England closed on 313/8 and a lead of 382, ahead of the final few days of the 2019 Ashes series.
Joe Denly’s brilliantly resilient innings – two days after his wife gave birth – put England in a commanding position on day three of the fifth Ashes Test at the Oval.
With Australia having retained the urn in the 4th Test, and the Ashes out of England’s grasp, Joe Root’s side put in their best day with the bat so far in the series. They began Saturday in south London with a small lead but acquitted themselves well to be in a strong position by the end of play to level the series at 2-2.
A late flurry of wickets brightened Australia’s efforts in the field, but they will require a huge second innings to save the Test.
Resuming with a 78-run lead, Denly fell just frustratingly short of a maiden Test century, but put on a brilliant 127-run partnership with Ben Stokes to take the game away from the tourists.
Earlier in the day Nathan Lyon removed both Rory Burns (20) and skipper Joe Root (21), but mistakes costs the visitors on what proved a long day for them in the sun. Denly should have been out on 54 with a close lbw shout that Australia failed to review. Stokes was also dropped by Steve Smith on seven, with the all-rounder going on to make a half-century, although Smith would go on to make some brilliant catches later in the day to atone for his mistake.
Having lost those early wickets, Denly and Stokes settled in and put on an impressive partnership to extend England’s lead, going the full afternoon session without losing a single wicket. Their resolve was eventually broken by a beautiful Lyon delivery that pitched on leg and then hit the top of off stump.
Minutes later Joe Denly knicked one to Steve Smith off Peter Siddle’s bowling. After a brilliant innings he was agonisingly close to a maiden Test century, he had batted brilliantly all day, but Siddle managed to get the ball to push away just enough after nipping it back the ball before.
With Denly and Stokes back in the clubhouse, Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler ramped up the run rate in aggressive fashion. At the same time the ball started darting about more than earlier, and Mitchell Marsh managed to get Bairstow to edge to Smith.
With the light fading Australia took the new ball and were immediately rewarded with the wicket of Sam Curran. Cummins sent one down the leg side that Curran couldn’t resist having a nibble at, only succeeding in nicking it to Tim Paine, who took a catch low down to his right.
With England still in relative control and Australia looking tired in the field, Root’s men just wanted to steer through the last few overs of the day and go again in the morning. However, two astounding catches in quick succession took some of the gloss off the performance, with a late Aussie rallying cry offering hope for the Australians.
Steve Smith took yet another catch when Marsh removed Chris Woakes for 6; the Aussie skipper diving high to his right and plucking the ball out of the air. That was immediately followed up with the wicket of Jos Buttler, with Marnus Labuschange running in from deep square leg to leap forward and takes Buttler’s top-edge millimetres from the ground.
Jack Leach came on to drive Pat Cummins for three through mid-on, playing it late with all the confidence and flourish of someone at number four with the entire crowd singing “stand up if you love Jack Leach” – the spinner still revelling in his cult hero status.
Leach, along with Jofra Archer, managed to see out the final overs of the day, leaving England eight down when play resumes on Sunday.
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