbeaten on 32, slashed the winning runs.

England’s make the series 2-1 to Australia with two Tests to play later this month, setting up a grandstand finale that could yet match the iconic contest in 2005.

The win only came after another titanic Ashes tussle, as Starc threatened to bowl Australia to victory and their first series win in England since 2001. The left-armer first removed Ben Duckett and the elevated No.3 Moeen Ali to start the day, before breathing life back in the contest after lunch.

When England looked in control with 90 runs needed and six wickets in hand, Starc strangled their miracle man Stokes down legside on 13, having him caught behind.

Two overs later it was Jonny Bairstow who chopped on against Starc, as the English veteran’s underwhelming series continued.

Another 80 runs were required, with four wickets in hand.

Pat Cummins hit the shoulder of the bat twice in one over, but both times the ball fell safely. Suddenly, the margin was down to 60. Then it got to 40 runs, then 21 ... but as has been the case all series, there was another sting in the tail.

Brook tried to upper-cut a short ball from Starc, skied it, and Cummins took the high ball despite the bowler charging in to try and take the catch in a near mix-up.

It was that kind of day. But for the first time this summer, England were able to win the big moments. When Brook perished, Wood top-edged Cummins for six to reduce the margin even further and Woakes blazed Starc through the offside to finish off the chase.

But still, the hero was local man Brook, who grew up 25km down the road in nearby Ilkley. On a day when he brought up the record for the fastest man to 1,000 Test runs in terms of balls faced, Brook held his composure with some old-fashioned cricket. He cover-drove supremely and put the pressure back on Scott Boland when the usually economical Victorian seamer veered on line and length.

His innings left Australia needing the kind of miracle with the ball that Stokes had conjured up with the bat at Headingley in 2019.

Earlier on Saturday, rain had kept the players off the field for the majority of the day. Travis Head’s fireworks with the willow in the 34 overs bowled thereafter enlivened proceedings till the close of play.

At stumps, England chasing 251, managed to post 27/0 on the board, with Zack Crawley and Ben Duckett unbeaten on the crease.

Mitchell Marsh and Head strode out in the opening session with the visitors staring down the barrel at 116/4. Marsh’s dismissal began the slide that saw Australia skittled out for 224 in their second dig.

Brief scores: England 237 (Stokes 80, Cummins 6-91) and 254/7 (Brook 75, Starc 5-78) beat Australia 263 (Marsh 118, Wood 5-34) and 224 (Head 77).