By Stephen Giles
- Day two of the fifth and final Ashes Test at The Oval
- Australia 481: Smith 143, Finn 3-90
- England close on 107-8, trailing by 374 runs
LONDON, UK – England face an uphill battle to avoid defeat after an inept batting performance saw them lose seven wickets for 77 runs after tea on a bizarre day of Ashes cricket.
In reply to Australia’s 481 all-out, England limped to 107-8, with a catalogue of errors throughout on a fabulous batting surface with Mitchell Marsh and Peter Siddle both taking advantage with identical figures of 3-18.
Earlier, Steve Smith hit 143 and Mitchell Starc hit a dazzling 58 as Australia piled on the runs in the afternoon session.
It had begun calmly with both Smith and Adam Voges carrying where they left off. They added a patient 45 runs in the first hour. England badly needed to break the 146-run partnership to liven up proceedings – and Ben Stokes answered the call.
The all-rounder delivered a superb in-swinger that trapped Voges on the pads in front of off-stump. The Aussie, no doubt expecting another short ball, was trapped in his crease and reviewed the decision nonetheless – but to no avail. He departed for 76 and England had their breakthrough.
Steve Finn, provocatively close to his 100th Test Wicket, finally got the break that evaded him in the morning session when he generated enough bounce to out-fox Mitchell Marsh (3) into edging through to Ian Bell at head height in the slips.
Then came Smith’s 11th Test ton – showing his class in helpful batting conditions – but he was losing partners. Peter Nevill (18) became Moeen Ali’s first scalp of the innings when he edged down the leg-side, only for Joss Buttler to anticipate the edge and take a superb catch.
Ali struck again two balls later, clean bowling Mitchell Johnson (0) after poor defensive play from the batsman. Suddenly England had taken four wickets and Australia were 376 for seven.
LUNCH: AUSTRALIA 376-7
Australia sought to hit back after lunch and pile on some quick-fire runs and not let their good start go to waste. Smith, but in particular Mitchell Starc took the game to the hosts with the latter bludgeoning 58 runs off 52 balls before Stokes trapped him lbw – albeit after a review.
Smith was the next to go, chopping loosely off Finn on to his stumps to depart for 143. With the end in sight, Finn wound up the Australian innings with his third wicket of the match with Adam Lyth catching at gully to dispose of a thick outside edge from Peter Siddle (1).
Australia were all-out for 481 – adding a valuable 105 for the loss of three wickets.
In reply, Alastair Cook (22) was bowled by a turning Nathan Lyon ball and Lyth, desperately seeking runs to continue his career as a Test match opener, carefully added two boundaries before the tea break.
TEA: ENGLAND 30-1
It all soon unravelled in all too predictable fashion for Lyth and for England when the former toe-ended a loosener from Siddle before he bowled Ian Bell for ten with a beauty that seamed off the pitch and dismantled his bails.
Joe Root (6) nicked behind off Mitchell Marsh before the other Mitchell – this time Johnson had Jonny Bairstow pulling, but only picked out Lyon fielding at deep – to depart for 13.
The ineptness continued, Jos Buttler (1) was bowled after somehow missing a straight ball from around the wicket from Lyon and Stokes (15) skied Marsh into wicket-keeper Nevill’s gloves.
Stuart Broad (0) failed to trouble the scoreboard as he too nicked Marsh, with Voges taking a simple catch. With figures of 3-8 from his 5 overs, even Michael Clarke raised a smile.
Sarcastic cheers erupted as England nudged passed 100, but with eight wickets down and with the weather forecast in the London region on Sunday and Monday looking likely that there will be rain in the air, the Australians will be confident they can finish off the series well before then.
For England, to say that there is room for improvement would be a understatement of generous proportions.
Day three of The Investec Ashes 5th Test match continues at 11am – Follow via the Britwatch Live Score Service.