England leads Australia by 377 runs with 283 and 389 for 9 (Root 91, Bairstow 78, Crawley 73, Starc 4-94, Murphy 3-110).
Saturday was never going to be quiet at The Oval. After Australia attempted and failed to calm the crowd on day two of the fifth Ashes Test here, England turned the noise back up to 11 on day three with a sensory explosion of a second innings to take control of the series.
But it will be remembered for what transpired at the conclusion of the day. Stuart Broad revealed at stumps that this would be his 167th and last Test after England had reached 389 for 9, leading Australia by 377. Before seeking to end his career on a high note, he will resume his innings with fellow veteran pitcher James Anderson. They were able to tough out the day, giving them a chance at some bonus runs on Sunday before resuming their bowling shoes in search of a 2-2 series scoreline.
Unsurprisingly, a squad motivated by entertainment utilized their final Test innings of the summer to put on a “best of” show. Contributions were made throughout the lineup, with the largest coming from the top headline-grabbers of the last six weeks. Because of their quick play in both innings, they’ve even gotten ahead of the showers predicted for day five.
Crawley’s 73 runs moved him to 480 for the season.
Zak Crawley’s 73 brought him to 480 runs for the series, putting him 56 runs ahead of Usman Khawaja in the clubhouse. Joe Root fell short of his second century of the series with an entertaining 91 for the second time in ten days. And Jonny Bairstow, who has had more words devoted to his wicketkeeping, most of them unflattering, delivered a reminder of his batting skills with a brisk 75, ensuring that one of these sides went into the last innings of a match as standout favorites for the first time this series.
Such was the tempo of the game, and owing to a raucous south London crowd, Australia’s onslaught felt secondary to the action. They bowled their overs slowly, as has been the case throughout the series, managing only 80 in a day, but beyond that, runs and wickets came as and when England desired. Mitchell Starc’s 4 for 94 and Todd Murphy’s 3 for 110 demonstrated their tenacity in the face of adversity. The two combined for the final five wickets of day three, which went for only 47 runs.
In the grand scheme of things, Australia’s first-innings lead of 12 heading into the weekend was regarded as insignificant. The crucial concern was whether England had learned from their blunders at Edgbaston and Lord’s, where batting miscalculations bordered on overindulgence and squandered good positions, ultimately leading to two defeats that put the Ashes out of reach.
England took the lead after the first over. Crawley repeated his performance from the start of the series, hitting the opening ball for four through the covers, as 13 runs were scored off the first six deliveries—nearly as much as Khawaja and Marnus Labuschagne scored in the first hour of play on day two.
Crawley and Ben Duckett both raced out of the blocks, putting up fifty in 8.4 overs before Duckett was caught behind on review at the end of the 17th over. The 79 they managed brought their series total to 359 at a rate of 4.72, just 0.01 behind Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer’s scoring pace during the 2002–03 Ashes.
Ben Stokes batted at No. 3 for the first time since November 2018, with Moeen Ali unable to bat higher than five due to time spent off the field after suffering a groin strain while batting on day one. Others have long suggested that position for him, especially given Root’s love for No. 4. And he demonstrated the required application in a stand of 61 with Crawley.
The partnership reached lunch on 130 for 1 after 25 overs and was eager to add plenty more. Crawley edged a brilliant delivery from Pat Cummins to Steven Smith at second slip, just nine deliveries into the afternoon session.
No problem. Root dashed out to join Stokes, England’s two closest friends, who are the best at assessing a situation, which, given the little lead, was one of controlled haste. But first, a large dose of luck Root was hit in front by Josh Hazlewood and declared not out, apparently because contact between bat and pad was close enough to suspect bat first. Cummins chose to conduct a review, which verified Pad as the initial point of contact. Unfortunately, the umpire’s decision on line of impact meant Australia had to accept a not-out call that became bitter as Root moved through the gears.
Mitchell Marsh was unlucky to receive the reverse ramp for six, overcorrecting the next ball to see a full toss tickled down the leg for four. At one point, Root had raced to 35 from 32 deliveries, just two behind Stokes’ 37 from 30 more. Then, three consecutive fours off Starc—driven, fortuitously under-edged up and over Alex Carey, and more intentionally steered over the wicketkeeper’s head—propelled him ahead of Stokes. Meanwhile, England’s lead had risen to 200 points.
A single off the first ball of the next over gave Root his second half-century of the series, off 42 deliveries. Stokes, on the other hand, was the first of two wickets to fall in the space of nine deliveries. In an attempt to vent Root’s rage, he clothed Murphy and Cummins at wide mid-on. Harry Brook went in and closed out Murphy with a straight six, but he couldn’t resist feathering a wide-ish Hazlewood delivery to send him back to the dressing room.
The early work softened the mini-collapse (England still led by 210 runs), and Root’s presence at the crease ensured there was always calm in the middle. Bairstow’s entry is generally accompanied by some type of manic passage, but there was none here. The inning’s most prolific partnership—110—was as typical as we’ve seen in the Bazball era. There were no unnecessary risks, especially because Australia was doing the probing, which meant the Yorkshire two only had to wait for the poor balls to come.
Bairstow hit a seven-boundary fifty from 60 deliveries, continuing his controlled dominance that saw him contribute 70 of the century stands he and Root hit from 142 deliveries. Murphy found some superb drift and bit off the surface to spin into Root’s stumps via an inside edge, and the stand lasted only one over.
The disappointment of falling nine runs short of a 31st Test century was mitigated by the lack of bounce from the delivery, which Root will attempt to exploit as the single, functioning spinner. With a 320-run advantage, Bairstow and new batsman Moeen were eager to go for broke.
Bairstow struggled to get going, finally falling to Starc while attempting to hit a second boundary after Root was dismissed, but Moeen added 29 runs of his own. Some were elegant, like Hazlewood’s picture-perfect straight drive off Starc, while others were not, such as when he missed a catchable chance at fine leg, which got away for four.
A magnificent ramp from Starc allowed Hazlewood to make amends with a catch on the rope traveling to his right at fly slip before England were down to their last pair of Broad and Anderson, who saw things through to stumps. Despite being hit on the arm, Anderson persevered to take the inning into day four, even overturning a LBW ruling off the penultimate ball of the day.
The applause when Anderson stepped off at 379 for 9 was close to a farewell, as he was met on the field with a standing ovation and his name being sung. Nobody in the stands realized it was the man who was already out there and was about to finish up for good. Whatever, they’ll make it to Broad on day four.
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