England kept the Ashes alive as Harry Brook hit 75 before Chris Woakes and Mark Wood clinched a nerve-jangling three-wicket victory over Australia on day four of the third Test at Headingley.
England’s successful chase of 251 cut their deficit to 2-1 in the series and maintained their hopes of becoming only the second side, after Don Bradman’s Australia in 1936/37, to win the Ashes from 2-0 down.
The Ashes appeared to be slipping away when captain Ben Stokes (13) and Jonny Bairstow (5) were dismissed by Mitchell Starc (5-78) after lunch, with England reduced to 171-6 and still 80 shy of their target.
However, Brook (75 off 93) – pushed down to his favoured spot of No 5 with Moeen Ali elevated to No 3 – fired on his home ground, mixing coruscating drives and cuts with composed batting before falling with 21 needed as a dramatic Test threatened a late twist.
It was left to Woakes (32no) – with whom Brook put on 59 for the seventh wicket – and Wood (16no off 8) to secure the win, with Wood pounding Australia skipper Pat Cummins for six over fine leg and creaming Starc for four through the covers before Woakes smoked the decisive four off Starc and Headingley erupted.
Australia missed out on retaining the urn at the earliest possible opportunity and will now instead look to clinch the series at Emirates Old Trafford from Wednesday July 19, live on Sky Sports.
An England victory in Manchester would set up a blockbuster, winner-takes-all finale at The Kia Oval at the end of the month, something this scintillating series probably deserves.
The fact England are still in it owes a lot to Stokes, whose first-innings 80, scored while battling a glute issue, resuscitated his team from 142-7 to 237 all out in reply to Australia’s 263.
Stokes could not recreate that magic, nor his match-winning innings against Australia on this ground four years ago, with the skipper watching on as Brook, Woakes and Wood proved the Headingley heroes this time around.
Starc five-for in vain as England fight on
England were heavy favourites on the Win Predictor as they resumed on 27-0 but the cloudy skies above gave Australia confidence as they hunted early breakthroughs and Starc duly obliged, pinning Ben Duckett lbw for 23 and bowling Moeen leg stump for five as 42-0 became 60-2.
Joe Root (21) shared stands in the thirties with opener Zak Crawley (44) and Brook but when he was out to a short ball from Pat Cummins, England were 131-4 and still 120 runs adrift of their target.
Crawley’s innings was a microcosm of his international career – playing beautifully before falling without really pushing on as he snicked Mitchell Marsh behind wicketkeeper Alex Carey.
Crawley departed after a change of ball as Australia found movement with the replacement Dukes, one that Root soon gloved down the leg-side to Carey as he flapped at a pull.
Stokes perished down the leg-side early in the second session, snicking Starc one ball after cracking the left-arm quick through the covers for four, and when Bairstow dragged the same bowler onto his stumps, Australia were buzzing.
However, Brook scored a 67-ball fifty and became the fastest man to 1,000 Test runs in terms of balls faced (1,058) before he holed out off the five-wicket Starc.
Australia’s last chance came when a backpedalling Carey – a pantomime villain after the Bairstow stumping at Lord’s and this week’s haircut-gate in Leeds – dropped Wood on 14 with four needed.
Watch day one of the fourth Ashes Test live on Sky Sports Cricket on Wednesday July 19. Build-up from 10am, first ball at 11am. You can stream the men’s and women’s Ashes series on NOW.