SYDNEY (AFP) – Battle-weary England dug deep for a gripping draw with just one wicket left to deny dominant Australia a 4-0 series lead in the fourth Ashes Test in Sydney yesterday.
Number 11 batsman James Anderson doggedly played out a tense 102nd and final over from leg-spinner Steve Smith in deteriorating evening light as England ended on 270 for nine chasing a 388-run target in a heart-pumping finish.
It all came down to the last six balls at the Sydney Cricket Ground with eight fielders crowding around the bat as Anderson fended off Smith’s part-time leg-spin.
Australia had looked set to win the day-long battle and pull off a thrilling victory when they claimed the ninth wicket of Jack Leach, caught in the slips by David Warner off Smith for 26 to mass team celebrations.
But Anderson and long-time pace partner Stuart Broad played out the remaining two nail-bitingly tense overs to give the beleaguered tourists a morale-boosting fighting draw after losing the Ashes series 3-0 inside 12 days.
Ben Stokes with a gutsy 60, his second half-century of the match, and first-innings centurion Jonny Bairstow’s 41 held up the Australian victory charge.
But once both departed after tea, the Australians were relentless in taking the struggle down to the final over.
“It was really important (to see it through),” England skipper Joe Root said.
“It’s been a difficult tour, we’ve found it tough, but I am proud of the determination and character in finding a way to get aresult.
“I’ve said we wanted to put some pride back into the badge and give something back to people at home.”
The draw means that Australia no longer have the lure of a 5-0 series clean sweep with the fifth and final Test to be played in Hobart, as a day-night match, getting under way on Friday.