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England's James Anderson plays a shot on the final delivery surrounded by Australian players at the end of day five of the fourth Ashes Test at Sydney Cricket Ground on Sunday. Image Credit: AFP

Sydney: England skipper Joe Root praised his battered team’s character to stave off Australia’s victory push and hold on for a gritty draw in Sydney on Sunday as injured wicketkeeper Jos Buttler prepared to fly home.

Old stagers James Anderson and Stuart Broad batted out the final two tense overs to give the beleaguered tourists a fighting draw and deny dominant Australia a fourth straight Test win in the lopsided series.

It comes after England meekly surrendered the Ashes, heavily losing the first three Tests inside 12 days amid bitter recriminations over the performances of the players, coaching staff and the captain.

But despite failing to pass 300 in any of their eight innings so far in the series, England, with nothing to play for but pride, saw the draw as a test of character.

“Relief is the overwhelming emotion and I’m quite proud too,” Root said.

“We had a lot thrown at us in this game and guys have really stood up and showed a lot of character and pride.

“To come out and do that was really pleasing. It’s a big step in the right direction. It’s a step forward and one we have to build on going into that last Test in Hobart.”

Root, who had a low-key match with scores of 0 and 24, pointed to the positives.

“Today shows how much it means to them. When you find yourself out of the series it is really important you front up and time again show how much it means to you,” he said.

“I think everyone has done that this week.”

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A relieved England skipper Joe Root shakes hands with Australian team coach Justin Langer after the fourth Test ended in a draw. Image Credit: AFP

Root singled out the performances of injured pair Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow in helping their team get the draw.

Stokes, with a gutsy 60, his second half-century of the match, and first-innings centurion Bairstow’s 41 held up the Australian victory charge.

“Jonny’s performance, having taken the knock [thumb] as well, was some of the best batting I’ve seen him produce in an England shirt,” he said.

“Similarly Ben and Jos as well, it showed a lot of character and put the team first.

“Jos is going to fly home. It’s a quite serious injury. To front up after that knock shows a huge amount of character.”

Team officials said after the Test that Buttler would leave for home on Monday after fracturing his left index finger.

Jos is going to fly home. It’s a quite serious injury. To front up after that knock shows a huge amount of character.

- Joe Root, England skipper

Bairstow (right thumb) and Stokes (left side strain) will be further assessed and travel with the team to Hobart for Friday’s day-night fifth Test.

The hosts still hold an unassailable 3-0 lead heading into the final day-night Test.

Broad and Anderson steered England to 270 for nine at the close of play in the evening gloom, well short of the victory target of 388 but a huge turnaround after heavy losses in Brisbane, Adelaide and Melbourne.

Australia skipper Pat Cummins was unable to use pace in a tense final three overs because of the fading light and his predecessor Steve Smith took his first Test wicket in almost six years to dismiss Jack Leach.

That left Australia needing one wicket in the last two overs but Broad and Anderson, despite the fielders crowding around them, stood firm to frustrate the home side.

Opener Zak Crawley had led off the rearguard with an assured 77. First innings centurion Bairstow became Scott Boland’s 14th victim in the paceman’s second Test.

Cummins defends decision

Cummins defended his decision to delay a team declaration. The question asked after the gripping finish at the Sydney Cricket Ground was: Did Cummins, in his first series as captain, leave his declaration too late on Saturday when Australia had amassed a massive lead?

Australia declared at 265 for six, leaving the tourists with a massive 388 runs to win. The best fourth innings winning chase at the SCG is 288-2 by Australia against South Africa in 2006.

“I wanted about three and a half runs an over,” Cummins told reporters.

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Australian skipper Pat Cummins appeals successfully for a LBW decision against Mark Wood in England's second innings. Image Credit: AP

“The wicket was still not playing too many tricks and I thought if they batted really well 350 was pretty achievable out there.

“I thought 110 overs was enough time.”

It was the fifth draw in eight Sydney Tests, with many impacted by the weather.

Australia have also failed to bowl the opposition out twice in three of their past six Tests, including the last two against India last year when there was a draw in Sydney and a loss in Brisbane that cost Australia the series and a place in the World Test Championship.

“Two of them have been here at the SCG, where the day five wicket doesn’t play like a traditional, broken up day five wicket,” Cummins said.

“In the back of our minds we knew it may potentially be a bit of a grind out there.

“It’s something we can look at. From this year to last year I think we’ve made some improvements. We probably stuck at some plans a little bit longer.”

Khawaja’s versatility

Usman Khawaja’s fairytale comeback has presented Australia with a selection headache, and Cummins conceded it would be hard to drop the in-form batsman from the fifth and final Ashes Test next week.

Khawaja, 35, was picked to play his first Test in 2-1/2 years only because Travis Head had tested positive for COVID-19, but he grabbed the opportunity with both hands, smashing a century in each innings and claiming the man-of-the-match award.

With a fit Head set to join the team in Hobart, left-hander Khawaja said he did not expect to be retained for the final Test. But Cummins did not want to rule him out.

“I’ll preface it by saying I’m not a selector, but when someone comes out and hits twin hundreds, it’s pretty hard to go past them for the week after,” Cummins said.

“So we’ll work through that, the selectors will work through that in the next few days. But when someone’s running hot, has got a heap of experience like Uzzy, the way he plays is fantastic.”

Head’s match-winning century in the opening Test had set the tone for Australia’s dominance in the five-Test series.

Considering Khawaja’s ability to bat anywhere in the top order, Australia could also be tempted to play him as opener replacing Marcus Harris, who has managed only one half-century in the series so far.

Cummins said Khawaja’s versatility made the batsman an asset to have.

“I guess that’s why he was the spare batter and picked in the squad originally,” Cummins said. “It felt like he could replace any batter one-to-six really well. He’s hugely versatile.”