SYDNEY (Reuters) – Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow battled through the second session to steady England’s innings after a fiery third morning of the fourth Ashes test on Friday, taking the tourists to 135 for four at tea in reply to Australia’s 416-8 declared.
All-rounder Stokes enjoyed a major stroke of luck on 16 when a Cameroon Green delivery thumped into his leg stump but failed to shift the bail and he survived to help put on 99 for the fifth wicket.
Stokes reached his 25th half century just before the break and will resume on 52 not out, his highest score of the series, with Bairstow unbeaten on 45.
It was quite a recovery after a breathless morning session that was delayed for two hours by drizzle but burst into life in a fiery storm of pacebowling from the Australian attack.
England lost openers Haseeb Hameed and Zak Crawley, skipper Joe Root and Dawid Malan cheaply before lunch, the last three without a single run being added to their tally of 36.
Mitchell Starc removed Hameed for six to start the collapse but the most damage was done when Scott Boland picked up where he left off in the third test in Melbourne.
Boland took six for seven on debut as England were skittled for 68 in their second innings at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, giving Australia an innings and 14-run victory for an unassailable 3-0 lead in the five-match series.
Retained because of an injury to Josh Hazlewood, Boland struck with the final ball of his second over to remove the top of Crawley’s off stump and send the batsman back for 18.
The 32-year-old returned to remove Root when the England captain, who had yet to score, lashed out at a wider delivery and Steve Smith took the catch at second slip.
England were trying to be cautious but 53 balls without scoring only increased the pressure on them and Green brought up lunch when he had Dawid Malan caught off the glove in the slips by Usman Khawaja for three.
Boland finished the opening session with figures of 2-0 from four maiden overs and it was not until after lunch that he finally conceded his first run.
Stokes had already had one reprieve on nine when Pat Cummins just failed to hold a caught and bowled attempt but his next “life” was almost miraculous.
There was a loud noise when Green’s delivery hit the stump and the umpire gave Stokes out. With the bail unmoved, however, Stokes reviewed the verdict and the officials had no choice but to reverse it on the grounds there had been no lbw.
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Peter Rutherford)