England kept their Ashes hopes alive on Sunday as Harry Brook made an impressive 75 before the recalled duo of Chris Woakes and Mark Wood completed a thrilling three-wicket win over Australia at Headingley.
The hosts’ victory reduced Australia’s lead in the series to 2-1 with two Tests to play.
England were struggling at 171-6 — still needing a further 80 runs to reach a target of 251 — after Mitchell Starc had removed skipper Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow in quick succession after lunch on the fourth day.
It was then that Brook was joined in the middle by Woakes, playing his first Test since March last year.
But with Australia eyeing a win that would have given them a first Ashes series success in England in 22 years, Brook and Woakes shared a stand of 59 that took the hosts to the brink of victory.
The situation was as much a test of Brook’s sometimes fallible temperament as his undeniable talent. But it was one the 24-year-old, in just his 10th Test, passed for the most part.
There was, however, a further twist when Brook fell for 75, skying Starc (5-78) to Australia captain Pat Cummins, who nearly collided with Starc as he took the catch at mid-off.
England still required 21 more runs to win but fast bowler Wood, fresh from his quickfire 24 in the first innings, got the target down to 12 when he hooked Cummins for six.
Player-of-the-match Wood, who took 5-34 with the ball in Australia’s first innings, then carved Starc for four in the manner of a top-order batsman.
“It is absolutely too soon for all-rounder status!” Wood joked. “I’m happy down at number nine. I think that is too high and any higher I’m definitely getting a nose bleed.”
Woakes then blazed Starc through point for the winning boundary to finish on 32 not out, with Wood unbeaten on 16.
England now have a chance 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 won an Ashes 3-2.
“No hesitation,” said Stokes when asked if England can win the series.
“Another down to the wire game. It’s nice to get over the line in this one and keep our hopes alive.”
England resumed on 27-0 after Australia were dismissed for 224 in their second innings on a rain-marred third day.
After a promising stand of 42 from the England openers, Starc had Ben Duckett lbw for 23.
England then sent in Moeen Ali after Brook had made just three runs at number three during their first-innings 237.
Moeen, however, was bowled for five trying to drive a 90 mph Starc delivery that flattened the left-hander’s leg stump to leave England 60-2.
Zak Crawley was in fine touch in making 44 only to fall in familiar fashion when, having driven Mitchell Marsh for a stylish four through cover point, he was caught behind next ball on the drive.
The Headingley faithful then saw Yorkshire favourite Joe Root dismissed for 21 shortly before lunch when he gloved Cummins to Alex Carey.
Stokes had revived England’s first innings with an 80 that rekindled memories of his stunning 135 not out in a remarkable one-wicket Test win against Australia at Headingley four years ago.
But his exit for only 13 left England 161-5 and that became 171-6 when Jonny Bairstow, going for an aggressive drive, played on to Starc.
New batsman Woakes had, however, previously rescued England from a dire position in a run chase with a stunning 84 not out as they recovered from 117-5 to reach a target of 277 in a three-wicket win over Pakistan at Old Trafford in 2020.
And he proved an able deputy to the hometown hero Brook before crushing the winning runs himself.
Press Release, Source: AFP