Friday 15 December 2017 / 03:29 PM

ASHES WRAP: ENGLAND RALLIES TO SET UP EPIC FINAL DAY

After almost three days of one-way traffic, England grasped the momentum at Adelaide Oval on Monday to set up what shapes as one of the most exhilarating finishes in Ashes history.

England finished Day 4 on 4/176 – with captain Joe Root in great touch on 67 not out – as they chase a record target of 354, Steve Smith’s decision to not enforce the follow-on backfiring horribly as Australia were skittled for 138 in their second innings.

The hosts resumed on 4/53 on Monday afternoon, but James Anderson made some early inroads with the wickets of nightwatchman Nathan Lyon (14) and out-of-sorts Peter Handscomb (12).

Chris Woakes then got rid of first-innings heroes Tim Paine (11) and Shaun Marsh (19) to reduce Australia to 8/122. Anderson completed his first five-for Down Under by ending Mitchell Starc’s swift knock (20 from 25 balls) – the equal-highest score for the Aussies – and debutant Craig Overton removed Josh Hazlewood (3) three overs later.

Mark Stoneman led England’s reply with six classy boundaries as he and Alastair Cook put on their highest opening partnership of the series – but only after an lbw shout from Josh Hazlewood in the second over was given not out and went unreviewed, when replays showed Stoneman would have been gone.

The struggling Cook fell lbw to Nathan Lyon for a painstaking 16 off 66 balls, while Starc had Stoneman (36) for the addition of just one run to leave England teetering at 2/54.

James Vince (15) became Starc’s second victim after a 37-run stand with Root, before the skipper and Dawid Malan (29) put on 78 for the fourth wicket – during which time Australia burned two unsuccessful reviews in three balls.

Pat Cummins landed a crucial blow with only two overs left to play, bowling Malan with a peach, but nightwatchman Woakes (5*) survived until stumps.

England need a further 178 runs to win, Australia require six wickets – the match could hardly be more evenly poised, after the home side appeared to have it in the bag not much more than 24 hours earlier.

The tourists’ hopes hinge on captain Root’s ability to stick around, while Smith will be hell-bent on becoming just the second skipper in history to lose a Test after ignoring the follow-on.

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Will Evans

CBS’s Editor-in-Chief and lead rugby league, union and cricket writer, Will is a Christchurch-based freelancer, also writing for Big League and Rugby League Review magazines, and The New Daily website. Will has written four rugby league books.

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