Only 64 overs of play was possible on the third day at Old Trafford across two sessions as first rain and later bad light played spoil sport. England once going comfortably at 166/2 eventually ended the day at 200/5, still 98 runs away from saving the follow-on.
The first session of the day was completely washed off. The extended post-lunch session saw the best opener in the series, Rory Burns adding 141 runs for the third wicket with England’s Captain Joe Root. The duo is now the most successful pair for England in this series having added 299 runs so far.
Although, neither Burns nor Root looked completely comfortable in the middle. Until tea, Root played a false shot to 25% of the deliveries and Burns did the same to 20%. The Australian bowlers toiled hard for most of the session but could not get either of them to edge one. The 100 partnership came right at the stroke of tea, a session in which England scored 102 runs and lost just one wicket – that of the night watchman Craig Overton who edged one to Steve Smith at slip off Josh Hazelwood in the second over of the day.
Post tea, Pat Cummins displayed one of the finest spell of fast bowling on pitch that offered very little assistance. Bowling to Root, he induced 52% false shots in his spell after tea. He was unlucky to not get his wicket when a genuine outside edge perfectly split keeper (Tim Paine) and first slip (David Warner), neither of whom attempted to catch it.
Hazlewood then fed off the pressure created by Cummins to first get Burns edge one to second slip (Smith), when he was batting at 81 and then nipped one back at Root that caught him in front of his wickets while batting at 71. Another chapter was hence added to the saga of Root not being able to convert his fifties to hundreds.
The other bowlers in the Australian line-up, Mitchel Starc and Nathan Lyon were found wanting as neither of them were able to exert the control like their right-arm pace counterparts. Starc offered a lot of boundary bowls to Burns who was particularly severe with the cover drive that helped him score 31 runs. To Root, both Starc and Lyon drifted on the pads frequently who helped himself to 16 runs through the fine-leg region. While there was plenty of turn on offer for Lyon, he was unable to ball six good balls in an over.
In at five, Jason Roy crunched three serene boundaries on the off-side. Looking in good rhythm, he reached out to an incoming ball from Hazlewood so far away from his body that it created sufficient gap to flatten his middle stump.
Ben Stokes (7*) and Jonny Bairstow (2*) were at the crease as bad light stopped play in the 74th over of the England innings.
Earlier in the day, the crowd was treated to a typical Joe Root innings that had him play the ball late and looked reassured while hanging on the back foot. While Burns played and missed a lot of balls around the off-stump channel, the Australian bowlers peppered him with shot pitch stuff before the tea break.
Post tea, a change in strategy helped Australia to get crucial wicket and maintain their control on this game. With six overs to go for the second new ball, the task is cutout for the English batsmen on Day-4.