Wood has bowled with pace and hostility throughout the tour for mostly unflattering figures, but finally had something fitting to show for his efforts with five for 32 as he lit a fire under England’s fading ambitions.
Australia’s first-innings lead of 115 meant they had a big enough buffer zone not to panic but at the interval a lead of 256 with two wickets remaining left both sides in the hunt.
Alex Carey was holding England up with an unbeaten 40, a source of major frustration having seen him drag his stumps down on 19.
He was more than halfway to the pavilion when he turned on his heels amid question marks over Chris Woakes’s front foot. The slow motion replays were not quite conclusive but third umpire Paul Reiffel saw enough to be sure he had overstepped and a no-ball signal gave Carey the green light to continue.
It was the third time in the series England have seen a wicket scrubbed from the book, with Ben Stokes and Ollie Robinson the other offenders.
Australia had started on 37 for three and soon found themselves trying, and failing. to weather a barrage from Wood. Given licence to bang the ball in short and fast, he took three wickets for 12 runs in a fine six-over spell.
Nightwatch Scott Boland, who survived bravely on the second evening, was first to go, backing away to leg and fencing a catch to wicketkeeper Sam Billings in Wood’s second over.
His next two scalps came with bigger targets on their backs, with the series’ leading run-scorer Travis Head brushing a ball off his ribs and into Billings’ gloves and Steve Smith hooking obligingly to fine leg.
At 63 for six the game was poised finely but England were unable to maintain the pressure when Wood’s stint came to an end. Australia saw Cameron Green and Alex Carey top up the total to the tune of 49, with Woakes’ sloppy footwork offering a costly reprieve that would have made it 91 for seven.
After several big appeals Stuart Broad finally got an lbw to stick, Green (23) clipped on the back pad and condemned on DRS. The door was ajar again and a rested Wood charged in again to have Mitchell Starc caught fending to short-leg.
That brought up the third five-for of his career but he briefly thought he had six for the first time when a first-ball yorker to Pat Cummins saw the umpire’s finger go up. Replays suggested the ball was missing and the skipper added 20 with Carey as the advantage kept ticking upwards.
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