Headingley: Harry Brook’s aggressive 75 trumped Mitchell Starc’s five-wicket haul in a thrilling fourth day at Headingley that saw England record a tense win to keep the series alive at 2-1.
England kept a raging Mitchell Starc at bay to pull one back in the series in an edge-of-the-seat thriller at Headingley on day four.
Starc, after creating havoc early in England’s innings, returned with Harry Brook carrying England close to a win and sent back the England batter with the hosts needing just over 20 runs to win.
The half-centurion had held England’s innings together after Australia kept picking up wickets at frequent intervals. From 171/6 after the lunch break, Brook and Chris Woakes pushed England close to victory with a half-century stand, but Brook’s ambitious pull shot nearly let Australia back into the game.
But, Mark Wood hit a crucial six off Pat Cummins next over and then smashed a Starc half-volley for four next over to arrest any fears of an Australian comeback.
Earlier, Starc’s quick strikes in the day failed to trigger the collapse that Australia would have hoped for in the first session on day four. Ben Duckett, who was a thorn in Australia’s side in the previous Test match, was trapped in front by Starc in the 10th over of the innings.
England sent Moeen Ali in at No.3 in a surprising move with Harry Brook, who played at the spot in the first innings, moving down below Joe Root to No.5.
The ploy didn’t work for Moeen, though, as he was cleaned up by Starc for just five runs.
Joe Root joined a positive Zak Crawley and together the duo rebuilt for England. The partnership got off to a quick start, but just as Australia were being pushed out of the game, Mitchell Marsh struck with his medium pace.
The seamer found the edge of Crawley’s bat and England had lost a third wicket before reaching three figures.
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Brook walked in and played very cautiously, contrary to his usual style, but soon changed gears as he grew in confidence.
From 1 off 8 balls and 8 off 16 balls, the middle-order batter smashed three boundaries in two overs to up the ante. Against the run of play, Australia found another breakthrough with Cummins sending back Root for 21, the batter nicking a short ball down the leg side to the wicketkeeper.
Despite the wicket close to lunch, Brook continued to go hard at the bowling and raced into the forties as Australia tried an over of spin before the break.
If England seemed on their way to an easy win at the lunch break, that quickly turned around after the break when Starc had Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow dismissed in quick succession.
With England still a bit away, the two big blows had the hosts on the back foot, but Brook was in pristine touch and continued to go for his shots. The extra batting option down the order in Woakes came to their aid too as the duo built a quick partnership that frustrated the visitors.
Brook completed 1000 Test runs, becoming the fastest to the milestone in terms of balls faced, and reached his fifty with Woakes too starting to find his feet at the other end. The partnership was broken at a crucial juncture when Brook was dismissed by Starc, but England kept their nerves to seal the win.