Having been convinced a few months ago that his test career was over, Dawid Malan found a moment on Friday to stop and sniff the roses as he and captain Joe Root dragged England back from the brink on a see-sawing day three of the first Ashes test.

With England in peril early in their second innings, the pair shared in an unbeaten 159-run stand at the Gabba that was a beacon of hope for English fans after two days of being thrashed by the hosts.

Three years in the test wilderness, Malan was drafted in to bolster England's faltering top order during the home series against India and managed to hold on to his spot for the Ashes.

On a baking hot day at the Gabba on Friday, with a belligerent pace attack launching thunderbolts, Malan felt truly grateful for his fate.

"I thought I'd never play another test again," said the 34-year-old left-hander, who was 80 not out at stumps.

"I actually said to Rooty when we were on 40 or 50, on similar scores, I said to him -- the Barmy Army were singing and what-have-you -- I said to him, 'I've really missed this'.

"I've missed ... someone trying to blow my head off all the time and then the crowd going and your adrenaline going and then playing against the best bowlers going around. You know, test cricket is the pinnacle.

"So to be able to stand out here wearing an England shirt, you know, so proud to do that.

With Root, who was 86 not out, Malan helped push England to 220 for two, already 73 runs better than the team's paltry first innings 147.

Still trailing by 58 runs after Australia put 425 on the board in the morning, Malan and Root have work ahead to help England set a target their bowlers can defend.

Malan will hope to push on to a second century, four years after his glorious 140 in Perth during the 2017/18 Ashes, a rare highlight of England's 4-0 series defeat.

Root, dismissed for a duck in the day one horror show, will look to notch his 24th ton after breaking new ground for England on Friday with the most runs in a calendar year.

Reaching 1,541 runs for 2021 at stumps, Root eclipsed former captain Michael Vaughan's mark of 1,481 set in 2002.

"Joe Root obviously speaks for himself with what he's done in his career," said Malan.

"Batting with him is great. He takes the pressure off you.

"It's great signs for us as a team that Joe's playing well out here and leading from the front."