Jonny Bairstow restored some much-needed pride into the England ranks with a battling century on day three of the fourth Ashes Test in Sydney.
Bairstow was 103 not out at the close as England reached 258-7 in reply to Australia's 416-8 declared. England's chances of winning the match haven't changed much – they were 40/1 at the close of day two and still being quoted at that price after day three – but with rain in the forecast and some fight being shown, they can be confident of at least coming away from the SCG with a draw, which is a 1/3 chance.
Except, of course, that this is England. And all England watchers know that two days is more than long enough for disaster to occur, with all of those potential pitfalls available to view on the Sports Live Streaming hub.
For now, though, England are in the game and here are three things we learned from their best day of a wretched tour.
As an England batsman of long-standing, Jonny Bairstow has confronted his fair share of crisis situations striding out to the middle – and this hole was about as deep as they came.
When YJB strolled to the crease in front of a baying Sydney crowd, England, staring down the barrel at another monster Aussie first-innings score, were 36-4, hadn't scored a run in 53 balls and it was odds-on the wheels coming off spectacularly.
Had he failed, few would have batted an eyelid. After all, everyone else before him had.
The bottom line is – and it's doubtful Bairstow was thinking it at the time – but, having already been axed nine times during a nine-year Test career, he was essentially playing for his Test match future. How many lives does a man have?
And he took it. In typical, exuberant, counter-attacking style that is his method of choice, he bided his time and then pounced, bludgeoning a chanceless 103 off 140 balls with a trio of sixes and eight fours to score his team's first century of the series.
And it was a technique tweak – first suggested to him when he was left out against New Zealand three years ago – that paid dividends.
"I went back to some things with my technique which I used a couple of years ago," he said. "I worked on not being too rigid in the indoor school with James Foster [England coach] this morning."
Aged 32, Bairstow still potentially has several years of Test cricket left in him. And if he's wise enough to realise that changing things in the nets can bear fruit, then maybe some of his younger and more accident-prone team-mates should think about doing the same.
The folly of giving Bairstow the gloves again should never be repeated. It was a workload he struggled with and the same is now happening to Jos Buttler.
Buttler looks like a man not just crying out to be relieved of keeping duties, but in all honesty crying out to be omitted from the side.
On this tour Buttler has contributed just 96 runs at an average of 16. His best score is 39 and he has suffered two painful ducks, the most recent of which came yesterday.
Many of his exits are X-rated or tame, the classic example of a man desperately trying to resist his T20 urges in an arena where they are unwanted. And, whether it's because of his rotten run with the bat or that is merely a coincidence, his glovework has been poor also.
This obsession with all-rounders in the Test arena is obvious; the benefits can be huge. But if it's not working, ditch the scheme. Ben Foakes is an infinitely better glovesmith and arguably a better fit as a batsman in the England Test team. Fully fit, he has to be picked – and then backed.
English fans were delighted to see Nathan Lyon getting spanked to all corners of the SCG on day three – but don't bet against the off-spinner getting his own back on day five.
There is a reason why the Aussies are happy to bowl last at Sydney with David Warner revealing 'there are quite a lot of cracks' under the surface – and that was before the match had started.
England were tormented by spin during 2021 and Lyon, who already has 13 wickets to his name and has Buttler and Ben Stokes on toast, will revel on a surface notorious for turning more and more.
"We're still in a good position," crowed Aussie batter Steve Smith after day three. And remembering that it was only last week England were skittled for 68 batting last in Melbourne, it might take more than a few showers to spare Joe Root's men from going 4-0 down.