An unbeaten Joe Root has guided England to 3-156 at stumps on day three of the third Ashes Test in Leeds, where Australia set the hosts a target of 359.
An unbeaten Joe Root has stalled Australia’s push for an Ashes-retaining victory in Leeds, where England reached 3-156 after being set a target of 359 as both teams talked up their chances.
Root, on a pair and under immense pressure from calls for him to step down as skipper after England were skittled for 67 on day two, produced an unbeaten captain’s knock of 75 on day three of the third Test.
Saturday’s Root-led rally, which leaves his team requiring a further 203 runs to make history, started at 2-15 after Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins quickly removed England’s openers.
Root and Joe Denly (50) shared a 126-run partnership, raising the Headingley crowd’s hope of a series-levelling win for England.
Hazlewood broke the stubborn stand a day after snaring 5-30, firing in a pinpoint bouncer that Denly took his eyes off and gloved to Tim Paine.
Australia failed to conjure another wicket as stump microphones picked up Paine’s oohs, ahhs, encouragement and one expletive.
England have never hauled in a target higher than 332 to win a Test, a record that will require something special to break on Sunday as Australia prepare to take the second new ball.
“The wicket has flattened out a little bit. Day three is probably one of the better days to bat,” Marnus Labuschagne said.
“If we show the same discipline we had today with the new ball tomorrow, we’ll definitely reap the rewards.
“You always find (in England) that there’s big partnerships but then there’s one, two, three wickets. It can happen very quickly.”
Only once has a team reeled in more than 342 to win a Test in England.
That was Don Bradman’s 1948 Ashes tourists, who sealed their invincible reputation by completing a successful chase of 404 thanks to the captain’s unbeaten 173 on day five.
That match was also at Headingley but there are no other parallels that can be drawn, although Denly spoke with confidence a day after England lost 10-57 in 24 overs.
“There is a tricky period in the morning with new ball coming up, but we have Rooty and Stokesy (Ben Stokes),” he said.
“Two world-class batters in, so get through that and we will be in a great position.
“Any time Joe Root is scoring runs it puts belief in the side. We feed off that.
“The pitch is pretty good for batting on, not too much turn and it won’t deteriorate overnight.”
Root refused to fold meekly as Paine pressed for a victory that would ensure he captains Australia’s first squad to retain the Ashes in England since 2001.
Rain is not expected to interrupt the rest of the contest, taking a draw out of the equation.
Paine has already burned one of his two reviews on a Nathan Lyon lbw shout, adding another layer of drama on a day when Hazlewood gave Root some unsolicited advice after twice beating the bat.
“They’re always chirpy or have a bit to say but get through those periods, it gets quieter. We found that,” Denly said.