It was a dead rubber and for Australia, it was all about scripting yet another 5-0 whitewash and letting England leave the shores in shambles whereas for England it was about salvaging pride and rising from the ashes.

England did salvage pride!

On Day1, only 46.5 overs of play could be possible because of rain.

England put in an improved bowling performance on a good batting surface with Australia’s top three all squandering starts.

James Anderson, Mark Wood and Stuart Broad all picked up important scalps with Anderson and Wood producing a superb spell with a changed ball late in the afternoon to shift the momentum of the day.

Australia were left frustrated not only with the weather but the wasted opportunities.

Marcus Harris got started for the third consecutive innings in this series and looked completely at ease but now has just one half-century to show for it after nicking Anderson to slip for 38.

David Warner also looked in superb touch but fell to a loose drive off Broad, while England finally might have found a weak point in Marnus Labuschagne’s game with Wood finding his outside edge for the second straight innings after he had compiled a composed 28 on one of his most prolific grounds in Test cricket.

On Day 2, Usman Khawaja has produced a comeback century of the highest class to put Australia in another commanding position at stumps on day two of the fourth Test against England at the SCG.

Khawaja’s silky 137 from 260 balls underpinned Australia’s 8 declared for 416, but it would have been more without a magnificent lone hand with the ball from Stuart Broad.

After writing publicly about his frustrations at being left out in two of the first three Tests, Broad backed up his words with his 19th Test five-wicket haul including the crucial wickets of Khawaja and Steven Smith for 67, having knocked over David Warner earlier.

England had to face a frightful five overs before stumps and Zak Crawley got a major reprieve. He nicked Mitchell Starc to first slip with Warner taking the catch head high.

As Crawley walked off for what would have been a 12-ball duck, replays showed Starc had overstepped. Extras were the major contributor as the ball nipped and bounced prodigiously but Haseeb Hameed and Crawley survived another brutal examination from Starc and Pat Cummins.

On Day 3, Jonny Bairstow saved England’s blushes and saved his Test career with a stunning SCG century to help his nation avoid the follow-on having slumped to 4 for 36 in the face of an Australian barrage.

Bairstow’s century was both brave and chanceless.

He copped a vicious blow on the thumb from Pat Cummins in the afternoon that left him doubled over in pain. But he brushed it off to score his second century in Australia and his seventh in Test cricket. It was his first in three years and 38 Test innings. He roared to the rooms after bringing it up with a flashing cut over backward point in the last over of the day in an emotional moment as the England team and fans stood and applauded a rare show of fight on this tour.

He was brilliantly supported by Ben Stokes, who fought through obvious pain to make a vital 66 in a century stand with Bairstow, while Wood made an excellent 39.

Two hours were lost to rain and England went 70 balls without scoring and lost three wickets in the process. Australia dropped three catches, Stokes was bowled without the bails coming off and Scott Boland took 2 for 0 before hurting his side in a fall – he went for scans and was later cleared of injury.

Australia produced their most ragged four hours of the series as Bairstow picked them apart with excellent footwork and positive intent to keep England alive in the contest.

On Day 4, Khawaja became the new king of the SCG achieving the stunning feat of twin centuries in an Ashes Test to put Australia in a position to keep the whitewash alive if they can take 10 England wickets on the final day.

Khawaja reached rare air in his comeback Test after being left out of the side for two-and-a-half years. His second-innings 101 not out saw him become the third man behind Doug Walters and Ricky Ponting to score twin hundreds at the SCG, the ninth to do it in an Ashes Test and just the 10th player in Test history to score twin centuries in a Test batting at No.5 or lower. Incredibly Khawaja’s match tally of 238 runs moved him past every single England player’s series tally bar Joe Root.

Cameron Green made his second-highest Test score of 74 and put on the highest partnership of the series with Khawaja, 179, to take Australia from a wobbly position at 4 for 86 to a declaration where they could set England 388 to win with a day and an hour to play.

But England’s maligned opening pair of Crawley and Haseeb Hameed weathered another probing examination from Australia’s quicks to steer the visitors safely to stumps as storm clouds engulfed the SCG. They put on their highest partnership of the series, 30, and survived 11 overs under floodlights to leave England an improbable 358 to win on the final day or 98 overs to survive, weather permitting.

On the final day, the dead rubber turned out to be one of the best test matches of the series so far!

High-quality half-centuries from Zak Crawley and Ben Stokes and a brave 105-ball 41 from Jonny Bairstow had earlier put England in a position to save the Test.

Thanks largely to the excellent work of Crawley and Stokes, England were just three down at lunch, four down at tea and 5 for 218 with just 16 overs remaining and Bairstow and Buttler at the crease facing the second new ball before the game took a thrilling twist.

Cummins delivered two huge blows in three balls with two extraordinary inswingers to put Australia on the brink of victory. Buttler, batting bravely with a broken finger that will force him out of the final Test, copped a vicious inswinger from Cummins. He over-balanced and hit his boot with his bat. The bat swivelled as a result at the precise moment the ball sneaked through and thundered into the back pad.

Umpire Paul Reiffel gave it not out but Cummins reviewed and it was smashing middle and leg. Two balls later, Cummins delivered a searing inswinging yorker that hit Mark Wood flush on the front foot. Reiffel gave it out immediately and Wood knew his fate as he hobbled to his feet after crumpling over when he was struck. He reviewed but it was fruitless.

Bairstow then nicked Starc to second slip but the normally reliable Smith grassed the chance low to his right. Smith redeemed himself not long after, insisting Cummins place a silly mid-off for Boland in addition to the short leg. Boland’s belligerent length produced some nip off the seam, caught Bairstow’s inside edge and ricocheted onto pad before ballooning up to Labuschagne leaving Australia just two scalps to take in more than 10 overs.

But Leach and Broad were magnificent.

Leach and Broad faced 52 of the 64 balls remaining for the day, most of which were against Cummins, Boland and Starc before bad light forced Australia to turn to Steve Smith and he almost became a hero with the ball.

He prized out Leach, his first Test scalp since 2016, caught at slip after England’s spinner had battled manfully for 34 balls without error.

It left Broad and Anderson to survive six balls each from Lyon and Smith respectively and England’s veterans held on.

It was only the second time in Ashes history a team had saved a game nine-down in the fourth innings, the first being the famous 2005 draw at Manchester.

Australia will rue a raft of errors that have seen a chance at an Ashes whitewash literally slip through their fingers. They dropped three catches and missed a runout on the final day.

But, England’s intent to fight back should be a morale boost for the unit that has been thrashed in all the departments by their arch-rivals. Again, an improved England is much needed for Test cricket!

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Courtesy: Input from ESPNcricinfo

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