LONDON (AP) – England increased its lead over Australia to 253 runs by tea Saturday on the third day of the fifth Ashes test in a match the hosts must win to level the series.
England is 265-4 after 49 overs in its second innings at the Oval with Joe Root 61 not out and Jonny Bairstow on 34 in a fifth-wicket partnership worth 43 so far. Both batters are scoring at around a run-a-ball.
Australia claimed three wickets in the afternoon for 135 runs off 24 overs after England resumed after lunch on 130-1. Ben Duckett (42) was the batter out in the morning.
Zak Crawley was only able to add two runs to his tally after lunch before he departed for 73. An attempted drive off Pat Cummins (1-64) produced an edge and Steve Smith took the catch in the slips. It ended a terrific Ashes series for Crawley, who finishes with 480 runs from nine innings.
Three consecutive boundaries saw Root race into the 40s and he brought up his fifty with a single off Todd Murphy before the Aussie spinner hit back with the wicket of Ben Stokes (42). England’s captain had played with the perfect mixture of aggression and patience in an unorthodox position at No. 3 because of Moeen Ali’s injury, but fell with a half-century in sight. Stokes tried to hit Murphy over mid-on but picked out opposite number Cummins to leave England on 213-3, a lead of 201.
England’s lead passed the 250-mark by tea despite Harry Brook being out for seven.
Brook’s dismissal, edging Josh Hazlewood behind to Alex Carey, brought Bairstow to the crease and he crunched 34 not out in quick time alongside Root, who had dropped anchor by this point.
Earlier, after Australia was all out for 295 from the last ball of the second day, Crawley and Duckett walked out Saturday to glorious sunshine in south London with a 12-run deficit to wipe out.
England took only six balls to claim the lead with Crawley beginning his final innings of the series in the same vein he started this Ashes at Edgbaston, crunching his first delivery through cover for four.
Mitchell Starc was on the receiving end this time and his opening two overs went for 22 runs, more than the 21 Australia had ground out during the first hour on Friday.
Australia made the breakthrough after nearly 90 minutes of play Saturday. It was Starc who struck in the first over of his second spell when Duckett’s drive got the faintest of edges and despite umpire Kumar Dharmasena saying not out, Cummins’ review showed a spike on UltraEdge and the England opener departed for 42.
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