Sydney: England tail-ender Stuart Broad hung on for 35 deliveries on the fifth and final day of the fourth Ashes Test to miraculously draw the game along with Jimmy Anderson to deny Australia a 4-0 series lead at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) here on Sunday.
Staring at an almost certain defeat with Australian quicks Pat Cummins and Scott Boland running riot, Broad negotiated the final hour of play with utmost concentration, holding on for a good 50 minutes for his eight runs (35 balls) as the Joe Root-led England have something to look forward to going in the fifth Test at Hobart from January 14.
England’s score in the second innings read 270/9 in 102 overs.
In a tense final hour at the SCG, Australian skipper Cummins had to turn to Steve Smith’s leg breaks as the skies darkened and he delivered with a wicket, his first in six years, to leave England needing to play out two overs with just one wicket left. Anderson and Broad then held on for two overs to deny Australia a win at the SCG.
Earlier in the day, resuming on 30/0, England made merry early on with Zak Crawley playing some big strokes to kick start the morning. However, the opening partnership itself did not last too long with Haseeb Hameed dismissed in single digits for the sixth successive time.
While Crawley (77 off 100 balls) flourished, Australia managed another breakthrough from the other end, with Nathan Lyon cleaning up Dawid Malan. Root, England’s highest run-scorer in the series by a long way, walked in to join Crawley. The England opening batter compiled his first fifty of the tour and first since February 2021 to give England a reasonably solid start to the day.
But the partnership did not last long as the latter was trapped in front for 77 by Cameron Green’s yorker. Despite Crawley’s enterprising knock, at 96/3, England’s morning didn’t quite go to plan. Ben Stokes and Joe Root took the team to lunch with England’s chances of pulling off a draw not too slim.
The visitors started strong after the break with Root and Stokes finding a boundary apiece in the first three overs. The latter pulled Mitchell Starc for a six and soon followed it up with a drive through cover off Green.
The duo took England past 150, but once again, it was Scott Boland who brought Australia back in the game. For the third successive time in the series, Boland had Root, leaving England in a spot of bother at 156/4.
Stokes and Jonny Bairstow resurrected the innings with a promising stand that lasted more than 15 overs. But just as it seemed like England had found a way to survive the day, Lyon struck.
Stokes edged him to Steve Smith in the cordon after a vigilant 60. To compound England’s problems, the new ball was due soon and Australia made it count.
Jos Buttler and Mark Wood were dismissed by Cummins in the same over, the former with a superb in-swinger that crashed into his pads. The on-field call was not out, but Australia overturned it with a review and struck again two balls later, this time with another toe-crusher, to leave England seven down.
This left first-innings centurion, Bairstow stranded with the tail. The England batter had his slice of luck next over when he was dropped off Starc’s bowling by Smith at second slip. An edge the following over also eluded the slip cordon as Bairstow continued to wage a lone battle.
With less than an hour to stumps, Australia crowded the slip cordon and zoned in on the stumps with the new ball, but the wicket did not come. Reviews were wasted and the captain was done with his spell.
Cummins turned to Boland to give the breakthrough and he didn’t disappoint. In his second over, Boland forced an inside edge onto the pads off Bairstow with Marnus Labuschagne snapping up the catch at silly point to leave England’s tail to battle for the draw.
Jack Leach and Stuart Broad denied Australia for eight overs before Smith’s vital breakthrough, but the last wicket eluded the Aussies in the final two overs.
Brief scores: Australia 416/8 declared and 265/6 declared draw with England 294 and 270/9 (Zak Crawley 77, Ben Stokes 60, Jonny Bairstow 41; pat Cummins 2/80, Scott Boland 3/30, Nathan Lyon 2/28).