'Australia are firm favourites but England can dream'

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Pint-sized Ashes: Best TMS moments as England set up tense final day

I have found England's fightback in the second Ashes Test as enjoyable and as intense as I have found it frustrating. They have only fired in the second half of the match.

If they had played like they have since halfway through day three, from the moment that Joe Root sent Australia into bat on Saturday, who knows where they would be?

The way they bowled and then the way the top order batted in the first innings has meant that they have had to come from behind.

If England had batted anything like they should have done, they would be 100 runs closer to their target.

As it is, they sleep on the fourth night at 176-4, still requiring another 178 runs to win.

In the first session on Wednesday, there will be 18 overs before Australia have access to the second new ball.

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England have to survive that first hour, put overs into the legs of the pace bowlers and have two set batsmen for when that new ball arrives.

Joe Root, 67 not out overnight, will clearly be key. England need him to score a big hundred. If Australia can shift him they will feel that they have an opening to finish the job.

He also needs support from Moeen Ali and Jonny Bairstow, who can't just get pretty 20s and then get out. They must play proper innings.

England have all day to get these runs. They need patience. They need do nothing more than bat sensibly.

Joe Root in action for England
Joe Root battled back with an unbeaten 67 to steer England to 176-4, needing another 178 to win on the final day of the second Test

Root, the skipper, will probably have something to say in private to his bowlers about their performance of two halves in this match.

The way they ran in during the second innings was completely different to the first. You don't have to be 90mph to be hostile - bowling in the right place, getting in the batsman's face, giving nothing away can be just as intimidating.

I can't put my finger on why they weren't able to do that in the first innings, especially when they were so wound up and angry at the defeat in Brisbane and what happened afterwards.

With the bat, England have been more resolute, more determined second time around. Bar James Vince, they have cut out the poor strokes.

Root's has been a lovely knock. He came to the crease not in the best form and off the back of a poor stroke in the first innings.

He initially started by playing a few uppish strokes, but when the fluency and footwork came back he looked himself again.

In that fantastic period under the floodlights, he received support from Dawid Malan, who I really like the look of at number five. He is growing into the role and looks much more comfortable about the things he does. It is starting to look like a good bet by the selectors.

Between them, England's fourth-wicket pair really raised the frustration in the Australian ranks, evidenced when Steve Smith burned his two reviews in the space of three balls.

That came as part of a poor second half of the game for Smith and his men, who gave England the opportunity for an awakening.

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Smith will have his reasons for not enforcing the follow-on on the third evening, and they are probably perfectly reasonable. He also couldn't have known for sure that the ball would swing around like it did, but not making England bat again is certainly looking like a mistake.

Then, from 53-4 overnight, they batted with real complacency on the fourth day, like a side who already thought they had enough runs.

Still, that is to take nothing away from England, who have probably earned some respect from the Australian public for the way they have got back into this game.

From my time with ABC, I know that not much was thought of this England side, and that their predicament halfway through this match was pretty much expected.

Now, England have shown what they are capable of, which is pleasing.

In truth, Australia are firm favourites. There is a reason why England have never chased a target as large as 354 before.

But, records are there to be broken and England will do it one day. They might even do it on Wednesday.

We can dream.

Jonathan Agnew was speaking to BBC Sport's Stephan Shemilt.

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