A superb 75 from Harry Brook and some big hitting from tailender Mark Wood earned England a pulsating three-wicket victory in the third Ashes test on Sunday, dragging the hosts back into contention in the series in breathless fashion.
The omens were good for England as they looked to resurrect their Ashes campaign, given that the last five international test matches at Headingley had all be won by the team fielding first, with three of those spectacular fourth-innings run chases.
Needing 224 more runs at the start of day four therefore seemed like a more than gettable total to secure the win to stop Australia retaining the Ashes with two matches to spare.
After Joe Root departed prior to lunch, followed by captain Ben Stokes early in the afternoon session, the writing appeared to be on the wall, but Brook’s brave innings got England within touching distance.
Wood’s 16 from eight balls and the steadying head of Chris Woakes saw the hosts home, sparking dramatic scenes of celebration in Leeds after a match where the pendulum swung hour by hour.
Each test in this series has been gripping in its own right, with day four at Headingley no different. England are still up against it in their attempts to win the Ashes, with no side coming back to win the series after being 2-0 down since 1936-37.
The fact that they are back in with a shout is mission accomplished, for now.
“Not good for the old age stuff is it?” Stokes said. “It’s completely different when it’s out of your control. I just sat up there thinking about what would I be doing if I was out there. Brooky controlled the game very, very well.
“I think that knock (from Brook) was under the pressure and the circumstance of where we are in the series.
“I’m just tired, it’s been draining.”
ROOT OUT JUST BEFORE LUNCH
Supporters headed to Headingley on day four hoping for more heroics from captain Stokes on the ground where his incredible 135 not out earned England a dramatic victory over their old foes in 2019.
Resuming the day on 27-0 overnight, Ben Duckett fell early after looking in good touch, with returning all-rounder Moeen Ali quickly following him back to the pavilion.
But even at that point, with Stokes at the crease, on the back of a battling 80 in the first innings and another century in the last test at Lord’s, they still seemed in a strong position.
Root, ranked fifth in the world test batting rankings, then fell to a poor shot just before lunch to shift the momentum once more.
Stokes’s dismissal early in the afternoon session gave even more impetus to Australia, with Jonny Bairstow next to go to put the tourists on the brink of the series win.
Brook carried the England resistance, reaching his half-century off 57 balls — his ninth score of 50 or more for England in just 10 tests.
Scoring at a rapid rate has been Brook’s calling card since he came into the England side. He passed 1,000 test runs in 1,058 balls during his innings — faster than any other batter in test history.
He could not steer his team through to the end, looping a catch into the hands of Pat Cummins, but Woakes stayed calm with a crucial 32, with a big six from Wood getting England closer to the total.
It was Woakes who hit the winning runs, ensuring it is all to play for in the fourth test in Manchester in two weeks’ time, in one of the most dramatic Ashes series in living memory.
“There were a few moments that went back and forth and that was each day really,” Cummins said. “On the first day we lost six for 20-odd and yesterday the sun was out and we probably missed an opportunity. It was just a couple of key moments.
“It seems like a series where one session swings in one team’s favour and then the next session the other team picks it up. I wouldn’t mind a stress-free one!”