Third Test, Day 4: England chase 251 to beat Australia by three wickets
HEADINGLEY — Harry Brook produced the most important knock of his career to inspire England to another Headingley miracle and keep this captivating Ashes series alive on a nerve-shredding final day of this third Test.
Brook’s 75 may not have been his highest Test score but in terms of importance it was unsurpassed as Ben Stokes’ team finally got reward for their enterprising style to seal a thrilling three-wicket win.
After nerve-stopping finishes in the opening two Tests led to two heart-breaking defeats for the hosts, this series now stands at 2-1 to Australia and with everything to play for ahead of the final two matches at Old Trafford and The Oval.
Set 251 to win and keep the summer alive, Stokes’ men stumbled to 171 for six, with 80 more needed when Jonny Bairstow was ousted by the excellent Mitchell Starc.
England were 93 for three – still 158 away from victory – when Brook came to the crease. By the time he was out, the 24-year-old, who became the quickest player to 1,000 Test runs – in 1,058 balls – during the course of this innings, England needed just 21, with three wickets in the bank.
Four years after their 2019 miracle led by Stokes, England had done it again, but this time it was a team effort.
This was also the 10th chase of the Bazball era, with the ledger now showing seven wins – with this undoubtedly the most satisfying.
The equation at the start of the day was simple for England – score 224 more runs with 10 wickets still available to keep the series alive.
By lunch, things looked slightly more tricky, with four wickets gone and 98 still needed. England were still strong favourites.
Yet the early losses of Ben Duckett and Moeen Ali, promoted to No 3 in the chase, by Starc were a portent of what was to come in the afternoon.
But it was Starc who ripped this game open for the Australians in the hour after lunch with the wickets of the talismanic Stokes and Bairstow in successive overs to leave England wobbling on 171 for six, still 80 short of victory.
At this point, the hosts had not managed a single fifty partnership and with the game on the line it was down to Brook and Woakes to get one.
The seventh-wicket pair did manage that, Brook stroking Cummins to the backward point boundary to get there and reduce the runs needed to 30.
Headingley was rapt, full of nervous energy and the sell-out crowd fully aware the entire summer rested on the next passage of play.
Zak Crawley – 6
Made 77 runs overall in a low-scoring Test. But passed up the career-defining opportunity to bring team home in an Ashes run chase.
Ben Duckett – 5
Two failures, scoring just 25 runs in total, after a brilliant Test at Lord’s but has credit in the bank.
Harry Brook – 8
Hooked out of the No 3 spot after one failed attempt. But showed real guts and fight on the final day back in his usual slot of No 5 to keep England in the chase.
Joe Root – 3
Dropped catch of Marsh in first innings cost England 106 runs. Failed twice with bat for second successive Test.
Jonny Bairstow – 3
Errors with the gloves and two failures, including his final-day disappointment that saw the game slip away for England.
Ben Stokes – 8
England’s captain couldn’t do it on the final day but without his heroics in the first-innings – that power-charged 80 – the hosts would have been out of this on day two.
Moeen Ali – 6
Dismissals of Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith in Australia’s second innings were key moments but failed twice with the bat.
Chris Woakes – 9
Six key wickets in his first Test for 17 months. Then there were those 32 runs on the final day. Epic contribution.
Mark Wood – 9
Electric pace a gamechanger for England. Seven wickets and a momentum-shifting 24 from eight balls with the bat on day two were vital. Then came his final-day heroics.
Stuart Broad – 7
Five wickets, including ousting his bunny David Warner twice, made for a solid return for a bowler playing his third successive Test. Rested for Old Trafford?
Ollie Robinson – 3
Managed 11.2 wicketless overs before he pulled up with a back spasm, leaving his team a bowler light. Doubt for next Test.
David Warner – 1
The first thing Warner does when he wakes up is check if Stuart Broad is there. Warner wickets 16 and 17 to the England veteran.
Usman Khawaja – 6
In such a low scoring match, 43 in the second innings is more than respectable. Looked in good touch before getting a Woakes jaffa.
Marnus Labuschagne – 5
An improvement, but nobody expected to get to the end of third Test, six innings, with Labuschagne having not scored a single half-century.
Steve Smith – 3
The shot Smith played to get out in the second innings get him this low score alone. Embarrassing, by his astronomically high standards.
Travis Head – 9
As wickets tumbled around him, Head went into Stokes mode in the second innings, with some phenomenal hitting wowing all in attendance.
Mitchell Marsh – 10
A remarkable first innings ton, after four years in the test cricket wilderness, defied logic. Weighed in with more runs and snagged wickets too.
Alex Carey – 3
Always going to happen, with so many people baying for blood around him after Lord’s. Solid behind the stumps but looked nervy with the bat.
Pat Cummins – 9
First five-fer in England was made all the more impressive given the scrutiny on the skipper after Lord’s. Contributed in second innings too.
Mitchell Starc – 8
It looked like Starc’s endeavours in the second innings would be the decisive factor. He did all he could in difficult circumstances.
Todd Murphy – 4
Who knows what the outcome would’ve been if Nathan Lyon had stayed fit. Impossible for Murphy to make an impact in limited overs.
Scott Boland – 3
Very limited input and will do well to keep his place in the side for the Old Trafford Test with Josh Hazlewood.
This was the big moment England needed to seize.
Unfortunately, Brook, homing in on his greatest Test innings, went for one big shot too many, top-edging the irrepressible Starc to mid-off with 21 runs still needed and three wickets remaining.
Brook’s 93-ball innings was perhaps his most mature for his country but its value would only be known once the result had become apparent.
Now it was down to Wood, whose first-innings whirlwind of an innings – 24 in eight balls – and Woakes to see this home.
And this was Wood’s time to shine again, the fast bowler getting the target down to 12 by hooking Cummins over the fine leg boundary for a huge six that sailed into the Howard Stand.
The runs required came down to seven when Wood creamed Starc through the covers for four in the next over – Headingley now on its feet.
A wide next ball – for a wayward bouncer – meant glory was just one hit away. A hard-run two meant that was still the case – four now needed. Drama, adrenaline and gut-wrenching tension.
Short ball – a Wood hook, top-edge and a drop for Alex Carey, pantomime villain of Lord’s who had run a full 10 metres to try and make the catch. Cue the jeers, cheers and the realisation of Australian fears – Headingley was doing its thing again.
Three were now needed and two singles off Starc got it down to one. Six or a boundary to seal it? What do you think? Woakes carved Starc to the cover fence to send this ground into delirium.
The Ashes are still alive. Drink it in and guzzle down the good nectar. This might just be a golden summer like 2005 after all.
Player of the day: Harry Brook
The 24-year-old produced his most valuable innings for England, with his calculated and clinical 75 from 93 balls crucial to this nail-biting win.
Stat of the day
In the CricViz database, there are 21,169 instances of a batter passing 40 runs in a Test match.
Of those 21,169 instances, nobody has passed 40 at a higher strike rate than Mark Wood – his 40 runs came from just 16 balls, resulting in a strike rate of 250.
Stats courtesy of CricViz, the world’s leading cricket data and analytics provider
This wasn’t quite like last summer and those barnstorming run chases against New Zealand and India. But who cares when you win? And Chris Woakes and Mark Wood ensured a frenzied, Bazbally finish anyway.