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 after 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 battle out the day, giving them a chance at some additional 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 past six weeks. Because of their quick play in both innings, they’ve even gotten ahead of the showers predicted for day five.
Zak Crawley’s 73 brought him to 480 runs for the series, putting him 56 ahead of Usman Khawaja in the clubhouse. Joe Root went 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 negative – delivered a reminder of his batting skills with a brisk 75, ensuring that one of these teams went into the last innings of a match as standout favorites for the first time this series.
Such was the game’s tempo 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 just 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 adversity. The two combined for the final five wickets of day three, which went for only 47 runs.
In the big scheme, Australia’s first-innings advantage of 12 heading into the weekend was regarded insignificant.
The crucial concern was whether England had learned from their blunders at Edgbaston and Lord’s, where batting miscalculations bordered on over-indulgence squandered good positions, ultimately leading to two defeats that placed 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 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 proposed that position for him, especially considering Root’s love for No. 4. He demonstrated the required application in a stand of 61 with Crawley.
The partnership reached lunch on 130 for one after 25 overs and was eager to add more.
Crawley edged a brilliant delivery from Pat Cummins to Steven Smith at second slip only nine deliveries into the afternoon session.
No problem. Root dashed out to join Stokes, two closest friends who are England’s finest at assessing a situation, which, given the little lead, was one of controlled haste.
But first, a hefty dose of luck. Root was hit in front by Josh Hazlewood and declared not out because contact between bat and pad was near enough to suspect bat first.
Cummins reviewed, verifying the place as the initial point of contact. Unfortunately, the umpire’s decision on the line of impact meant Australia had to accept a not-out ruling that became bitter as Root moved through the gears.
Mitchell Marsh was unlucky to receive the reverse ramp for six, over-correcting the following ball to have a full toss tickled down the leg for four. Root had raced to 35 off 32 deliveries at one stage, only two behind Stokes’ 37 from 30 more.
Then, three consecutive fours from 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 following gave Root his second half-century of the series off 42 deliveries.
On the other hand, Stokes was the first of two wickets to fall in nine deliveries. To vent Root’s rage, he clothed Murphy to Cummins at wide mid-on.
Harry Brook closed out Murphy with a straight six but couldn’t resist feathering a wide-ish Hazlewood delivery to send him back to the dressing room.
The early effort softened the mini-collapse (England was still 210 ahead), and Root’s presence at the crease ensured it was always calm in the middle.
Bairstow’s entry is generally met with a frenzy, but none was here. The most fruitful partnership of the innings – 110 – was as typical as we’ve seen in the Baseball era.
There were no unnecessary risks, especially as Australia was probing, which meant the Yorkshire two only had to wait for the poor balls to arrive.
Bairstow pulled up a seven-boundary fifty from 60 deliveries, continuing a controlled dominance by his standards that saw him contribute 70 of the century stand he and Root brought up from 142 deliveries. Murphy found superb drift and bit off the surface to spin into Root’s stumps via an inside edge.
The displeasure of falling nine runs short of a 31st Test century was mitigated slightly by the absence of bounce from the ball, which Root will attempt to exploit as the single, functioning spinner.
Bairstow and new batsman Moeen were content to risk with a 320-run advantage.
Bairstow struggled to get going, finally falling to Starc while attempting to find a second boundary after Root’s departure, but Moeen added 29 runs of his own.
Some were excellent, like Hazlewood’s picture-perfect straight drive off Starc, while others were not, such when he missed a catchable opportunity at fine leg, which went away for four.
A fine-looking 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 battled through the innings, even reversing a lbw judgment off the last ball of the day.
Anderson was given a standing ovation, and his name was sung as he went out at 379 for 9.
None of those in the stands realized it was the man who was already out there who was going to end up for good. They’ll make it to Broad on day four.