England face a fight to the keep their Ashes campaign afloat after Josh Hazlewood squashed a brave resistance from Rory Burns and Joe Root on day three of the fourth Test.
Responding to Australia’s formidable 497 for eight declared, England closed on 200 for five, still 98 short of the follow-on target at Old Trafford.
Their hopes of saving the game and the urn were aided by conditions in Manchester, with morning rain and bad light in the evening allowing just 64 overs possible out of a planned 98, while for long periods Burns (81) and Root (71) appeared in control of matters.
In the end the pair shared a defiant stand of 141 in nearly 53 overs – England’s biggest partnership of the series – only for Hazlewood to intervene by taking three wickets in a brilliant late spell.
Root was in the wars, first taking several minutes out after being struck in a painful area by an 87mph delivery from Mitchell Starc. Such was the impact, Root’s box shattered and a replacement was required. He later needed treatment after a painful blow to the leg.
The way that game went, I think anything is possible. We are not that far behind in this fixture. Rory Burns
Burns believes England can draw on the spirit of their success in the third Test at Headingley to get right back into the game.
Root’s dismissal meant he has failed to convert any of his last eight half-centuries against Australia into hundreds. He did, however, share in England’s highest partnership of the series, putting on 141 for the third wicket with Burns. Root’s contribution was 69 from 164 balls and Burns 66 from 154.
Andrew Flintoff, hero of England’s 2005 Ashes win, has said he would like to return to the fray as coach. “I’d love to be England coach one day, just not quite yet,” the Top Gear presenter told BBC Test Match Special, ruling himself out of the race to succeed the soon-to-depart Trevor Bayliss. He claims he applied for the job in 2014 but was not taken seriously. “I chased it up, then I got a phone call saying they thought it was somebody taking the mick,” he said.
Remembering the costly fluffed run out at Headingley, the crowd teased Nathan Lyon throughout the day. It began after the ball was thrown to Lyon by a fielder in an attempt to run out Burns and he earned a cheer when he caught it. He acknowledged that by raising the ball to the crowd, but the joke was repeated numerous times when Lyon was thrown the ball thereafter. Team-mate Matthew Wade joined in the fun at one point, running from mid on to give him the ball rather than throwing it, and the crowd roared when Lyon later dropped one.
Australia captain Tim Paine said before the match he would put someone else in charge of his side’s reviews, such has been his poor use of DRS in the current series. Yet whoever made the decision to call in the third umpire to rule on an lbw appeal against Root on Friday, they were also wrong. Australia have now had 10 unsuccessful review attempts in the series.
As if bringing up his 26th Test century, and his third of the series, on Thursday was not enough, the irrepressible Steve Smith reached another ton early on Friday – of catches. Smith, fielding at second slip, safely pouched Craig Overton in the second over of the day for his 100th Test catch after the nightwatchman got an edge off Hazlewood. He later took catch number 101 to remove Burns.