A brave century by Jonny Bairstow and a half-century for Ben Stokes helped England claw its way back to 258-7 after a terrible start to the third day of the fourth Ashes test Friday at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Bairstow scored the tourists’ first century in its seventh innings this series to headline a day where England had slumped to 36-4 by lunch before its middle order counterattacked to help England get back into the match on another rain-affected day at the SCG.
In clear pain after being struck on the thumb by a Pat Cummins delivery and with partners running out, Bairstow began attacking at nearly every ball and brought up a deserved century from 138 balls with 12 boundaries and three sixes moments before stumps by slashing a Cummins delivery for four.
Bairstow celebrated his seventh test century by running halfway towards the England team dressing room with arms aloft, where his teammates had gathered to acknowledge a vital innings in the context of the match which had earlier looked to be slipping away.
At stumps, Bairstow was 103 not out and Jack Leach was on four, with England trailing Australia by 158 runs.
Earlier, Ben Stokes made a typically swashbuckling 66 of 91 balls, including nine fours and a towering six over cover, as part of a 128-run partnership with Bairstow which steadied England’s innings after its early collapse.
Nathan Lyon eventually ended the 128-run partnership by trapping Stokes lbw with a ball that kept lower than the allrounder expected.
He was perhaps fortunate to get that far having before tea survived a sharp missed caught-and-bowled chance off Pat Cummins and then successfully reviewing an on-field lbw out’ decision where the ball had in fact missed the pad and flicked the off stump but not dislodged the bail.
Shortly after raising his half-century off 80 balls, Bairstow was struck by a ball from Cummins that reared up off the pitch and struck the batsman on the thumb. Bairstow received treatment on the ground for several minutes before resuming his innings, but was visibly in discomfort holding the bat.
Jos Buttler became the second duck off the innings chipping to Khawaja at cover off Cummins (2-68) to reduce England to 173-6 and in danger of not avoiding the follow-on target of 218.
But Bairstow and Mark Wood combined for an unbroken 72-run partnership to reduce the visitors nerves before Cummins eventually had Wood caught by Lyon for 39 off 41 balls going for one big shot too many.
Before lunch, England’s batting frailties again were exposed by Australia’s pace attack after it resumed at 13 without loss in a rain delayed session.
Haseeb Hameed was dropped on two by wicketkeeper Alex Carey in Mitchell Starc’s second over, but the reprieve only cost four runs as Starc (1-49) bowled the opener for six in his next over.
Zak Crawley, who survived being caught off a no-ball from Starc late on day two, took a blow on the hand by the left-arm quick before Boland found a way through his defences and hit the top of off-stump when on 18.
Scott Boland (2-25) then had Root caught at slip for a duck in his next over with the England skipper again playing away from his body and edging behind to Steve Smith at second slip.
Dawid Malan (3) was dismissed in the over before lunch, caught by Usman Khawaja at slip off Green’s bowling, leaving England in tatters at the break.
Boland was taken for a precautionary scan tumbling in his follow through with the final ball before tea. Australia team management later said the 32-year-old, who made a sensational debut in Melbourne to help Australia retain the Ashes, had “been cleared of any damage” and later returned to the match.
The inclement weather early Friday didn’t dampen the ‘Pink Test’ fundraising efforts of the McGrath Foundation, chaired by former test paceman Glenn McGrath, which for the past 14 years has been a feature on day three of the Sydney test.
Most of the 28,415 crowd wore pink clothing and one of the stands at the Sydney Cricket Ground was covered in pink bunting to celebrate the charity’s work.