Ben Stokes defies injury with fighting half-century in Ashes Test
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Sydney - Wincing Ben Stokes produced a counter-punching half-century to help England recover from a collapse of early wickets against Australia in the fourth Ashes Test in Sydney on Friday.
The star all-rounder, in pain from a side strain picked up while bowling on Thursday, seized the initiative to post his highest score of the series after England were in dire straits at 36 for four.
Stokes and Jonny Bairstow batted through the middle session to take the game to Australia, but still trailed Australia's first innings 416 for eight declaration by 281 runs at tea.
At the interval Stokes was unbeaten on 52 with Bairstow not out 45 in England's 135 for four.
It was a gutsy effort from Stokes, who was unable to bowl when he returned to the field on Thursday after treatment.
Stokes had a massive slice of luck on 16 when he was given out, only to win a review when replays showed a Cameron Green delivery actually hit the off-stump but the bail somehow was not dislodged, much to his relief.
The pair's fightback came after Scott Boland continued his wicket-taking exploits for Australia with more scalps including England skipper Joe Root for a duck as England's batting collapsed again in the morning session.
Boland, who took a stunning 6-7 on his Test debut as man-of-the-match in the third Test in Melbourne, knocked over Zak Crawley's off-stump and then had Root caught in the slips for a seven-ball duck to have the tourists in yet more strife.
It got worse for England -- who have already lost the Ashes -- when Dawid Malan was caught by Usman Khawaja at leg slip for three off Green in a trap set up for the catch.
Boland claimed two wickets in his first 19 balls, highlighted by the dismissal of Root, who yet again dabbled outside off-stump and speared a high two-handed catch to Steve Smith at second slip.
Boland has now taken nine wickets in the series at just 8.88.
England are now playing only for their Ashes pride after going down by an innings and 14 runs inside three days in Melbourne to give Australia a 3-0 lead with two Tests to complete.
Mitchell Starc took his series tally to 15 wickets when he took out Haseeb Hameed's middle-stump for six with a beautiful delivery.
It continued a depressing run of outs by the England openers with stands of 0, 23, 7, 4, 4, 7 and 22.
Crawley, dropped on seven, was enjoying a charmed life after a massive reprieve before he had scored late on day two when he was caught by David Warner at slip, only for Starc to be no-balled for over-stepping.
But he finally fell for 18 in Boland's second over.