Rory Burns’s unbeaten maiden Test century saw him defy Australia for more than six-and-a-half hours as he led a determined England batting effort in the Ashes opener at Edgbaston on Friday.
England were 267-4 at stumps on the second day of the first Test, just 17 runs behind Australia’s first-innings 284.
Ashes debutant Burns was 125 not out, with the Surrey left-handed opener, whose innings started on Thursday, receiving a huge ovation from a crowd chanting his name as he walked off.
England vice-captain Ben Stokes was 38 not out, having helped Burns add an unbroken 73.
It was all a far cry from England’s first innings 85 in their Test win over Ireland at Lord’s last week with Burns, twice out for six in that match, telling Sky Sports: “It was quite an enjoyable experience.
“It felt a little bit different to the Ireland Test. That stand rocking, this place going… it was quite something. I’ve got my own song as well. I didn’t think I was going to have one!”
Meanwhile, Australia assistant coach Brad Haddin admitted: “It was a tough day. I thought England deserve credit for the way they played.”
Australia’s total had been built on a superb 144 from Steve Smith in the former captain’s first Test since a 12-month ban for his role in a ball-tampering scandal in South Africa.
England resumed on 10-0 with Burns four not out and Surrey team-mate Jason Roy on six.
Roy made a blistering 85 in eventual champions England’s World Cup semi-final win over Australia at Edgbaston last month.
But he never looked comfortable on Friday and, on 10, he edged fast bowler James Pattinson low to Smith at second slip, with England then 22-1.
England captain Joe Root had returned to number three in a bid to lead from the front.
Fortune favours England
But he was almost bowled leaving off-spinner Nathan Lyon’s sharply turning first ball.
The star batsman had an even luckier break on nine when given out caught behind off Pattinson only for his review to reveal the ball had hit the off stump without dislodging a bail.
Meanwhile Burns was content to pick off anything loose, including an over-pitched ball from Pat Cummins he on-drove for four.
Root had another moment of good fortune when given out lbw to recalled paceman Peter Siddle on 14.
But in a match already full of overturned decisions, his immediate review revealed an inside edge.
Root cashed in as he too, like Burns, completed a 110-ball fifty.
But frustratingly for Root, whose conversion rate of fifties to hundreds is relatively poor — 42 to 16 — he fell soon afterwards when he chipped a Siddle slower ball back to the bowler, who took a fine one-handed catch to end a second-wicket partnership of 132.
Australia’s pacemen allowed the ungainly Burns, who tilts his head towards the right before every ball in a bid to compensate for a dominant left eye, to settle by repeatedly bowling around the wicket and so feeding him runs on the legside.
By the time they went over the wicket to him, Burns was well set.
Nevertheless Burns, whose previous highest score in eight Tests was the 84 he made against the West Indies at Bridgetown in January, still spent 36 balls in the ‘nervous 90s’.
But a quick single off Lyon eventually saw Burns, the man whom England hope will fill a position at opener that has become even more of a problem for them since their all-time leading run-scorer Alastair Cook’s international retirement last year, to three figures in 224 balls including 14 fours.
Lyon, one of England’s chief tormentors during their 4-0 Ashes series loss in Australia in 2017/18, ended thew day with a wicketless return of none for 79 in 28 overs.
Earlier, Burns could only watch as Joe Denly and Jos Buttler fell cheaply after tea to leave England 194-4 but all-rounder Stokes helped revive the innings and kept the runs coming even when Australia took the new ball.
Australia hold the Ashes but they have not won a Test series away to England in 18 years.