Rory Burns hit his third score of fifty or more this Ashes to lead England’s fightback with the bat in the fourth Test against Australia at Old Trafford on Friday. England were 125-2 at tea on the third day, still 372 runs behind Australia’s imposing first-innings 497-8 declared. Burns, however, was 62 not out, with England captain Joe Root 47 not out after the pair had put on exactly 100 runs for the third wicket.
Rain meant there was no play before lunch and, as a result, the second session was extended to two hours and 50 minutes. England resumed on 23-1, with left-handed opener Burns 15 not out and nightwatchman Craig Overton three not out.
Overton had added just two to his score when the ninth ball of the day saw him edge a full-length, rising delivery from Josh Hazlewood to second slip, where Steve Smith held a waist-high catch. Burns, who scored a century in the first Test, cover-drove Mitchell Starc for a resounding four.
And when left-arm fast bowler Starc, playing his first match of the series, sent down a friendly full toss, Burns steered it through point for another four.
There were more cheers from the crowd when Root clipped Pat Cummins for four. Burns, taking advantage of several loose deliveries from Starc on a relatively placid pitch, led the way as Root found his form. A back-foot drive for four off Starc and a steered boundary to third off the paceman saw Burns complete a 100-ball fifty including seven fours.
Meanwhile, an increasingly assured Root pulled a harmless Hazlewood half-tracker for four to go to 47 as the skipper fought hard to deny Australia a win that would see them retain the Ashes at 2-1 up with one to play in a five-Test series.
Smith’s 211 on Thursday, his third Test century in four innings, was the cornerstone of Australia’s total. The world’s top-ranked Test batsman, Smith missed England’s dramatic one-wicket win in the third Test at Headingley with concussion suffered when felled by a Jofra Archer bouncer during the drawn second match at Lord’s.
This is the former Australia captain’s first Test series since a 12-month ban for his role in a ball-tampering scandal in South Africa. The 30-year-old has so far scored 589 runs in the series at a colossal average of 147.25, having marked his return to the format with scores of 144 and 142 during Australia’s 251-run win at Edgbaston.