A late Australia fightback on day three damaged England’s hopes of getting a result in the fourth Ashes Test as England trail by 297 runs in their first innings.
Joe Root and Rory Burns put on a 141 run partnership earlier in the day and looked as though they would steer England to a safe position, but both were dismissed in quick succession, along with Jason Roy, leaving Australia in prime position to win the fourth Test at Old Trafford.
After a rain affected morning, England started the day after lunch, with Rory Burns and nightwatchman Craig Overton at the crease, the home side trailing by 474 runs going into day three, with one wicket down.
But Overton didn’t stick around for long. Josh Hazlewood took his first wicket of the match as Overton edged the ball to Steve Smith in the slips, the man who played such a crucial part in the match yesterday, taking the catch with England at 25-2.
England captain Joe Root was the next man in and along with Burns, the pair steadied the ship for England as they looked to match Australia’s huge first innings total.
Root didn’t look the most comfortable against the spin of Nathan Lyon, but managed to safely defend his wicket with a series of defensive, back foot blocks.
Both batsmen showed patience in their play and it was Burns who reached his half century first. The 29-year-old passed 50 runs after exactly 100 balls.
Despite being pegged back by Lyon, Root had a bit more luck against the bowling of Mitchell Starc, the 28-year-old found three runs to bring up 100 for England. A two over spell for Starc cost Australia a hefty 22 runs.
As the 100 partnership between the two came up, the pair had provided valuable runs for England and Australia looked to push for a wicket to break it just before tea. The visitors were able to take a second wicket of the day though, with 102 runs coming from the session and England trailing by 372 runs.
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The vocal crowd were enjoying what they were seeing in the evening session as England continued where they left off. in the 52nd over Root crept to his 50 off 117 balls.
Root had survived a couple of scary moments off the bowling of Lyon in the afternoon session, but the batsman would have breathed a sigh of relief in the 53rd over. Pat Cummins perfect ball was edged by Root in-between Tim Paine and David Warner. Both remained motionless as the ball wizzed past them - Australia couldn’t believe their luck.
As the Aussies searched for a breakthrough, Cummins believed he had the wicket of Root when the ball hit his back pad. The not out decision was reviewed and DRS confirmed that it was the correct decision.
The floodlights were put on as clouds drew in, a lack or play in the morning meant a long evening session, but the batsmen were doing well to keep their concentration despite a long time in the middle.
In the 64th over Matthew Wade had a half chance to catch Burns. The ball just carrying to the fielder who couldn’t quite get his full hands on the ball on the stretch.
But the batsman was gone soon after as the partnership was finally broken. Burns edged a Hazlewood delivery to the slips for the bowlers second wicket of the day and Smith’s second catch. England were 166-3 and trailing by 331 runs. Burns missing out on a century, dismissed for 81 runs.
Underperforming Jason Roy was next to the crease in his new position further down the order. But Roy got off the mark with a classy cover drive that raced away for four runs.
But the day’s hard work all started to fall apart for England at the end of the day though, Hazlewood capturing Joe Root LBW, the captain gone for 71 and England were now 175-4.
England were in need of a new long standing partnership to be created between Roy and Headingley hero Ben Stokes if they were to get anywhere near Australia’s total.
But Australia’s energy in the field had increased, leaving the pair in a difficult position. Roy was next to go and it was Hazlewood once again to take the wicket. The middle stump was removed from the ground as the 29-year-old was dismissed for just 22 runs, with the score at 196-5. The Australian bowler claimed figures of 4-48.
Bad light ended the day’s play prematurely with England on 200-5, much to the disappointment of the Aussies who were having their best spell of the game.
England go into day four trailing by 297 runs with two days left in the Test. The next two days have a much better forecast and should have full play. England need another 98 runs to avoid the follow on.
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