Bairstow strengthens England’s grip on fourth Ashes Test

England's Jonny Bairstow raises his bat to the crowd as he leaves the field unbeaten on 99 on day three of the fourth Ashes Test between England and Australia at Old Trafford cricket ground in Manchester, England on 21 July 2023AFP

Jonny Bairstow’s quickfire 99 not out rounded off a staggering England run-spree against Australia on Friday in a must-win fourth Ashes Test for the hosts.

England were eventually bowled out for 592 -- the first time they had made more than 500 runs in a home Ashes innings since their 1985 series win over Australia -- on the third day at Old Trafford.

That left them 275 runs ahead of Australia’s first innings 317.

Bairstow was only on 49 not out when joined by England last man James Anderson, yet he still came within a single of what would have been his 13th Test century.

And wicketkeeper Bairstow was involved again when holding a routine edge to dismiss Usman Khawaja off fast bowler Mark Wood, with Australia 39-1 in their second innings at tea -- a deficit of 236 runs.

Bairstow had previously responded to Anderson’s arrival in the middle by completing his fifty with a pulled six off Mitchell Starc.

England's Jonny Bairstow hits a boundary

He also hoisted Australia captain Pat Cummins for two more soaring sixes in one over, even though by that stage all of the fielders, with the exception of wicketkeeper Alex Carey, were back on the boundary.

And there were more cheers from the crowd when the last-wicket pair ran a bye to Carey, who had controversially stumped Bairstow when standing back during the second Test at Lord’s when the England batsman thought the ball was dead.

It looked as if Bairstow might break the record for England’s fastest Test century -- Gilbert Jessop’s 76-ball effort against Australia at The Oval back in 1902.

He just failed to overhaul that mark and then, having turned down the chance to get the two he needed for his hundred by only running a single, Bairstow was left stranded on an unbeaten 99 after Anderson was lbw to Cameron Green.

The 33-year-old Bairstow faced 81 balls, hitting 10 fours and four sixes.

All of Australia’s three frontline bowlers, conceded more than 100 runs each, with Josh Hazlewood taking 5-126 in his 27 overs.

England’s innings, which featured opener Zak Crawley’s superb 189, saw six of their top seven make at least fifty -- the first time they had achieved that feat since 1930 against the West Indies in Jamaica.

England, 2-1 down with only one match left in the series after the fourth Test, must win in Manchester to maintain their hopes of regaining the Ashes.

England's Jonny Bairstow hits a six

They resumed on 384-4, 67 runs ahead, with Harry Brook 14 not out and England captain Ben Stokes unbeaten 24 not out.

Both batsmen went on to make fifties although, in a sign of Australia’s increasing fallibility, the Test world champions twice missed chances to run out Stokes.

Cummins eventually bowled Stokes for 61 but the 30-year-old fast bowler’s figures of 1-129 were the most expensive of his 54-Test career.