England in control as Australia crumble in fifth Ashes Test
England took control on the third day of the fifth Ashes Test on Saturday, building a likely 382 lead to win a match while looking to square the series against Australia. With two full days of play to come and the weather in London is fair, the home team England, at 313-8 in their second inning, seems confident to reach a 2-2 level, except for a miraculous counterattack from Australia.
Nathan Lyon slowed England’s progress in the morning session, taking the grounds of Rory Burns and Captain Joe Root, but those were the first bright spots for tourists in a field that offered little help.
Starter Joe Denly and Ben Stokes, who played as a specialist hitter, set up 127 for the third wicket partnership when a grueling attack from Australia ran out of strength in the September sun.
Lyon, who isn’t having fun, knocked Stokes down after tea for 67 with a beautiful delivery that spun past the left-hander’s defensive strike while sailor Peter Siddle had caught Denly on the slip for a Test-94 94 shortly after.
But the fit-at Jos Buttler, who scored best for England with 70 in the first innings, started fluently when he and Jonny Bairstow took the lead after 300.
Steve Smith caught Bairstow on the slips of all-rounder bowling Mitchell Marsh by 14 to give Australia a ray of hope.
But they missed a great opportunity when, in the next, they could not review a decision not to go out against Buttler after an appeal for lbw, with replays showing that Lyon’s ball would have touched the wickets.
It was the second time Australia had proved too cautious. Denly should have left lbw earlier in 54, but Australian captain Tim Paine chose not to check.
Stokes, thrown by Smith in seven, began his innings slowly but accelerating, reaching his fifty-89 balls.
The batter is the second behind Smith in the combined career scoring charts in the series, though more than 300 runs adrift from the Australian’s total of 751.
Denly seemed increasingly confident as their entrances progressed, finding the limit regularly as the spirits of tourists bent, but did not reach their first century of trial.
The wickets fell at regular intervals in the final session, with Smith pulling a phenomenal diving catch in the second slip to remove Chris Woakes from Marsh’s bowling alley.
And the next ball, Buttler departed for 47, beating Siddle in the direction of Labuschagne, who ran from behind the square to take a good catch just above the ground.
Jofra Archer and Jack Leach were the best hitters at the end of the game.
The winners of the World Cup, England, aim to restore pride in the series’ Final Test even though Australia has already retained the Ash urn.
Root has plenty of time to play but will be wary of testifying too soon, as India last year made 345 fourth-hit in the Oval chasing 464.
Tourists came to the game hungry to conclude their first series win in England since 2001 after winning the fourth Test last week to take a 2-1 lead, but they seem to fall short.
Previously, Burns and Denly wore 54 for the first wicket, the highest opening position in the series for both sides.
Australian batter Marcus Harris did not take to the field on Saturday after dropping Denly on Friday night. It took points but is expected to bat.