Captain Joe Root said he was relieved and proud that England clung on for a draw in the fourth Ashes Test to remove the possibility of another 5-0 defeat.

Last man James Anderson batted out the final over in Sydney to leave England 270-9 after they had been set an unlikely 388 to win.

“To do that was really pleasing,” Root told Test Match Special.

“Clearly there are a lot of improvements we can make, but it’s a step in the right direction.”

England had already lost the series after an innings defeat in the third Test in Melbourne ensured the Ashes were lost at the earliest possible moment.

That left the tourists battling to avoid being beaten 5-0 for the third time in 15 years, with England also losing 4-0 on their last trip in 2017-18.

The draw in Sydney came after a number of Covid cases in their backroom staff – head coach Chris Silverwood was in isolation and missed the match.

England also had to deal with injuries to Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler, the latter set to fly home and miss the final Test because of a broken finger.

“Relief is the overwhelming emotion,” said Root.

“We’ve had quite a lot thrown at us – guys have stood up and showed a lot of character, showed a lot of pride and showed how much they care about playing for this team.”

Silverwood is now out of isolation and will be in charge for the fifth Test, a day-nighter in Hobart that begins on Friday.

Sam Billings could make his Test debut in place of Buttler, while England will assess Bairstow’s thumb injury and Stokes’ side strain.

All three injured players batted on the final day in Sydney, which England began on 30-0.

After Zak Crawley’s entertaining 77, Stokes made 60 and Bairstow 41, while Buttler used up 38 balls for his 11.

In the fading light, Jack Leach edged Steve Smith’s leg-spin to slip with 12 balls remaining, only for Stuart Broad to defend an over from Nathan Lyon before number 11 Anderson resisted Smith.

“We never make it easy for ourselves, do we?” said Root.

“Before this match, I spoke about putting some pride back into English cricket. The fight, desire and character shown in the five days has done that in a small way.

“It was a dark day at the end of the last Test. It would have been very easy to roll over for the last two.

“When you find yourself out of the series, it’s really important that you front up. Everyone has done that this week.”

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