England kept their momentum despite losing key wickets to win the third Test against Australia of the Ashes series at the Headingley Stadium, Leeds on Sunday. Ben Stokes-side won by three wickets.
Now the two sides will meet at the Old Trafford Cricket Ground, Manchester on July 19.
Australia gave their all to retain the title, but the much-needed 74 from Harry Brook, 44 from Zak Crawley and a cameo from Chris Woakes won the match for England.
Harry Brook and Chris Woakes shared a crucial partnership of 59 that took England to the brink of victory before Brook fell for 75 to Mitchell Starc (5-78). The recalled duo of Woakes (32 not out) and Mark Wood (16 not out) then saw England home with more than a day to spare to cut Australia’s series lead to 2-1.
Starc got the 14th five-wicket haul of his career.
“It was another down-the-wire game,” England skipper Ben Stokes said at post-match interview. “But I am happy that we got over the line this time.”
He praised Mitchell Marsh for his performance. The Australian, who returned to the side after a gap, scored an important century when the tourists lost their four wickets just for the loss of 85.
Stokes went on to give credit to Mark Wood and Chris Woakes, the duo that chased the final runs after Brook got out for 74. “I didn’t realize that Woakes has not played a Test for so long but having a batter like him at number 8 helps a lot.”
He was of the view that the nine days gap to the next match was important for both teams.
Australia’s Pat Cummins said that there were few instances in the match where they went back and forth on the first day where they lost six quick wickets. He mentioned that every session matters in the series.
Cummins applauded the spell bowled by Moeen Ali where he got Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne got out. He admitted that 250 runs were not enough to defend.
“We have a few days to recharge and is looking forward to the Test at Old Trafford,” said the Australian skipper.
Ben Stokes-led side needed 37 to win runs at the time of reporting this story, with Harry Brook, 64 not out, and Chris Woakes, 21 not out, playing. While Australia needed four more wickets to retain the Ashes.
On the final day of the third Test, England looked set to chase the 251 target as the crowd continued to shout at every shot the batters played. The volume of that noise at the Headingley Stadium went down when Mitchell Starc got Ben Duckett lbw when the left-handed batter tried to play a leg-side delivery.
His review of Kumar Dharmasena’s decision was lost after the ultra edge and snick found that the bowl hit the pad first and hit the wicket.
Moeen Ali, who was promoted to number three, could not stand on the wicket as he was bowled by Starc on full delivery. The left-handed all-rounder tried to drive without much footwork, which led the ball to pass through a huge gap between bat and pad.
Crawley was in fine touch in making 44 only to fall in familiar fashion when, having driven Marsh for a stylish four through cover-point, he was caught behind next ball on the drive.
England were left looking to inspirational captain Ben Stokes for yet more Headingley heroics after losing Joe Root. But he could not repeat his performance as he was caught behind off Starc’s delivery.
Starc got his fourth wicket after bowling out wicketkeeper batter Jonny Bairstow.
In a match they had to win to keep their Ashes hopes alive at 2-0 down with three to play, England were 153-4 at lunch on the fourth day – still needing a further 98 runs to reach a victory target of 251.
Australia, however, are just six wickets away from sealing their first Ashes series win in England in 22 years.
There have only been five higher successful fourth-innings chases to win a Test at Headingley, including England’s remarkable 362-9, featuring a stunning 135 not out by Stokes, against Australia in 2019.
England are bidding to become just the second team to win a Test series from 2-0 down after the 1936/37 Australia side, inspired by batting great Don Bradman, that recovered from that deficit to win an Ashes 3-2.
(With input from AFP)