Jonny Bairstow’s brilliant 99 off 81 balls and three wickets from Mark Wood helped propel England to victory as they took a 162-run lead after day three of the fourth Test at Emirates Old Trafford.
After Zak Crawley laid the foundation for the second day, Bairstow himself was the star of the third day as he edged closer to a decent century with ten fours and four sixes in the standout moments of a brilliant innings.
Together with Lancashire best Jimmy Anderson (5), he took England’s lead past 250, but ultimately fell just short of triple figures after his teammate Cameron Green (2-64) was lbw, leaving England on 592 and a healthy 275 lead.
The England number seven’s place in the team has been a hot topic of debate throughout this series and so it was a moment for him to enjoy as he found explosive form with the bat that has made him the face of ‘Buzzball’ in the summer of 2022.
With much of the weekend’s play in doubt due to heavy rain forecast, England looked to remove Australia’s top-order as efficiently as possible and Headingley hero Mark Wood (3-17) did exactly that, dismissing the dangerous Usman Khawaja (18), Steve Smith (17) and Travis Head (1), while his partner in crime Chris Woakes (1-18) dismissed David Warner (28) to put Australia 113-4 and England put it ahead of 162.
Bairstow returns to his best as Wood’s pace mounts pressure
England began the third day on 384-4 and Stokes (51) and Brook (61) made quick work of adding some more runs to an ever-increasing number, the half-century partnership coming from just 83 balls before Cummins (1-29) dismissed the star after Brock reached the boundary hooking a Hazlewood (5-126) delivery.
With Australia opting to take the new ball, wickets began to fall rapidly, Woakes (0) and Wood (6) unable to make an impact as Hazlewood cruised to his five-wicket haul as England entered lunch at 506–8 with a lead of 189 and added 122 runs.
Stokes said during the Pakistan series sky sports cricket Nasser Hussain ‘Why would we send Jimmy Anderson out to bat?’ Instead of declaring aggressively, but after Broad (7) fell to Hazlewood as the fifth wicket of the innings, the skipper did exactly that.
Opting against an Edgbaston-esque declaration, Stokes sat back as the England No 11 made his mark by hitting a four before playing an entertaining, albeit disappointing, secondary role in Bairstow’s quick innings.
Bairstow worked with lightning speed, hitting back-to-back sixes to give England a lead of 250, while Anderson stole a bye to frustrate Australia.
However, the innings eventually came to a brutal end as Anderson fell to Green and Bairstow fell just one run short of triple figures. The lead of 275 was considerable consolation, with six of England’s top seven scoring 50 runs or more for the first time since 1930.
With the threat of inclement weather continuing into the weekend, it looked as though England wanted to make a job of Australia’s 10-wicket haul and with the Emirates Old Trafford crowd in the grip of fever, England’s first breakthrough came off Wood’s second ball as Khawaja edged past Bairstow, leaving Australia 39–1 at tea.
Woakes was next to strike, with Warner cutting the stumps after a lofted delivery, before Wood came into action again to take his 100th Test wicket at a crucial moment, with Smith playing no shot for Bairstow to leave Australia 97–3.
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Wood couldn’t get the job done there and he took three wickets, with Travis Head sending the ball into the hands of Ben Duckett waiting in the gully with his 91 mph to leave Australia at 108-4.
With rain threatening to hamper the rest of the game, England would look to use every opportunity to scalp Australia’s remaining six wickets and keep alive their hopes of leveling the series 2–2 and forcing an Ashes decider.
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