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England hold on for draw against Australia at SCG on day five


England have survived for a gutsy draw on day five at the SCG, ensuring Australia will not get a clean sweep of the Ashes.

No sporting event can really offer the same twists and turns that Test cricket does, as the SCG turned in a classic fifth day.

All that was missing was a young Michael Clarke with dyed hair, and Ishant Sharma with two right-handed batting gloves.

AS IT HAPPENED: England hold on for riveting SCG draw

LIVE UPDATES: Barty sends rivals ominous warning

First there was Zak Crawley cultivating a cautious optimism for England that they could complete a record fourth-innings chase at the SCG, then a sense of dread that another collapse was imminent when Joe Root was dismissed.

From an Australian point of view, there was a resigned acceptance that a draw was coming, either at the rain delay, or at tea, when some fans decided to head home.

But no matter where your passions lie, the final couple of hours would keep even the most agnostic of cricket neutrals glued to their seat – bad referrals, close calls, missed catches and anything else you could want.

Ben Stokes, a visceral character at the best of times, could scarcely believe what he’d done when he meekly poked one from Nathan Lyon into the grateful hands of Steve Smith and held his bat aloft for several seconds afterwards, as though frozen in shock.

A continual thorn in Australia’s side – while nursing an injury in his own – it looked like he would once again play the part of antagonist to perfection.

Instead, he was gone – and getting the breakthrough before the new ball was key.

From there it was time for the Australian captain to put his own stamp on the innings with two wickets in three balls.

The first was perhaps slightly fortunate as Jos Buttler’s bat and foot collided, allowing the ball safe passage through to his back pad – but the second, to get Mark Wood for a duck, was utterly unplayable as he ripped a yorker down with swing and power seldom seen over the past few days.

Scott Boland, Australia’s newest hero, took yet another wicket in his ridiculous start to Test cricket, but as the light became a factor and the umpires demanded spin from both hands, the captain threw the ball to his deputy.

Smith secured the wicket of Leach, his first in six years – and James Anderson came to the crease, alongside old mate Stuart Broad, needing to survive 12 deliveries.

Despite the best efforts of Lyon, Smith and the nine fielders around the bat chirping non-stop, the two veterans stood tall – and finally, after a horrific tour, gave England something to believe in.

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