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Bairstow and Stokes give England hope of incredible Headingley comeback
England were on the back foot after being bowled out for 67 in the first innings.
Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow gave England genuine hope of another Headingley special with a brilliant partnership which took them within 121 of victory on day four of the third Ashes Test.
Eyeing a winning mark of 359, which would represent an English record chase and the 10th highest of all time, England reached lunch with optimism rising at 238 for four.
The man who looked likeliest to lead any heroics, captain Joe Root, added just two to his overnight score of 75 before falling to a wonderful David Warner catch off Nathan Lyon’s bowling.
In his absence, Stokes (32 not out) and Bairstow (34no) embarked on a thrilling counter-attack in an unbroken stand worth 79.
At the Yorkshire venue which has played host to a handful of famous Ashes days, from Sir Ian Botham’s 500-1 miracle of 1981, to Mark Butcher’s unforgettable pursuit of 315 in 2001, another instalment appeared possible.
England had scored just 15 runs from the last 12 overs on the third evening, favouring occupation over accumulation, and began needing 203 to win.
James Pattinson and Josh Hazlewood stitched together four consecutive maidens on a relentless line, with the latter thudding Stokes on the grille of the helmet and sending his neck protector flying.
After 26 balls and 20 minutes Root scored the first of the day, dropping just wide of gully and scampering through to loud applause. Tim Paine called for Lyon’s spin and a pair of singles from his first two balls were warmly welcomed.
And then came his third, which Root skipped towards and attempted to whip through midwicket. In the context of his abstemious innings it was an unusually aggressive moment and it came at a crushing cost, an inside edge into the pad looping over the wicketkeeper’s shoulder only to be brilliantly caught as Warner read the flight from slip.
Australia had removed their biggest obstacle before the arrival of the new ball and with the target still 200 away. They unwrapped the fresh Dukes with relish but the scoreboard soon began to move, two leg byes, a rare wide and three runs from Bairstow in the first full over, then a wayward top-edge from Stokes landing safe for two.
Hazlewood’s next shipped 10, Bairstow hitting the ropes twice, and when play resumed Stokes leant back to carve Pat Cummins over gully for four more to reach double figures from his 83rd ball.
On it went. Another 13 were chalked off a wayward Pattinson over, including a set of five wides that disappeared through first slip’s legs and four leg byes, before Stokes swivelled into a short one from Cummins, middling over fine leg for the first six of the match.
After 10 overs of the new ball, England had piled on 62. There were four byes through Paine’s legs and a wonderful swept four from Bairstow, with the crowd roaring the batsmen to the pavilion at lunch.