Jos Buttler and Craig Overton continued to frustrate Australia’s bid to polish off the final four wickets required to beat England in the fourth Test at Old Trafford and retain the Ashes.

Nathan Lyon ended the resistance of Joe Denly (53) and Mitchell Starc dismissed Jonny Bairstow on a tense Sunday afternoon in Manchester to leave England 166-6 at tea.

Buttler, on his 29th birthday, dug in for a gritty 30 from 96 balls and a battling Overton will resume after the break on 12, with England needing to bat out another 36 overs for a draw to keep the series alive with a new ball soon available.

The outstanding Pat Cummins (4-41) saw the back of Jason Roy (31) and Headingley hero Ben Stokes (one) before lunch after a frustrating start for the tourists on a good pitch.

Buttler and Overton – who successfully overturned a leg before decision – put on 28 and, more importantly, stayed together for 15.5 overs to give England some hope of pulling off another great escape a fortnight after an astonishing win in Leeds.

Roy got forward with conviction in the first hour and Denly – who switched places with his partner for this Test to open – also dug in after England resumed on 18-2.

A positive Roy hit Starc for four with a glorious cover drive, but was gone when Cummins removed his off stump with a brilliant delivery, which nipped back through the gate at the end of the 18th over of the day.

Stokes came out to a huge roar, but was soon heading back to the pavilion looking dejected after inside-edging a pumped-up Cummins behind, walking off without the finger being raised by umpire Marais Erasmus in a huge moment late in the morning session.

Denly had a second half-century in as many Tests when he punched Cummins down the ground to the boundary just after lunch, but fended Lyon to Marnus Labuschagne at short leg to become the spinner’s first victim of the match.

Bairstow (25) and Buttler looked comfortable as they played with a mixture of attack and defence, but Starc ended a sixth-wicket stand of 45 by snaring the former leg before with the first ball after a drinks break.

Overton was given a reprieve after being given out lbw for five, with the third umpire taking a long time to overturn the decision despite the fact Cummins’ delivery appeared to strike the paceman’s bat before hitting his pad outside the line of off stump.