England are in pole position for their first victory of the Australian tour with the Invitational XI holding a marginal lead of 39 with just six second innings wickets left after an impressive day three.
Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow continued their partnership in the morning session as Root passed 50 before his Yorkshire teammate was undone on 48, the stand in keeper was caught behind off the bowling of Chris Tremain.
Root’s innings was not a straightforward one though, after starting the days play on 26* he was held up by rain on his way to 75 and also needed treatment for his little finger on his right hand before being hit on the box in a painful innings.
The 22-year-old didn’t appear for the start of the Invitational XI’s second innings after England lost their last five wickets for 46 runs but it wasn’t long before he was back in the action and rejoined his teammates in the field at the SCG.
The hosts started positively, largely thanks to Australia’s t20 opener Aaron Finch who was England’s first victim for 59. After Steven Finn joined Stuart Broad in opening the bowling it was spinner Graeme Swann that had the opener caught by Michael Carberry with the score on 81.
Finn, Broad and Boyd Rankin joined Swann in taking one wicket apiece with Rankin particularly impressing after only conceding eight runs from his eight overs compared to Finn’s economy rate which was over five.
The Invitational XI closed on 153-4 in Sydney and will need to bat until around tea tomorrow to stop an England victory, weather dependant.
The four day game could work out as perfect preparation leading into the Ashes with England needing to bat again, it would give the top order another chance to get crucial time in the middle ahead of the opening Test Match at the Gabba in Brisbane, next Thursday.
With no outstanding performer from either of Finn or Rankin the last bowling spot is still up for grabs and if one of those can clean up the tail tomorrow then they could edge ahead of Chris Tremlett who is sitting out the final warm-up fixture.
The only other potential selection headache is over wicket keeper Matt Prior who is still suffering from a low grade tear to his groin. Bairstow did impress with a knock of 48 and has kept tidily behind the stumps. However, the importance of vice-captain Matt Prior is not to be underestimated and Alastair Cook will be hopeful he will have his right hand man fit for Brisbane.