Bairstow, Stokes fight back at SCG

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Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes pushed through the pain barrier to land England's first counter-punch of the summer, prompting Justin Langer to praise their courage.

Bairstow's unbeaten 103 and Stokes' 66, both scored under obvious duress, lifted the tourists to 7-258 at stumps on day three of the fourth Ashes Test.

It is already England's highest first-innings total on this trip.

It came too late to help reclaim the urn after lopsided losses in Brisbane, Adelaide and Melbourne handed Australia a 3-0 lead in the five-Test series.

And it is unlikely to help snatch a shock victory in the rain-marred clash in Sydney, where the hosts hold a 158-run lead.

But it was enough to shepherd England beyond the follow-on mark, which appeared a long shot after they lost 3-0 while crashing to 4-36 at lunch.

Bairstow's first Test century in three years came after he copped a graphic blow to the thumb, which bent back after being struck by a delivery from Cummins.

Stokes, undone by Nathan Lyon after he and Bairstow attacked the offspinner, was clearly bothered by the side injury he suffered while bowling on day two.

Langer, renowned for his stoicism throughout a 105-Test career, praised Bairstow and Stokes' "really courageous effort".

"A brilliant Test hundred. He got a pretty rough knock on his thumb," Australia's coach said.

"Great fightback.

"Everyone in world cricket respects if Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow start playing aggressively they're going to put you on the back foot."

Langer added the challenge would be great for Pat Cummins' captaincy development.

"It can't always be rainbows and butterflies," he said.

"He's a cool head, we spoke after the game.

"He hasn't put a foot wrong and I don't think he has today either."

Bairstow's euphoric celebration of England's first century of the series, registered when he slashed a wide ball from Cummins in the day's final over, underlined that at least he is up for a fight.

"It was tough out there," he said.

"It takes quite a bit to get me off the park.

"It was sore.

"Medics can give you advice but ultimately you're out there playing in an Ashes Test."

Stokes, who shared a 128-run stand with Bairstow, scored the single that broke a staggering 70-ball stretch that featured three wickets and zero runs then upped his aggression.

Stokes' first half-century of the series wasn't without considerable good fortune, having been dropped on nine by Cummins.

The vice-captain enjoyed an even more stunning slice of luck on 16 after shouldering arms to Cameron Green.

Green's delivery clipped off stump, only for the bails to somehow remain in place.

Stokes was given out lbw by umpire Paul Reiffel amid the chaos, but successfully reviewed the verdict, laughing as the replay revealed the remarkable series of events.

Stokes was also hit on the gloves, as were Zak Crawley and Dawid Malan on a pitch that prompted several balls to spit up.

Scott Boland removed Joe Root for a duck, thanks to a sharp catch from Steve Smith at second slip, and bowled Crawley to extend a remarkable start to his Test career.

Boland is expected to bowl on Saturday after an injury scare.

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