Australia need just four more wickets to seal a consolation victory against England in the fifth and final Test, after another dominant display at the Oval.
Day two on Friday saw England’s worst day of cricket in the series, as they closed on 107-8, still trailing Australia by 374 in their first innings. Mark Wood and Moeen Ali put up a bit of a fight with a 57-run stand, but Mitchell Johnson dismissed them in successive deliveries, bowling out England for a miserly 149.
Michael Clarke, as expected, enforced the follow-on, and they carried on from where they left off, thanks to a brilliant spell of bowling from Peter Siddle, who saw off Adam Lyth for 10. Lyth walks away from the series with a high score of 37. Only the selectors know why they persisted with him for as long as they did.
Ian Bell could muster only 13 and the world’s No 1 batsman, Joe Root, didn’t trouble the scorers too much either, mistiming a pull shot off Johnson to depart for 11. Alastair Cook was stubborn at the crease however and knuckled down with Jonny Bairstow with one of their most productive partnerships of the day, with the pair adding 41.
Bairstow’s streaky innings came to an end on 26 however, thanks to Nathan Lyon, and four balls later the off-spinner had another, forcing the edge from Ben Stokes, who walked for a duck, and Australia smelt victory.
With the day approaching its end, Clarke decided to give part-time leg-spinner Steve Smith a go, and it proved an inspired choice as Cook’s resistance came to an end on 85. Jos Buttler and Mark Wood saw out the remainder of the day, to go into day four on 203-6, facing the real possibility of an innings defeat.
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