Jonny Bairstow's century saves England from fourth Test embarrassment

Jonny Bairstow’s century saves England from fourth Test embarrassment on day three as visitors recover from 36-4 at lunch to avoid the follow-on and trail Australia by 158 runs in Sydney

  • Jonny Bairstow saved England from embarrassment in the fourth Ashes Test
  • The batsman hit a century as the visitors recovered from 36-4 down at lunch
  • Joe Root was bowled out for a duck as England stared at defeat after 80 minutes
  • But Bairstow’s ton, Ben Stokes’ 66 and Mark Wood’s cameo got England to 258-7
  • Root’s side trail Australia’s first-innings total by 158 runs going into day four 

A stirring century from Jonny Bairstow lifted English spirits on the third day of the fourth Test at the SCG, after he and Ben Stokes launched a fightback from the depths of 36 for four.

At stumps on a windswept, rain-shortened, madcap day, England closed on 258 for seven, with Bairstow making his highest Test score since his century in Colombo in November 2018, as well his team’s first hundred of these Ashes. Stokes, meanwhile, contributed his first fifty of the series.

England were still a long way behind Australia’s 416 for eight, but it was the kind of counter-punch called for in advance by stand-in coach Graham Thorpe. After so much one-way traffic for so long, it was a pleasure simply to watch some kind of contest.

Jonny Bairstow’s century saved England from humiliation on day three of the fourth Ashes Test

Joe Root’s England were 36-4 at lunch and staring at a big loss through Scott Boland’s bowling

The resistance was led at first by Stokes, wincing in pain after he attempted a forcing shot of any description after injuring his left side bowling bouncers on the second day.

He needed luck. When Stokes had nine, Pat Cummins dropped a low return catch off his own bowling. Then, on 16, came an astonishing piece of fortune. Playing no shot at Cameron Green, he was given out lbw – after what felt an age – by umpire Paul Reiffel.

Stokes reviewed, and replays showed that the ball had cannoned into the side of off stump without dislodging the bail. His pad, though, was nowhere the ball. To everyone’s amusement, the decision was overturned.

After that, he grew in confidence. Mitchell Starc disappeared for three fours in a row – a tuck off his pads, an on-drive and a pull, completed with a grimace. At the other end, Stokes and Bairstow had decided there was nothing to be gained by sitting on Nathan Lyon, and chose instead to have a bit of fun.

But Ben Stokes (right) and Bairstow (left) put on 99 runs in the second session to ease nerves

Stokes (second right) somehow avoided getting bowled by Cameron Green when the bails stayed on after the Australia bowler’s delivery hit off-stump

When Stokes launched him high over extra cover for six, his first seven overs had cost 42, and it felt against the run of play when Lyon turned one into Stokes’s pads, and England’s all-rounder all but walked for the lbw, out for 66.

After Bairstow was struck an agonising blow on his right thumb by Cummins, Jos Buttler came and went tamely, driving the same bowler to Usman Khawaja at short extra cover to depart for a duck.

But England’s fight resumed with the appearance of Mark Wood, a place or two too high at No 8, but determined to prove he was worth the promotion.

As he and Bairstow traded sixes, England thrashed 72 for the seventh wicket in 12 overs – and Australia, for one of the few times across these first four Tests – looked distinctly mortal. Thrillingly, Wood pulled Cummins for successive sixes, and it needed a sustained spell of short stuff from Australia’s captain to get rid of him – as an attempted swat was caught at gully via bat and helmet. Wood had made 39 off 41 balls.

England also benefited from a stunning cameo from Mark Wood, who hit 39 off 41 balls

Now with Jack Leach for company, Bairstow began the day’s final over on 99, and failed to score from each of Cummins’s first three deliveries. From the fourth, though, he connected with one through point, and could celebrate a long-overdue seventh Test hundred, and his second in the Ashes.

For a while earlier in the day it seemed as if England might never score another run, let alone win another Test in Australia. For 70 balls either side of lunch, they did not the advance their total from 36 as Australia’s seamers nailed their lines and lengths. More to the point, the drought included three wickets, all in the six overs before the break.

Having seen his opening partner Haseeb Hameed bowled through the gate as he drove with leaden feet at Starc, Zak Crawley now repeated the error, his off stump knocked back by Scott Boland to end a skittish innings of 18.

Boland then induced an angled-bat fiddle from Joe Root, which ended up in the safe hands of Steve Smith at second slip. After England made a world-record-equalling 54 Test ducks in 2021, you would have got good odds against their first of 2022 being registered by the captain.

Haseeb Hameed (above) and Zak Crawley were bowled out early on in Friday’s play in Sydney

England captain Joe Root fell for a duck when Steve Smith (left) caught him off Boland

Boland, meanwhile, had now taken eight wickets for seven runs since the start of England’s ill-fated second innings at Melbourne, his debut Test. At 32, he is making up for lost time, spectacularly so.

England’s slump was not over. Moments before lunch, Cameron Green persuaded Dawid Malan, on three, to turn one off his hip straight to Khawaja at leg slip. Since making 82 at Brisbane and 80 at Adelaide, Malan has now totalled 37 runs in his last four innings.

At that point, with England trailing by 380, there was doom-laden talk of the Test not reaching its fourth day. There was more competitive edge to be found in the stewards’ attempts to confiscate spectators’ inflatable beach balls.

But Stokes was not in the mood to give up without a fight, and Bairstow took up the baton. England may still go on to lose this game, but they clearly intend to land a few punches first.


By Lawrence Booth in Sydney 

Jonny Bairstow hit his first Test century in 38 innings since making 110 against Sri Lanka in Colombo in November 2018. He now has two more Ashes hundreds in Australia than Joe Root, having also made 119 at Perth four years ago.

Haseeb Hameed’s fifth successive single-figure dismissal left him with a series average of 10 – the lowest by an England opener in an Ashes to have batted at least seven times.

When Root carved Scott Boland to second slip, it was his fifth duck as a captain in Ashes Tests – equalling the record held by none other than Don Bradman. It was also Root’s seventh duck as captain overall, one behind Mike Atherton’s England record.

When Boland removed both Zak Crawley and Root without conceding a run, it took his record since the start of England’s second innings at the MCG to eight wickets for seven runs. He later left the field for a scan on his side after falling over delivering the last ball before tea, but was quickly pronounced fit to bowl.

By the end of the third day, Australia’s off-spinner Nathan Lyon had figures of 12-0-71-1. His economy-rate of 5.91 was his worst in a Test innings since February 2016, when 10 overs against New Zealand at Christchurch cost 61.

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