England win thriller to keep Ashes series alive

HEADINGLEY (Agencies): England kept their Ashes hopes alive by beating Australia by three wickets in the third Test in another nerve-shredding Headingley finale.
Harry Brook hit a superb 75 but it was left to bowlers Chris Woakes and Mark Wood to drag the hosts over the line in pursuit of 251. Brook’s mature knock took them to within 21 of victory, after talisman Ben Stokes fell for 13 following lunch on day four with 90 still needed.
Brook put on 59 with Woakes before top-edging a cut off Mitchell Starc, who almost won the series for Australia with a vicious 5-78.
That wicket brought Wood to the crease amid gripping tension and he hit Pat Cummins for six and thrashed Starc for four to spark jubilation in the stands.
With four needed, Wood was dropped by Australia wicketkeeper Alex Carey and Woakes, who finished unbeaten on 32, slashed the winning runs.
England’s win makes the series 2-1 to Australia with two Tests to play, setting up a grandstand finale that could yet match the iconic contest in 2005. There is a nine-day break before the fourth Test at Old Trafford starts on Wednesday, 19 July.
England keep the show rumbling on
After 1981 and 2019, 2023 can now be added to the list of Headingley Ashes epics. It may not have reached the ultimate climax of Stokes and Jack Leach’s 10th-wicket partnership four years ago but it was still another day of almost tortuous tension.
Every run was cheered and wickets were met with silence – apart from in the pockets of Australian green and gold in the stands. Joe Root’s departure shortly before lunch and, crucially, Stokes soon afterwards threatened to give Australia the win that would seal their first Ashes series in England for 22 years.
But Brook, batting on his home ground in his first Ashes series, played the situation perfectly, only to fall with the finish line in sight. He found a gritty partner in Woakes, who battled through the short-ball attack and played the anchor to Wood at the end.
The scenes of celebration were reminiscent of those four years ago – England getting their first win on the board after two tight Tests that could have gone either way. They have to do what they have never done before – come from 2-0 down to win the Ashes – but, after three gripping Test matches, they have ensured the show rumbles on with the series getting the ending it deserves.
Brook, Woakes & Wood deliver
Brook’s knock came after he was dropped back down to number five in the order, having taken the injured Ollie Pope’s position at number three in the first innings.
He came in at 93-3 and started shakily in a stand of 38 with Root before driving Scott Boland twice through the covers to get him on his way.
Brook held his nerve after the losses of Root, Stokes and Jonny Bairstow – the latter playing on from a wild drive with the target 80 runs away, at which stage Australia were favourites.
Brook, 24, has made his name as an attacking batter in his first 10 Tests – here becoming the quickest batter to 1,000 Test runs in terms of balls faced – but restrained himself while putting away the bad balls with the field spread. At the other end Woakes was more aggressive. He managed to slash the ball through the off side, although was fortunate to fend the short ball three times into empty spaces.
When Brook top-edged a bouncer Australia still had a sniff but Wood, who took seven wickets in the match bowling at extreme pace, hooked Cummins over fine leg en route to 16 not out. It was fitting, however, that Woakes, who also contributed a crucial six wickets, hit the winning runs after 15 months out of the side.
Starc almost wins it for Australia
After starting on 27-0, England had added 15 runs relatively calmly amid the tension, before Ben Duckett was pinned lbw by Starc’s left-arm pace for 23. The hosts promoted Moeen Ali in Brook’s place but he only made five before a Starc inswinger crashed into his leg stump.
Zak Crawley batted well for 44 but, in a dismissal that sums up his Test career, edged a big drive to Mitchell Marsh through to the wicketkeeper a ball after hitting the same shot through the covers. Root attempted to pull a wayward ball from Cummins and gloved it down the leg side.
Starc, though, was the major threat and was rewarded by having Stokes taken down the leg side before Bairstow’s wild swish. Australia missed the control of spinner Nathan Lyon, ruled out of the series with a calf injury last week, but have more than a week to regroup before seeking a series-clinching victory again.