|Fourth Ashes Test, Sydney (day three of five)|
|Australia 416-8: Khawaja 137, Smith 67, Starc 34*, Broad 5-101|
|England 258-7: Bairstow 103*, Stokes 66, Wood 39, Boland 2-25|
|England trail by 158 runs|
Jonny Bairstow scored a gutsy century as England’s batters finally showed some fight against Australia on day three of the fourth Ashes Test in Sydney.
Bairstow’s well-crafted, unbeaten 103 and his 128-run stand with Ben Stokes rescued England after they slipped to 36-4.
Stokes, visibly struggling with a left side injury, made 66, while Mark Wood clubbed an entertaining 39 from 41 balls in a 72-run stand with Bairstow.
Scott Boland took 2-25 as England closed on 258-7, trailing by 158.
Play had been delayed by two hours because of persistent rain at the Sydney Cricket Ground, and England made an poor start when the match resumed.
They lost three wickets in 53 balls and could not find a run before Bairstow and Stokes injected some much-needed impetus into the innings.
The two were able to dominant Australia’s bowlers in a way that England have failed to do throughout the series.
Australia dropped three catches and have an injury concern over Boland, who was taken for a scan after falling in his follow-through in the afternoon session.
While England are still a long way behind in the match, the fight they showed will have been encouraging for the beleaguered dressing room.
Bairstow & Stokes battle hard
At various points, it looked as though Bairstow and Stokes would have to end their innings early – Bairstow with a seriously damaged thumb and Stokes with an injured left side, which he hurt while bowling on day two.
However, both players are competitive and determined to a fault. Bairstow is a batter who thrives on the chance to prove people wrong, while Stuart Broad described Stokes on Thursday as the toughest cricketer he has seen.
Stokes had some luck, first dropped by Pat Cummins in his follow-through on nine before he survived a Cameron Green delivery hitting the stumps but not dislodging the bails on 16.
After being hit on the hand by Green, Stokes changed tactic, hitting three fours in a row off Mitchell Starc to bring up the 50 partnership.
The two batted sensibly towards tea but, when Stokes fell lbw to Lyon shortly after the resumption, Bairstow cut loose.
He slog-swept Lyon for two sixes, never allowing the off-spinner to settle, and continued to pull and drive as Australia’s quicks tried to target his injured thumb.
Bairstow continually took his hand off the bat but was able to soldier on, despite obvious concern from captain Root, who sat on the side of the pitch to observe.
He was briefly overshadowed by Wood, who swung Cummins for three sixes in his entertaining innings, and had to wait until the final over of the day to reach three figures.
He received a standing ovation from the dressing room as he swung Cummins for four to register England’s first century of the tour.
England – and Australia – show frailties
There is always a sense of inevitability when England bat: that a collapse is just around the corner, a bad shot only one ball away.
This is a tired batting line-up, summed up by Root’s uncharacteristic waft of a cut shot to give him the unwanted accolade of England’s first Test duck of 2022. They looked burned out in Sydney, unable to mount even the slightest resistance on a difficult pitch.
Haseeb Hameed, whose place for the fifth Test must be under serious question, was bowled trying an extravagant drive, registering his fifth consecutive single-figure score.
Crawley showed brief fight before being bowled by a Boland nip-backer, Root slashed the same bowler to slip and an unsettled Dawid Malan glanced Green to leg slip as England crumbled before lunch.
Despite this, Australia were far from their best with the ball and struggled for ideas as Bairstow, Stokes and Wood attacked.
Lyon went for 71 from his 10 overs while Starc, Australia’s best bowler, lost his line and gifted England runs.
Both Hameed and Crawley were dropped in the morning, although neither could make it count, while Cummins was hit for three sixes by Wood as England attacked in the evening.
It is the first time Australia have been tested – and the first time they have looked short of ideas.
‘It will take a lot to remove me’ – what they said
England batter Jonny Bairstow, speaking to Test Match Special: “I was relieved and overjoyed, to be honest with you. I’m happy with today but we need to build on it tomorrow as well.
“My thumb is sore, but you’re playing in the Ashes and you’re going to take blows. It’s going to take a lot to remove me from things. I might get an X-ray on it but I reckon I’ll still be there in the morning.”
Australia batter Steve Smith: “We’re still in a good position, even though there is some uncertainty around the weather. I thought it was a good counter-attack from Stokes and Bairstow.
“The pitch is doing more with the new ball. When the ball gets soft, it’s not playing as many tricks.”
BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew on TMS: “It’s been a lot of entertainment, it’s better than it might have been, because it looked dire at lunch.
“We’ve seen Stokes and Bairstow bat with incredible bravery and skill. You can’t escape that Hameed, Crawley, Malan, Root and Buttler all failed.”