Century partnership boost for England before late wickets fall
Rory Burns and Joe Root fought back in great style to give England a much needed boost on the third day of this Fourth Specsavers Ashes Test Match at Emirates Old Trafford.
The pair compiled a century partnership during the afternoon with the morning session lost to rain as England replied strongly to Australia’s 497-8 declared.
But Josh Hazlewood hit back with three late wickets to undermine the good work from the home side who finished the day on 200-5 and trail by 297 runs with five wickets remaining and 98 runs required to avoid the follow-on.
When play resumed at 1.30pm with England on 23-1, it was Hazlewood who wasted no time in disposing of nightwatchman Craig Overton for 5 via an edge to Smith at second slip.
Root joined forces with Burns to resist the four-man Australia attack with a gritty and resolute partnership that slowly and surely helped keep England’s Ashes hopes alive.
The pair worked hard in compiling a fifty partnership that took 118 balls with Hazlewood and Pat Cummins in particular bowling a good line and length.
Burns went to his half century with a lovely steer to the vacant third man boundary, his 7th four from his 100th ball faced, to reach his third fifty of the series.
And the run rate picked up as Mitchell Starc leaked 22 runs in two overs after sending down some loose deliveries during the latter part of the session as an increasingly confident Burns and Root upped the tempo.
Root then played one of the shots of the day when rocking back and pulling Hazelwood to the square leg boundary.
Burns drove Lyon through cover for four to bring up the hundred partnership off 204 balls as England reached tea on 125-2.
Root went to his fifty off 117 balls straight after tea but then survived a huge let-off on 54 when wicketkeeper Paine and David Warner at first slip remained static as an edge flew between them off the luckless Cummins. The bowler looked very unimpressed when Root picked up a further boundary with an authentic steer to the third man fence a couple of deliveries later.
Root also survived two nasty blows to the body off Cummins, the first hitting and-as TV pictures showed later-splitting his protector before the England captain was felled by a blow to his right leg, Australia reviewing unsuccessfully for lbw.
It was a tremendous ten over spell from Cummins, costing just 22 runs, who probably deserved better reward.
Instead it was his replacement Hazlewood who struck decisively with three wickets in a hostile six over spell, initially ending a 141-run partnership with a good straight ball that Burns pushed at but edged to Smith at second slip to depart for 80 after nearly five hours at the crease, leaving England on 166-3.
Nine runs later Hazlewood struck again trapping Root lbw for 71 before knocking back Jason Roy’s middle stump as the batsman missed an attempted drive having made an unconvincing 22.
Ben Stokes was 7 not out and Johnny Bairstow 2 not out when bad light ended play early at 6.50pm.
The persevering Nathan Lyon bowled pretty well throughout the day, getting some good turn and grip out of the surface but without reward, and he will no doubt be a big factor when play resumes tomorrow.
With two days still to play England are going to have to bat very well to keep the series alive for the Oval.
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