Rory Burns batted most of the final morning of England’s intra-squad warm-up match as he attempted to reassert his claims for a Test recall next week.
With Sam Curran still awaiting the results of his latest Covid-19 test, having been instructed to self-isolate following illness, attention returned to matters in the middle.
Surrey opener Burns made 21 on day one at the Ageas Bowl, his first innings in six months since rupturing ankle ligaments while playing football, and followed with 35 from 77 balls before his dismissal just before lunch on Friday.
The Surrey captain will hope to have enough credit in the bank to regain his spot for the #raisethebat series opener at the same ground next Wednesday, but saw his hopes of a big score perish when Moeen Ali bowled him attacking on the back foot.
There was worse news for Joe Denly, who is vulnerable to the growing competition for top-order places, as he was pinned lbw second ball by Jack Leach.
Jos Buttler’s team began their second innings at the Ageas Bowl with a 54-run lead over Ben Stokes’ side and reached 95 for three after the first session.
Burns opened alongside the uncapped James Bracey, whose first-innings 85 remains the top score of the match, and the pair added a relatively comfortable stand of 61.
James Anderson worked through six overs with the new ball without causing undue concern, while Lewis Gregory’s unexpected promotion as his partner proved a gentle experiment.
Bracey and Burns brought up the half-century in the 15th over, both contributing 22 before the Gloucestershire prospect top-edged a short ball from Stokes to fine-leg. The 23-year-old arrived in camp as one of the lesser known members of the 30-man party but exits this match with his reputation considerably enhanced.
Burns greeted the arrival of Leach’s spin by launching the spinner for six over midwicket, but the left-armer hit back by trapping Denly clean in front of the stumps for a single.
Whether he can hold off the relative claims of Zak Crawley and the uncapped Dan Lawrence in the next selection meeting remains to be seen, but the latter was kept in reserve as both Ollie Pope (16 not out) and Buttler (14no) took the chance to get some time in the middle.
Buttler arrived after Burns was dismissed by Moeen, losing his stumps as he attempted to slash through cover. Dom Bess’ return of two for 20 put him in pole position among the five spinners on show but both Moeen and Leach will hope for further chances to apply pressure.
The opener is hoping England’s top order can fire in the final two Tests against Pakistan.
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Stevens bagged five for 50 at Canterbury.
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Anderson admitted he struggled to find his groove as he laboured for match figures of one for 97 in last week’s victory over Pakistan.
The 38-year-old feels he is being written off ‘after one bad game’.
Somerset wrapped up victory in just two days.
He is preparing to travel to New Zealand.
Chris Woakes and Jos Buttler shared an important sixth-wicket partnership that set up a three-wicket victory at Old Trafford.
Butter’s 75 on day four helped England to victory over Pakistan in the first Test.