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Root leads England Ashes fightback

Sky Sports logo Sky Sports 24-08-2019 skysports.com

England kept their fading Ashes hopes alive with a battling start to what would be their highest-ever run-chase, closing day three of the third Test at Headingley on 156-3 in pursuit of 359. 

a baseball player holding a bat: Joe Root acknowledges the applause for his fifty on day three of the third Ashes Test © Getty Joe Root acknowledges the applause for his fifty on day three of the third Ashes Test

England's gutsy effort was epitomised by their captain, Joe Root unbeaten on 75 at the close, having shared in a crucial 126-run partnership for the third wicket with Joe Denly (50) after the home side initially stumbled their way to 15-2 with the loss of their openers cheaply.

Root and Denly's stand had Australia's fearsome bowling attack searching for answers in the final session, but they ultimately found one in the pairing of Nathan Lyon (0-42) and Josh Hazelwood (2-35), who bowled brilliantly in tandem - creating numerous chances - before the latter finally broke through.

Despite Denly's wicket in the final hour, England will be dreaming of a historic triumph to match, perhaps even better the one they enjoyed against Australia on the same ground 18 years ago, when Mark Butcher struck a sublime 173 not out in chasing down 315.

England trail 1-0 in the five-match series, knowing defeat will see Australia - who currently hold the Ashes - retain the urn with two Tests to play.

With Australia resuming day three on 171-6, England laboured somewhat in taking their final four second-innings wickets before finally bowling them out for 246 late on in the morning session.

Marnus Labuschagne frustrated the hosts once more as he was dropped for a third time in his innings - to go with a further dismissal off a no-ball yesterday - on his way to a top-score of 80.

Jonny Bairstow was the guilty party for the second time as Labuschagne, on 60, prodded a Stuart Broad delivery towards Root at first slip, only for the wicketkeeper to dive into view and grass the opportunity.

Root would finally register his 100th Test catch to see off James Pattinson (20), with Jofra Archer (2-40) returning to the attack and producing the kind of ferociously fast spell that is becoming his trademark.

Labuschagne took another brutal blow to the helmet - nearly identical to the one he wore second-ball at Lord's - but, as is becoming the gutsy Australian batsman's own trademark, he was unruffled and quickly able to refocus.

However, after Ben Stokes (3-56) did for Pat Cummins (6) with a sharp bouncer of his own fended to gully, Labuschagne finally fell, run out off a fast, flat throw from Denly at third man following an initial misfield that prompted the batsman's push for two.

Lyon (9) was the last man out, chopping Archer onto his stumps, before England's openers survived a tricky 20-minute spell before lunch, only to swiftly depart after the interval. Rory Burns (7) fell foul of a sharp-bouncing Hazlewood delivery that took his shoulder edge through to David Warner at first slip, while Jason Roy (8) was bowled by a beauty from Cummins (1-33) that clipped his off stump.

But Root, out first ball in the first innings as his side were embarrassingly rolled out for 67, led from the front against some high-quality bowling and though Denly battled with his technique at times at the other end - playing and missing on numerous occasions as well as taking a blow to the helmet off Cummins - he stuck it out with his skipper.

Root reached fifty shortly after tea with back-to-back boundaries of Lyon, the first an exquisite square drive to bring up the milestone, while the hundred partnership between him and Denly swiftly followed.

Root was incorrectly given out on 59 by umpire Chris Gaffaney, who failed to detect a sizeable inside edge on Hazlewood's lbw shout, while he survived another scare on 61 as Tim Paine missed a tricky stumping chance.

Australia were suddenly back on top, and though Denly reached up a hard-earned and richly-deserved fifty along the way, a superb seven-over spell shared between Lyon and Hazlewood finally brought reward, Denly unable to improve his score and England adding only four to theirs.

Also Watch: 'I can't remember a day like this' - Hazlewood on England's collapse

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Hazlewood reeled off seven overs for the cost of three runs - with four maidens - before finally the pressure tolled in the sixth of those and Denly gloved a well-directed bouncer behind. Lyon, meanwhile, had earlier had two strong lbw shouts against the same man turned down, with Australia losing a review on the second of those.

Despite the Denly blow, Root confidently reversed Lyon fine for four in the next over to somewhat break shackles before he and Stokes (2no off 50 balls) stubbornly saw off the remaining overs in the day.

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