England will go into the final day of the third Test needing 253 runs to win with five wickets in hand, as Ben Stokes showed his potential as a future Test match star on the fourth day.
Despite the Durham all-rounder’s heroics to end not out on 72 England are still overwhelming underdogs to win the match, with odds of 12/1 saying they pull off the unlikely feat.
With the cracks in the pitch widening by the ball, a day of survival looks unlikelier still at 20/1, with Australia the 1/50 favourites to take an unassailable lead in the series and reclaim the Ashes for the first time since 2006/07.
Stokes, who hit 12 fours in his maiden Test match half century and showed impressive maturity and steel having come to the crease at 121-4, will be joined at the crease for the final day by Matt Prior who finished unbeaten on seven.
The performance of the flame-haired number six was about the only positive for the tourists to take on another day that went the Australians’ way in this series.
Having declared before lunch on 369-6 on the back of a Shane Watson century, Australia set Alastair Cook’s side 530 to win and tucked into the skipper’s frazzled focus straight away, with Ryan Harris bowling the Essex left-hander with the first ball of the innings.
Michael Carberry, who once again looked composed in accumulating a good start before departing without cashing in, and Joe Root’s exits left England on 76-3 before Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell steadied the ship with a partnership of 45.
However, England’s mercurial talent, Pietersen, again set tongues wagging in the mode of his dismissal, advancing down the track to Nathan Lyon and getting caught on the long-on boundary when perhaps more caution was required.
Ian Bell compiled 60 runs in resistance but fell with seven overs remaining in the day, leaving Stokes and Prior to negotiate what looks like only a delay of the inevitable.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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