Australia were made to work hard on the final day of the fourth Ashes Test, but ultimately proved too strong by the hosts, securing the victory they needed to retain the urn with just under an hour of play left.
Australia lead 2-1, and with one Test to play, now cannot lose the series or their hold on the tiny trophy.
England began the final day facing a significant challenge, needing to bat out 98 overs with eight wickets in hand, and two of their most accomplished batsmen, Joe Root and Rory Burns, having been dismissed in the space of two balls by the fired up Pat Cummins on the previous evening.
They began their task redoubtably, Jason Roy and Joe Denly batting through the first hour unscathed before Cummins returned to dismiss Roy and Ben Stokes in quick succession. The former was bowled by one which came back in between bat and pad and the latter walking after getting a thin edge behind. The dismissal of Stokes, England’s World Cup and Headingley hero, could have punctured their resolve, but Denly, joined by Jonny Bairstow, renewed their efforts and made it to lunch.
Having brought up his second half-century in consecutive Tests, Denly gloved Nathan Lyon to short leg for 53, but Jos Buttler proved a willing partner as Australia were forced to work for every wicket.
Bairstow was next to go, pinned in front by Mitchell Starc, but once again England refused to collapse, Craig Overton the next to dig in, though he survived two vociferous lbw reviews, overturning one himself as Hawk Eye projected the ball would miss the stumps, and Australia burning another which also would have missed.
Eventually, Buttler’s resistance was ended as he ill-advisedly opted to leave a delivery from Josh Hazlewood which clattered into off stump, and Jofra Archer followed soon after, rapped on his pads by one from Lyon which kept very low.
New fan favourite Jack Leach took guard, batting at No.10 ahead of Stuart Broad, and justified his promotion, demonstrating a sound defensive technique as he batted for more than an hour and faced over 50 balls. It took some creative captaincy to bring the breakthrough, part-time leg-spinner Marnus Labuschagne forcing Leach to glove to short leg.
Shortly after Overton was given out lbw, and this time a review couldn’t save him. Australia had won by 185 runs, retaining the Ashes in England for the first time since 2001, and sparking jubilant celebrations among the players on the field.
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