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Wood strikes for England in fourth Ashes Test after Bairstow runs riot

Fast bowler Mark Wood ripped through Australia’s top order following Jonny Bairstow’s thrilling 99 not out as England strengthened their grip on a must-win fourth Ashes Test at Old Trafford on Friday.

Australia were 113-4 in their second innings at stumps on the third day, still 162 runs behind England’s huge first-innings 592.

Wood had superb figures of 3-17 from seven overs, a haul that included the 100th Test wicket of an injury-blighted career.

England, at 2-1 down with two to play, must win in Manchester if they are to stand a chance of regaining the Ashes.

Forecast rain over the weekend could scupper their hopes, but Bairstow told the BBC: “We’ve put ourselves into a position taking four wickets tonight that hopefully, well, we’ve done everything that we could’ve done in the game.

“The weather is the weather. What comes will come and we can control what we have done so far in the game which is score at a rate that puts us in a position that hopefully forces a result,” the 33-year-old Yorkshireman added.

Wicketkeeper Bairstow followed his blistering 81 ball-assault, which included 10 fours and four sixes, by holding a routine edge off Wood as Australia lost Usman Khawaja early in their innings.

David Warner, Australia’s other left-handed opener, survived against nemesis Stuart Broad before uncertainly chopping on to Chris Woakes for 28.

Wood’s 100th Test wicket arrived when Australia star batsman Steve Smith was caught down the legside by Bairstow for just 17.

Durham express quick Wood, 33, again showed the value of sheer speed when Travis Head, on one, was undone by a rising delivery that took the shoulder of the bat before looping to Ben Duckett in the gully.

Marnus Labuschagne was 44 not out at stumps, with Mitchell Marsh unbeaten on one off 27 balls.

Bairstow blitz

England had already enjoyed a remarkable run-spree, with opener Zak Crawley top-scoring with 189, when Bairstow came in at 437-5 on Friday.

Bairstow, one of the stand-out batsmen during England’s ‘Bazball’ era of aggressive run-scoring, was only on 49 not out when joined by last man James Anderson.

He pulled a six off Mitchell Starc to complete his fifty in style.

Bairstow also hoisted Australia captain Pat Cummins for two  soaring sixes off successive balls, even though by then all the fielders — with the exception of wicketkeeper Alex Carey — were on the boundary, a sure sign of how England had rattled their arch-rivals.

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

Having turned down the chance to get the two he needed for his hundred by only running a single, Bairstow finished one shy of what would have been a dazzling century after the Anderson was lbw to Cameron Green, in what could be the 40-year-old England great’s last Test on his Lancashire home ground.

“Jimmy and I put on 66 for the last wicket,” said Bairstow. “We took the runs we could and it (being left 99 not out) is just one of those things.”

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

Hazlewood defended the way Australia bowled at Bairstow and Anderson.

“Bairstow had some incredible shots there at the end. So credit to him,” he said.

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

Both batsmen went on to make fifties as Australia twice missed chances to run out Stokes.

Cummins  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.