England captain Joe Root praised his battered team after they held on for a gritty draw in Sydney on Sunday.
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.”
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 [Buttler] 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.
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.