The Ashes: Jonny Bairstow fights through the pain barrier to reach century on day three

Bairstow arrived at the crease with England at 36 for four, but battled on even after a 90mph blow to his thumb to record his first Test century in over three years.

England suffered an all-too-familiar top-order collapse on day three of the fourth Ashes Test before the experienced duo of Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow led a brave fightback to stave off the follow on.

Replying to Australia's 416 for eight declared, England slumped to 36 for four in the face of some fine bowling and unpredictable bounce. But, with Stokes bludgeoning his way to 66 and Bairstow bringing up his century in the final over of the day, they were able to close on 258 for seven, still 158 adrift but having finally shown some steel worthy of the old rivalry.

England resumed on 13 without loss and added just nine more before Haseeb Hameed was the first to go. It marked another disappointment for the opener whose international career looks set to go back into hibernation.

Having been dropped off his third ball of the day, a loose nick off Mitchell Starc that wicketkeeper Alex Carey fumbled, he was cleaned up for six after playing a reckless drive at the same bowler.

It leaves Hameed's average hovering at just over 10 for the series and it would be a surprise to see him make the finale in Hobart.

Zak Crawley managed 18 before suffering the same fate, losing his off stump after swinging down the ground at Scott Boland.

The morning's play was heavily interrupted by rain, but it didn't stop Australia from quickly dispatching England's top four.

The tourists suffered a miserable scoreless streak either side of lunch, during which they lost a further two wickets - Boland had Joe Root flaying to slip for a duck, while Dawid Malan flicked Cameron Green to the catcher at leg-slip.

Floundering on 36 for four, England needed someone to steady the ship and that's exactly what Ben Stokes did - albeit after a fortunate escape.

With 16 to his name, Stokes opted to leave Cameron Green's 83mph delivery, only for it to healthily connect with his off stump. But to Australia's amazement - and Stokes' amusement - the bail stubbornly refused to budge.

Following his slice of luck, Stokes bludgeoned his way to 66, ending with eight fours and three sixes.

Stokes' stubborn knock was ended when he was trapped lbw by Nathan Lyon, which left Bairstow on 61 to continue the counter attack.

The very next ball, though, Bairstow's innings looked to be over after he had his thumb jammed back viciously by a Pat Cummins bouncer.

After lengthy treatment, it looked as though the Yorkshireman was heading for an enforced retirement, but he refused to give up his spot and went on to seal England's first century of the series.

The 32-year-old averaged 21.32 in the 19 games since he last reached three figures, against Sri Lanka in November 2018, but answered longstanding questions over his red-ball future with a gutsy counter-attack that will live long in the memory.

Twice he swept Lyon into the stands, then swatted Green for more of the same. It looked at one point as though Bairstow was running out of time to reach his hundred, but he timed his charge to perfection, with Jack Leach on hand to share the moment.

Whether or not it is enough to save England from going 4-0 down in the series remains to be seen, but it will surely spare Bairstow the heavy criticism that looks headed for the squad after a disastrous tour.

 

READ MORE: The Ashes: Usman Khawaja's century on day two puts Australia in control in Sydney