A maiden hundred in Australia and seventh in total this year beckons for Joe Root after the England captain found a mate in Dawid Malan to drag the tourists back from the brink at the Gabba.
The pair put on 159 in the final two sessions on day three of the first Test at the Gabba, steering England to 2-220 and only 58 shy of Australia’s 425.
The No.1 ranked Test batsman finished the day just 14 runs shy of a 24th Test century, Root’s knock taking him past Michael Vaughan as England’s highest run-scorer in a calendar year and into eighth spot overall with 1541 Test runs in 2021.
His union with Malan (80no) was a welcome retort after two nightmarish days in Brisbane to open the series that saw the hosts build a 278-run lead.
Nervous nineties ahead
No Ashes Test has been lost from that position, but a maiden Root century in his third tour of Australia on Saturday would produce some anxious moments in Pat Cummins’ captaincy debut.
Malan has no plans to relent, buoyed by his time in the middle with Root as he seeks just a second Test hundred – he’s scored seven 50s – in his 18th Test.
“Joe Root obviously speaks for himself, by what he’s done in his career,” he said.
“Batting with him is great; he takes the pressure off you, always looks to score, seems to find a way to put the pressure back on the bowlers and his method just works everywhere he plays.
“To carry on that form is fantastic and is great signs for our team that he’s leading from the front.”
Malan said the key would be to limit the damage Australia do with the second new ball and engineer at least one more 100-plus partnership.
“I’ve really missed this, someone trying to blow my head of the whole time, playing against the best bowlers going around,” he added.
“And especially to do it here at the Gabba in front of everyone, it’s good fun.”