England clings on for a draw in dramatic 4th Ashes test

Sydney: England's tailenders resisted Australia’s bowlers in fading light Sunday to clinch a draw on a dramatic final day of the fourth test at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

Jack Leach, Stuart Broad and then Jimmy Anderson batted out the final 10 overs under immense pressure after Pat Cummins and Scott Boland took three quick wickets in the final session before Steve Smith removed Leach with two overs remaining to set up a nervous finale to a gripping test match.

At stumps, England finished on 270-9 with Broad unbeaten on eight and Anderson not out on nought to give England its best result of the five-match series that Australia leads 3-0.
“It’s a small step forward,” said captain Joe Root. "I think coming into the game I spoke a lot about putting some pride back into English cricket and into the test performance.
“The fight, desire and character shown today and throughout the five days has done that in a small way.”

With the final hour approaching, Cummins removed Jos Buttler and Mark Wood in the space of three balls to turn the test on its head after it was looking increasingly likely that England would earn a draw after its most determined batting effort of the series.

Boland then continued his torrid start to test cricket by having first-innings centurion Jonny Bairstow caught by Marnus Labuschagne for 41. It was Boland's 14th wicket in just his second test after making his test debut in the third test at Melbourne where he was named man of the match.

But Broad and Leach saw out the remaining 10 overs despite Australia have all its fielders around the bat in catching positions as the fading light meant Australia had to bowl spinners Nathan Lyon and Steve Smith in the final three overs.

“From the position we found ourselves in at certain points in this game, to be able to sit here having drawn... was going to take a good performance and I’m really proud of the way the guys dug in and managed to do that,” Root said.

Earlier in the session, Stokes, no stranger in proving to be an immovable object for Australia after his heroics in the 2019 Ashes series in England, did not appear to let the pain of his left side injury curtail his attacking shots as he crushed ten boundaries and a six as part of his 60 runs, to go with his 66 in the first innings.

But Lyon eventually made the vital breakthrough as he caught Stokes in two minds as to whether to play at a ball or leave it. In the end, he did neither and guided a simple chance to Smith at slip. It was the ninth time that Lyon has taken Stokes' wicket, including twice in this match.

As the final hour loomed, Cummins (2-80) made a breakthrough when trapping Buttler lbw for 11. On-field umpire Paul Reiffel initially rejected the appeal before Cummins referred to the TV umpire, who reversed the decision.

Two balls later Cummins dismissed Wood with a vicious in-swinging delivery that hit the tail-ender on the foot for a much easier lbw decision for Reiffel to confirm.

Boland then had Bairstow caught to expose England's tail, but Leach and Broad and then Anderson found a way to survive despite up to nine fielders in close catching positions.

It was the third time in the past 12 months that Australia's attack has failed to bowl out a team on the final day, having twice squandered winning positions against India last season, and again here at the SCG on Sunday.

"I think first of all the weather played a bit of a part in this game and you basically can’t predict it at all," said Cummins when asked about the timing of his declaration on Saturday. "I thought the wicket still wasn’t playing too many tricks and I thought if they batted really well, 350 was pretty achievable out there.

“I thought 110 overs was enough time but having the luxury after the way Uzzie (Khawaja) and (Green) batted we had enough runs in the bank and that we could effectively attack for those whole 110 overs.”

Before tea, Root and Stokes combined for a 60-run partnership from 26 overs before Boland had the English skipper edging through to wicketkeeper Alex Carey for 24 to give Australia renewed optimism it may be able to bowl England out.

Needing to bat out the day to draw the test after being set an improbable 388 to win, the tourists lost a very defensive-minded Hameed (9) and Malan (4) in the morning session, but Zak Crawley decided that attack was the best form of defense as he unleashed eight boundaries on his way to a 69-ball half-century.

Hameed was dropped by Carey off Cummins, but only survived a few more overs as he again edged through to Carey, who made the catch, to give Boland yet another wicket.

Lyon (2-28) was introduced into the attack and in his third over found a way through Malan’s defenses to have England at 74-2 after the first hour of play.

Crawley’s enterprising innings was halted at 77 after 13 boundaries when Cameron Green (1-38) captured the 23-year-old opener leg before wicket.

Usman Khawaja was named man of the match for his twin centuries — just the third player to achieve the feat at the SCG — in his first match since 2019.

Khawaja, who scored 137 in the first innings, followed up with an unbeaten 101 off 138 balls as part of a 179-run partnership with Green in the second innings.

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