Rankin, Root, Bairstow stake claims

England

Middle-order pair Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow and fast bowler Boyd Rankin separated themselves from an otherwise substandard performance by England on day three of an important tour match fixture against the Cricket Australia Invitational XI.

Middle-order pair Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow and fast bowler Boyd Rankin separated themselves from an otherwise substandard performance by England on day three of an important tour match fixture against the Cricket Australia Invitational XI at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

With less than a week away from the start of the first Ashes Test, the composition of the tourists' XI remains in the balance. Root, Bairstow and Rankin, however, have drawn closer to starting berths.

The right-handed Root scored a fine half-century in a final total of 418 all out on Friday, which has all but confirmed the in-form Michael Carberry's elevation to the helm of the Test order.

Wicketkeeper-batsman Bairstow, meanwhile, was sound behind the stumps – and will make an adequate replacement if vice-captain Matt Prior is sidelined by a calf injury in Brisbane.

Rankin, too, fought hard – and might be the lanky right-armer the visitors look to as a complement to new-ball bowlers Stuart Broad and James Anderson. The tall Chris Tremlett and Steven Finn, though, maintain outside chances.

The hosts' response reached 153 for four – and a lead of 39 – at the close of play. Openers Ed Cowan and Aaron Finch enjoyed an 81-run alliance before the latter's fall for 59. Rankin later dismissed the threatening Ben Rohrer amid telling figures of one for eight in eight overs.

Inclement weather interfered, and might do so again on the weekend, when England's fine-tuning will require its closing throes. That will, presumably, come in the form of an extended stretch in the field – rather than more time out in the middle for the batsmen.

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