There were bizarre scenes at the SCG as Australia’s cricket stars desperately searched for a decisive breakthrough to secure victory.
England has pulled off the great escape, securing a nailbiting draw at the SCG to avoid an Ashes series whitewash.
Australia could only muster nine wickets on day five, with England No. 11 James Anderson blocking out the final six balls to clinch a thrilling draw in Sydney.
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The equation was very simple for the Aussies ahead of day five – take 10 wickets in 98 overs.
However, England faced the much more daunting task of trying to survive the entire day and avoid going 4-0 down in the series.
The visitors lost three wickets in the morning session before captain Joe Root and all-rounder Ben Stokes steadied the ship with a patient fifty-run partnership.
But Aussie cult hero Scott Boland struck after a rain delay to keep the contest alive, removing Root for a third-consecutive innings.
The contest seemed to be approaching a draw before skipper Pat Cummins struck twice in an over with the second new ball to shift momentum back in Australia’s favour.
Soon after, Boland’s Ashes fairytale continued by removing the dangerous Jonny Bairstow, England’s last recognised batter. Australia suddenly needed two wickets from 10 overs for victory.
Jack Leach and Stuart Broad then combined for a crucial 33-run partnership, surviving a brutal pace-bowling barrage to keep England in the contest.
Australian cricket fans were having flashbacks of Headingley 2019 as Leach blocked and prodded at deliveries.
There were some mind-boggling field settings employed by the Aussies, with all nine players perched around the bat waiting for a game-changing catch – Cummins even put himself under the lid at one point.
Bad light meant Australia’s pacemen were not permitted to bowl in the dying overs, so tweakers Nathan Lyon and Steve Smith were tasked with unearthing the final two scalps.
And then with 13 deliveries remaining, vice-captain Smith claimed his first Test wicket in more than five years, removing Leach caught at first slip to add one final twist.
But in dramatic scenes, veteran tailenders Anderson and Broad managed to survive the final two overs unscathed, meaning the Ashes series stands at 3-0 after four Tests.
“We have the audacity to talk about such things as dead rubbers in Test cricket. There is no such thing,” former Australian Test captain Ricky Ponting said on Channel 7.
“Congratulations to England for hanging on. They’ve actually played really well the last part of today.
“Stuart Broad can certainly hold his head high after what he’s done here. 35 balls he’s got through.”
It’s the third time in 12 months Australia’s bowlers failed to get the job done on day five of a Test match, and now the Ashes whitewash dream is over.
The Australian lost several overs due to a rain delays after the lunch break, but Cummins will be reflecting on yesterday’s third-innings declaration and wondering whether he left it too late.
Steve Smith strikes just in time
Oh my word!
With 13 deliveries left in the day’s play, Australian vice-captain Steve Smith has created the long-awaited breakthrough.
Smith floated up a leg-spinner at Jack Leach, and the outside edge was caught by David Warner at first slip.
It was Smith’s first Test wicket in more than five years.
The Aussies now have 12 balls to claim one more wicket for a famous victory. This is incredible Test cricket.
Aussies need two wickets from six overs
England tailenders Jack Leach and Stuart Broad are doing well to weather the storm and survive the pace-bowling barrage coming four way.
Soon after, Nathan Lyon was brought into the attack to work his magic to the left-handed batters, and some of the field settings were absurd.
Every fielder was crowded around the bat – even Australian captain Pat Cummins went under the lid at one point.
Boland gets the eighth scalp
Scott Boland’s Ashes fairytale has continued!
The Victorian seamer has removed Jonny Bairstow, England’s last recognised batter, for 41 to put Australia on the verge of a memorable victory.
Bairstow edged a length delivery onto his front pad, and Marnus Labuschagne claimed a comfortable catch at silly point.
Boland now has the incredible figures of 3/24 from 22.2 overs.
Australia needs just two more wickets to go 4-0 up in the series.
Aussies need three wickets in 12 overs
You could cut the tension with a knife at the SCG.
There isn’t a large crowd at the iconic Sydney venue today, but the spectators are riding every delivery.
