England look to Stokes again as Hazlewood leaves hosts facing uphill battle
England will ask Ben Stokes to lead another Ashes fightback in the fourth Test against Australia, with Rory Burns claiming “anything is possible” after events at Headingley.
The fourth day at Old Trafford will get under way with the hosts 200 for five, a formidable first-innings deficit of 297 and one that leaves them 98 short of the follow-on target.
It had all looked so different when Burns and Joe Root were showing their steel in a stand that spanned the majority of the third day’s play, the pair putting on 141 in nearly 53 overs – England’s highest partnership of the series.
But Josh Hazlewood dismissed both men in a game-changing spell in the final hour, Burns edging to slip for 81 and Root plumb lbw for 71.
By the time he tore out Jason Roy’s middle stump with a brilliant seaming delivery the paceman had taken three for 15 in 27 deliveries and left the home side facing formidable odds.
They have been there before, though, as recently as the previous match in Leeds where Stokes’ all-time great knock of 135 not out steered his side to a record-breaking chase.
He will begin this morning on seven not out alongside Jonny Bairstow, with Burns believing nothing is off the table yet.
“The way that game went, I think anything is possible. Definitely,” said the opener.
“We are not that far behind in this fixture. It is about putting pressure back on them and playing well on day four. We have obviously got some work to do, but it is pretty clear what we need to do.
“We have got some batters left in the hutch. There is a follow-on to get past, there is a score to get as close as we can to. I think we are only a couple of partnerships away from that.
“We’re about 100 runs behind it (the follow-on) – that is a couple of good partnerships and then we are up close to them, and we’re asking them to make a play.
“We have got to look at from a positive aspect and see where we can get to.”
Hazlewood will be in buoyant mood after his contribution, the early scalp of nightwatchman Craig Overton helping him to figures of four for 48, and sees Australia well placed to challenge Stokes.
“He’s scored a lot of runs this series and is a dangerous player,” he admitted.
“But the way Gaz (Nathan Lyon) started to him out there was pretty good. With the new ball around the corner as well that’s in our favour and hopefully we can use it well. We’ve got an important session coming up.”
While Burns and Root both showed they could scrap when required, chewing through a combined 353 deliveries, Roy’s latest cheap dismissal did little to build his credentials.
Moved from opener to the middle-order to help him flourish, a breezy 22 before being bowled through the gate was not the order of the day.
“I think he is all right. He hasn’t changed too much in terms of how he is off the park but obviously he would have liked to score more today,” said Burns.