James Anderson and Stuart Broad survived two nervy overs as England pulled off a thrilling draw with just a wicket to spare in the fourth Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Sunday to deny Australia another home Ashes whitewash.
Pat Cummins and Scott Boland took three quick wickets in the final session to put the hosts on the brink of another thumping win. Steve Smith then removed Jack Leach to set up a nervous finale but Broad and Anderson held on to secure England’s best result of the series, which Australia lead 3-0.
England finished at 270 for the loss of nine at Stumps on Sunday.
With the final hour approaching, Cummins removed Jos Buttler and Mark Wood in the space of three balls to turn the tide after it was looking increasingly likely that England would earn a draw.
Scott Boland then continued his incredible 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 debut in the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne, where he was named man of the match.
But Broad and Leach saw out the remaining 10 overs despite Australia having all its fielders around the bat in catching positions as the fading light meant the hosts had to bowl spinners Nathan Lyon and Steve Smith in the final three overs.
Earlier in the session, Stokes 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 play at the ball or leave it. In the end he did neither and guided a simple chance to Steve 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 big breakthrough trapping Jos 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 at bat pad 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.
Before tea, Joe Root and Stokes combined for a 60-run partnership from 26 overs before Scott 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 Pat Cummins, but only survived a few overs more as he again edged through to Carey, who made the catch, to give Scott Boland yet another wicket in his bright start in test cricket.
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.
(With AP Inputs)