Jonny Bairstow has continued where he left off in the first innings, while Jack Leach is doing his best Headingley 2019 impersonation – the England spinner is currently one not out.
Meanwhile, the Aussies only have one DRS review left after wasting two of them.
Cummins strikes in double blow
Skipper Pat Cummins has snared two massive wickets in the 85th over to shift the momentum firmly back in Australia’s favour.
He first removed England wicketkeeper Jos Buttler for 11, getting the Kookaburra to hoop back and beat the inside edge, trapping him on the pads.
After a review, the on-field decision of not out out overturned and England’s tail was suddenly exposed.
But new batter Mark Wood only lasted two balls, with Cummins delivering a brutal toe-crusher to claim his second scalp of the over.
A review couldn’t save Wood, who was absolutely plumb. It’s the first time Cummins has taken two LBW wickets in the same Test innings.
Suddenly the visitors were seven down, and Australia needed three wickets in 17 overs for a thrilling victory.
But just to add to the drama, vice-captain Steve Smith dropped a regulation catch at second slip the very next over to gift Jonny Bairstow an extra life on 28.
The crowd’s suddenly buzzing at the SCG – this could be a thrilling finish.
Lyon gets much-needed breakthrough
Wow, the Aussies desperately needed that.
Nathan Lyon has unearthed the fifth breakthrough of the innings, removing all-rounder Ben Stokes for 60.
The Australian off-spinner got a delivery to grip and turn, and Stokes guided an edge to Steve Smith at first slip.
It was the ninth time Lyon had dismissed Stokes in Test cricket.
“He’s been caught in two minds,” former Australian Test captain Ricky Ponting said on Channel 7. “He didn’t know whether to play or whether to leave.”
Stokes was distraught as he made his way back to the pavilion having survived 123 deliveries at the crease. Fox Cricket commentator Isa Guha described the 30-year-old as “visibly devastated”.
The Sydney Morning Herald’s Andrew Wu tweeted: “We haven‘t seen the best of Ben Stokes this series, but we’ve seen in Sydney what a warrior he is. Injury has not stopped him from playing two gutsy innings on a testing track.”
Five to go, the Aussies have a sniff. England wicketkeeper Jos Buttler is the new man in the middle.
Fifty for Stokes
Despite battling a side complaint, Ben Stokes has shown his class by compiling a classy Test fifty, his second of the match.
The England all-rounder reached the minor milestone in 107 balls.
You can’t stop Scott Boland
The Victorian quick has struck again, removing England captain Joe Root for a third-consecutive time in Test cricket.
Boland drew Root onto the front foot, and the right-hander feathered a catch for Alex Carey behind the stumps.
“There is no bigger reward in world cricket at the moment than Joe Root,” former Australian captain Ricky Ponting said on Channel 7.
“They made him work hard for his runs. Boland’s been relentless with his areas, his lines and lengths, challenging batsmen off front and back foot. High quality from Boland.”
The 32-year-old now has the astonishing figures of 2/13 from 14.1 overs. He’s taken more wickets in this series than Australian captain Pat Cummins.
Four down, six to go. First-innings centurion Jonny Bairstow is the new man in the middle.
2pm AEDT – Play to resume in 10 minutes
If there is no further rain at the SCG, play will resume at 2.10pm.
1.50pm AEDT – Covers are off
Woohoo! No news yet on a restart time.
Bad news cricket fans
It’s raining at the SCG, and the covers are on.
England star’s ‘worst DRS review ever’
He hasn’t had the best series with the bat, but Cameron Green’s bowling against England has been outstanding.
The tall all-rounder has removed Zak Crawley for 77, trapping the England opener on the foot with a well-directed yorker.
Crawley called for the review, but replays showed he was dead plumb.
The Age’s Daniel Brettig tweeted: “Good innings by Crawley but reviewing that is a tad entitled.”
Cricket writer Lawrence Booth posted: “Shame. That was the most enjoyable innings by an England batsman all series. Not much competition, I know, but Crawley‘s just done his Test career a power of good.”
7News reporter Taylor Auerbach tweeted: “That was so plum it should be two wickets.”
