LEEDS - England live to fight another day in this Ashes – much to the surprise of many. After their abject display on Friday, they toughed it out on Saturday, meaning that on Sunday they need 203 more to stay in the series. They have seven wickets with which to play.

One of those seven is their captain, Joe Root, who reached stumps unbeaten on 75 having again been in early after the failure of his openers. This was terrific spirit, just when England needed it, including a century stand with Joe Denly, just when he needed it.

Denly did not make it to stumps, but Ben Stokes did, in a mighty show of restraint that saw him score two from 50 balls across as many minutes (with Australia at their brilliant best). Stokes was even more epic earlier in the day; he bowled 22 of the final 49 overs of Australia’s innings, a terrific spell straddling two days, including three wickets and plenty more close shaves.

Hold on to your hats – the odds remain stacked against England. Australia have a new ball up their sleeve, a terrific attack – who will have had a cherished night’s sleep – to use it, and have not missed a chance all match. England, you may have heard, are prone to collapse, and do not bat as deep in this fixture as they sometimes do. This is far more likely to be Adelaide in 2017 than Headingley 2001 – although that, and events 20 years earlier, are a reminder that strange things can happen on this ground.

England’s demeanour reflected their dire position in the match on the fourth morning. They bowled, as they have for most of the series (and without much rest between times) with terrific vigour, but continued to drop catches. Jonny Bairstow was the guilty party this time, putting down the terrific Marnus Labuschagne. Eventually Jofra Archer, Ben Stokes and some fine fielding from Denly to finally dismiss Labuschagne, for 80. Australia asked England to chase 359. More has been chased, but not often.

The two Joes, both tall elegant and right-handed, batted with bravery and skill in their stand of 126. Both walked out – earlier, of course, than any Englishman would have liked –with the heads full of demons; Root, for his successive ducks and the general malaise captaining a team losing an Ashes series causes; Denly, because he was likely batting for his Test career.

They were together with the score on 15 because, in the second and third overs after lunch Rory Burns was edged Pat Cummins to slip, then Jason Roy was bowled by Josh Hazlewood. Both were decent balls, but Burns – who had taken a nasty blow to the hand before lunch – will reflect that he did not need to play, while Roy flattered one that nipped a little.

Denly responded to that pressure in the same spirit Burns did at Edgbaston, with results that were solid if not quite as spectacular. When playing and missing early, he stayed calm. So too when hit hard on the helmet by Cummins, with the bouncer on a middle and leg line, which makes swaying tricky, a continual problem. One did for him in the end, amid a terrific Hazlewood spell of 7-4-3-1 very late in the day.

Few expert observers would have had Denly, whose age and first-class average are both in the thirties, in their XI for the Old Trafford Test, had he failed here. No4 is a cherished position, Roy is due a relegation, and Ollie Pope is knocking on the door. A rebuild is likely after the Ashes, and Denly looks unlikely to be part of it.

But a second half-century probably buys him a game more. He is having a curious career – the fewest balls he has faced in a Test innings is 16 and, in the last 11 of his 12 knocks, he has reached double-figures. This was just the second time he has passed 30, though.