England avoid Ashes whitewash with thrilling last ball draw in Sydney

England pulled off a stunning 4th innings rearguard to deny Australia the whitewash and leave Sydney with both a draw and their heads held high.

It all came down to six balls from Steve Smith to Jimmy Anderson with England nine down, amid high drama at the SCG with an 11,660 strong crowd sounding more like a 48,000 capacity.

The England veteran kept all six balls at bay, before shaking hands with his rivals, and fittingly celebrating with Stuart Broad at the other end.

There had been 10.4 overs still to be bowled when Broad walked out to bat, joining Jack Leach, and the odds were stacked heavily in Australia’s favour to take the final two scalps.

But with their fast bowlers straining every sinew and their fielders gathered round the bat like moths to a flame, they couldn’t find a way through.

That was, until the umpire’s declared it was too dark for the quick men and Smith was called back into the attack with his leg spin.

From the final ball of his over, Leach pushed forward and edged the ball into David Warner’s hands at slip via the arm of keeper Alex Carey.

But just like they did against New Zealand in Auckland in 2013 or Australia at Cardiff in 2009, England got over the line by hook or by crook.

This draw might not lead to an Ashes series win like Cardiff did, but it was no less dramatic for that.

After three Tests as Australia’s whipping boys, this was an important line in the sand for England and they earned it the hard way.

Every player put the biggest price they could on their wicket. There was no collapse, only character and fight from top to bottom, injuries and all.

The challenge at the start of the day was clear for England’s batsmen and buoyed by their 50 minutes of resistance the night before openers Haseeb Hameed and Zak Crawley started their work brightly enough.

Crawley in particular was in fine fettle, timing the ball beautifully every time the Aussie bowlers erred with their line or length.

Sadly the same cannot be said of Hameed who added just one run to his overnight score before being dropped by keeper Alex Carey off Pat Cummins.

He was then caught by the same man three balls later, this time off the bowling of Scott Boland, which should really signal the end of his action on this tour.

Dawid Malan lasted for 40 minutes before he tried to cut one from Nathan Lyon that skidded on with the arm, stayed a little low and cannoned into his off stump.

Australia all rounder Cam Green has impressed all series with the ball and he found a way to remove Crawley with a fast, straight yorker that crunched the toes and was plumb lbw.

Ben Stokes was still in agony with almost every shot due to his side, while Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler were going to have to battle hand injuries, which would make life tougher.

But perhaps the backs to the wall situation made things a little clearer as Stokes and Joe Root got themselves in and refused to budge for more than two hours.

Root had looked as good as he had done throughout 2021 in his record-breaking year, but he only faced Boland in one game and got out to him.

After the Victorian took the England skipper’s edge with a beauty, he now had him three times in 22 balls for the cost of zero runs.

Stokes had been nothing short of a warrior for fighting through the pain for nearly three hours trying to save the match, but in the end he couldn’t stay as long as he really wanted as he guided Lyon to slip on 60.

England might have had five wickets in hand, but the second new ball was around the corner and when it arrived the damage started to be done once more.

Buttler and Mark Wood were both undone by full fast inswinging balls from Cummins that trapped them lbw. Think Waqar Younis in 1992, for those that can remember that far back.

Bairstow did his best to protect Leach for six overs, but couldn’t quite survive himself as he popped a simple catch to Marnus Labuschagne at silly point via an inside edge onto his pad.

It had been two and a half hours of brave batting from Bairstow with a sore thumb, but he too was distraught at having to leave the field.

And so it was now exclusively down to the bowlers to save the game and the tour from the chance of being another 5-0 whitewash. Between them, they did it.

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