2021/22 Ashes Fourth Test
England battled hard for a draw, and made sure they won’t be leaving Australia with a 5–0 series defeat
The fourth instalment of the 2021/22 Ashes series saw England buck the trend of losses by batting out the final day to save a draw and remove the chance of a third whitewash in their last five tours of Australia.
Both sides made just one change from the 2.5 day test match at Melbourne.
Usman Khawaja replaced Covid-19 positive Travis Head at number five for the hosts, whilst Stuart Broad returned to the England bowling attack in place of Ollie Robinson.
Australia won the toss and elected to bat on what would turn out to be a largely rain affected day.
Australia made a solid start, reaching 51 before Broad dismissed David Warner for the 13th time in his career.
The second wicket fell after 100 was brought up, giving Australia a solid start. Harris and Labuschagne fell in relatively quick succession, bringing the returning Khawaja to the crease alongside Steve Smith.
The pair put on 115 for the fourth wicket and made the English bowlers toil in the Sydney heat well into day two.
Any hopes of an Aussie wobble once Smith fell for 67 soon faded once Khawaja battled on supported by cameos from Alex Carey, Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc.
Khawaja reached a ton, despite being dropped on 28 by Joe Root, and by the time he eventually fell for 137, Australia were ready to declare on 416–8.
This left Zak Crawley and Haseeb Hameed to negotiate five overs of Cummins and Starc.
They made it through, although if Starc’s foot was an inch further back, his wicket delivery wouldn’t have been illegal and Crawley would have been back in the dressing room without troubling the scorers.
The third day of this test was a big day for the English batters. Although it started with a sickening sense of dejavu…
Hameed fell for six, his fifth straight single figure score, and a flurry of wickets followed. Crawley, Root and Malan came and went for a total of 21 runs.
With the score at 36–4, Jonny Bairstow joined Ben Stokes in the middle for what was a perilous position for England.
However, unlike most innings this series, England’s middle order battled hard. The pair put on 128 for the fourth wicket and put to bed any chances of a second straight double figures total.
Stokes fell for 66 and when Buttler went for a duck, it felt like another collapse could be on the way.
Then up stepped Mark Wood. a rapid fire 39 from 41 balls, including three maximums, propelled England to within touching distance of the 250 mark.
Wood fell late in the day, but there was still time for Bairstow to reach a well deserved century to leave England on 258–7, 158 runs behind Australia.
Any hopes of the tail wagging faded quickly on day four and Australia polished off the last three wickets at the cost of just 36 runs, leaving Australia with a healthy lead as they began to bat again.
All of the hosts top four batsmen fell for less than 30, but Khawaja showed once again how he is very hard to dismiss on his way to a second century or the match.
Supported by a 74 from Cameron Green, Australia battled and extended their lead into a healthy one.
When Pat Cummins declared, England were set a mammoth target of 388 and had just under four sessions to dig in.
Hameed and Crawley survived the end of the day, setting up a tense final day.
A nervy start saw Hameed dropped by Carey, although he was caught shortly after departing for 9 and therefore yet another single figure score.
At the other end, Crawley opened up and played some excellent shots on his way to a well deserved half century.
Dawid Malan was bowled by Lyon for just four and five overs later Crawley was trapped LBW by Cameron Green for 77.
The wickets fell gradually during the afternoon session, but Ben Stokes battled to 60 before edging behind and Jonny Bairstow added to his century with a 105 ball score of 41.
Injured Jos Buttler managed to fight to 11 from six overs; every ball used up was vital at this point.
The tail creaked and a flurry of wickets left Stuart Broad and James Anderson with two overs to bat, something which they did successfully.
The draw was desperate, gritty and tense. There were glimpses of the usual issues for England, but for the first time this series there is something to be pleased about in this series.