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  • Jason Regan

The Empire Strikes Back at the SCG

Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes pushed through the pain barrier as England fought back at the SCG, reaching 7-258 at stumps on day three of the fourth Test.

The force was with Jonny Bairstow during his innings on Jane McGrath Day at the SCG.

Bairstow's unbeaten 103 and Stokes' 66, both scored under obvious duress, lifted the tourists to their highest first-innings total of this Ashes series. It came too late to help reclaim the urn after lopsided losses in Brisbane, Adelaide and Melbourne handed Australia a 3-0 lead in the five-Test series.


And it is unlikely to help snatch a shock victory in the rain-marred clash in Sydney, where the hosts hold a 158-run lead. But it was enough to shepherd England beyond the follow-on mark, which appeared a long shot after they lost 3-0 while crashing to 4-36 at lunch.


And Bairstow's euphoric celebration of England's first century of the series, registered when he slashed a wide ball from Pat Cummins in the day's final over, underlined that at least he is up for a fight.


Bairstow's counter-punch came after he copped a graphic blow to the thumb, which bent back after being struck by a delivery from Cummins.  Bairstow immediately called for assistance but batted on.


Stokes, undone by Nathan Lyon after he and Bairstow attacked the offspinner, was clearly bothered by the side injury he suffered while bowling on day two.


The talismanic allrounder, who shared a 128-run stand with Bairstow, scored the single that broke a staggering 70-ball stretch that featured three wickets and zero runs. Stokes' first half-century of the series wasn't without considerable good fortune.


The vice-captain was on nine when he offered a return catch to Cummins that was put down, while he enjoyed an even more stunning slice of luck on 16 after shouldering arms to Cameron Green.


Green's delivery clipped off stump, only for the bails to somehow remain in place.


Stokes was given out lbw by umpire Paul Reiffel amid the chaos but successfully reviewed the verdict, laughing as the replay revealed the remarkable series of events.


Stokes was also hit by on the gloves, as were Zak Crawley and Dawid Malan on a pitch that prompted several balls to spit up.


Scott Boland suffered an injury scare at the end of the post-lunch session when he landed on his side while bowling, but returned to the field and was cleared to bowl.



Boland removed Joe Root for a duck, thanks to a sharp catch from Steve Smith at second slip, and bowled Crawley to extend a remarkable start to his Test career.


Openers Haseeb Hameed and Crawley resumed at 12.10pm AEDT because of rain then extended their partnership into the 10th over, making it England's longest opening stand of the summer.


Wicketkeeper Alex Carey put down a chance offered by Hameed on two, but the reprieve cost just four runs.


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