Three down, seven to go – Ben Stokes is the new man in the middle.
The GOAT strikes
Yuck, that was a sloppy shot from Dawid Malan.
Australian off-spinner Nathan Lyon has removed the England No. 3 with a flatter, faster delivery that crashed into the left-hander’s off-stump.
It was Lyon’s 15th wicket of the series, and 100th scalp against England in Test cricket.
Two down, eight to go. England captain Joe Root is the new man in the middle.
Fifty for Crawley
England opener Zak Crawley has brought up a half-century at the SCG, his first fifty of the series.
The 23-year-old reached the minor milestone in 69 balls.
“He‘s batting on a different pitch,” former Australian seamer Damien Fleming said on SEN.
“This is brilliant batting.”
Hameed falls cheaply again
Haseeb Hameed was gifted an extra life at the crease, but the England opener couldn’t take advantage.
Aussie cult hero Scott Boland has snared the first wicket of day five, removing Hameed with a delivery that decked away from the right-hander and caught the outside edge.
Thankfully, Australian wicketkeeper Alex Carey made no mistake on this occasion. The South Australian’s teammates give him some love in the group huddle.
“That’s a big wicket not only for Australia but Alex Carey, he’s gone low to his right, he’s got two hands to that one,” former Australian gloveman Brad Haddin said on Triple M.
“You see David Warner give him a little bit of an arse slap, he knows how much it means to the Australian team.”
Hameed’s most recent scores in Test cricket are 9, 6, 7, 0, 0 and 6. ABC reporter Sean Wales tweeted: “Hameed averages 31 in FC cricket … what am I missing here? Is he the best opener they‘ve got …”
One down, Nine to go – England No. 3 Dawid Malan is the new man in the middle.
Carey spills early chance
Oh dear, Australia’s day in the field has not started well.
Gloveman Alex Carey has put down a chance to remove England opener Haseeb Hameed for 9 off the bowling of captain Pat Cummins.
Diving low to his right, the South Australian stuck out the right glove, only for the ball to fall onto the turf.
By my count, that’s Carey’s fourth dropped catch of the series.
Ponting’s brutal captaincy call
Former Australian batter Ricky Ponting has called for Joe Root to step down as England captain and hand over the duties to all-rounder Ben Stokes.
After England lost the coveted Ashes urn within 12 days, pundits started questioning whether Root was the right man to lead the Test side.
And during Channel 7’s coverage of day four, Ponting made his thoughts abundantly clear.
“I think it’s time,” he said on Saturday.
“I think four or five years in the job – having been there and done it myself, and with what they‘ve done in the last couple of years – I think it’s time for him to move on and give someone else … and that someone else has to be Ben Stokes.”
Khawaja’s praise for Aussie ‘weapon’
Usman Khawaja has pleaded with Australia’s selectors to show patience with rising all-rounder Cameron Green, predicting he could emulate Steve Waugh as long as he’s given time to develop his immense talent.
Green has had a mixed start to his Test career, averaging 30 with the bat and capturing eight wickets from his eight appearances in the baggy green.
But he is still just 22 and has shown enough signs to suggest that he’s got a bright future ahead of him, with Khawaja convinced he has all the ingredients to become one of the greats.
“He‘s a weapon, he’s a gun batsman,” Khawaja said.
“He‘s played some unbelievable innings against myself and Queensland and I’ve seen the way he is and he can do it at Test level.
“He just needs a bit of time because it’s not easy. Test cricket‘s tough work.
“He hasn’t got as many runs as last year but he’s scored a few hundreds in Shield cricket and he‘s bowling beautifully.
“That’s just a bonus because it’s unbelievable that he bowls 140km/h plus.
‘You don‘t get players like him very often and I think the selectors know that, they see that we need to give this guy the opportunity and time for him to develop.
“If you do that and invest in these players at a young age, something I think we probably haven‘t done as well in the past, chopping and changing a lot, you’ll reap the rewards later down the track, the second time and third time they go away.
“You saw that with Steve Waugh and I think the same can be said about Cam Green.”