Fifth Test hangs in the balance after riveting day 2 at The Oval
Resuming day two on 62/1 Australia had a massive chance to pile the pressure on England by posting a big total. Considering this, Usman Khawaja and Marnus Labuschagne resumed proceedings with caution, happy to play defensive shots or leave deliveries.
It was slow going in the opening session, with the two sides engaged in a deadlock. The English pacers though made life extremely difficult for Khawaja and especially Labuschagne, with runs hard to come by.
The hard work paid off, as England finally had a breakthrough in the session, courtesy of some brilliance from Joe Root in the slips. Labuschagne’s knock of 9 off 82 deliveries came to an end against the bowling of Mark Wood, with Steve Smith and Khawaja safely negotiating the remainder of a low-scoring session.
The second session saw action picking up, with England making perfect use of the helpful bowling conditions. England would dismiss five Australian batters, starting with Stuart Broad trapping Khawaja on 47.
A couple of overs later, Broad would strike again, dismissing the dangerous Travis Head for 4, with a cracker of a delivery on the fourth stump line that the batter edged to the keeper.
The English momentum would continue when Mitchell Marsh chopped on a James Anderson delivery on 16, after looking in good touch at the crease.
The direction would continue to shift as Root suckered Alex Carey into a drive, as Ben Stokes held on to his 100th Test catch to send the wicketkeeper-batter packing for 10.
The wicket of Mitchell Starc by Wood ensured that England had a dream session, with Steve Smith and Pat Cummins having a massive rebuild job ahead for Australia.
They did exactly that, with Smith going on the attack in the final session and Cummins giving him able support. Smith would survive an extremely close run-out call and would reach his half-century, continuing his staggering record at The Oval.
The partnership would get Australia close to England’s total and the vital 54-run stand would finally come to an end when Smith tried a big shot against Chris Woakes, leading to a top-edge that would be caught by Jonny Bairstow. Nonetheless, it was a brilliant effort by Smith who played a crucial knock of 71.
Todd Murphy then walked out and took the aggressive route against short-pitched bowling, hitting Wood for three sixes. He played an entertaining knock of 34, creating a 49-run stand with skipper Cummins, before being trapped lbw by Woakes as the end of the day edged close.
Cummins would be the final wicket to fall, perishing on 36 after a brilliant catch from Stokes on the boundary, as Australia took a lead of 12 at the end of day two.