Root leads by example to keep England’s hopes alive at Headingley

England captain Joe Root carried his side’s hopes of keeping the Ashes alive as he dug deep in pursuit of a record fourth-innings chase on day three at Headingley.

Australia set the winning line at a distant 359 in the third Specsavers Test – 27 more than any other England side have ever managed – and hoped to reopen the fault lines that saw the hosts skittled for a paltry 67 on Saturday.

England might have been suffering deja vu at 15 for two but Root showed steel, determination and leadership as he reached 75 not out in a stumps total of 156 for three.

Root arrived at the crease having failed to score in each of his last two knocks but channelled the old-fashioned virtues that his side have too frequently neglected as he dropped anchor for five hours deliveries and 189 deliveries.

His primary foil was Joe Denly, who survived an uncomfortable start to his innings to make 50 in a vital third-wicket stand worth 125.

Root will begin again on day four alongside his deputy, Ben Stokes, with England needing another 203.

The stakes are simple: achieve a remarkable result and the series will be squared at 1-1 with two to play, fall short and Australia keep the urn.

England’s highest chase of 332 for seven dates back to 1928 but Leeds has more recent history for fourth-innings drama – with the West Indies hunting down 322 in 2017 and Mark Butcher leading his country to 315 in the 2001 Ashes.

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