Ashes 2023, 5th Test: Steve Smith helps Australia take first-innings lead of 12 runs over England

London, July 28 (IANS) Gritty half-century from premier batter Steve Smith, along with vital contributions from captain Pat Cummins and off-spinner Todd Murphy helped Australia take a lead of 12 runs against England after being bowled for 295 on day two of fifth Ashes Test at The Oval, here on Friday.

After being 185-7 at one stage, Australia were eventually bowled out for 295 in 103.1 overs on the last ball of a riveting day two’ play and managed to take a lead. Smith top-scored with 71 off 123 balls, and was supported by Usman Khawaja (47), Cummins (36) and Murphy (34).

Zak Crawley and Ben Duckett will walk out for the start of England’s second innings on day three’s play, with the real intrigue over who bats at number three following Moeen Ali’s groin injury which prevented him from bowling on day two.

Resuming day two from 62-1, Khawaja and Marnus Labuschagne resumed proceedings with caution, and were content in playing defensive shots or leaving deliveries. England’s pacers, though, made life extremely difficult for Khawaja and especially Labuschagne, with runs hard to come by.

The hard work finally paid off, as England finally had a breakthrough in the first session, courtesy of some brilliance from Joe Root in the slips. Labuschagne’s knock of nine off 82 deliveries came to an end against the bowling of Mark Wood, with Smith and Khawaja safely negotiating the remainder of a low-scoring session.

Post lunch, England began to find wickets in heap as Broad trapped Khawaja lbw on 47, with the opener also burning a review. A couple of overs later, Broad struck again, dismissing the dangerous Travis Head for four, with a cracker of a delivery on the fourth stump line that the batter edged to the keeper.

Taking out Head also made Broad the leading wicket-taker in the ongoing series. Australia’s slide continued when Mitchell Marsh chopped on a James Anderson delivery on 16, after looking in good touch at the crease.

The direction continued to shift as Root enticed Alex Carey into a drive, as Ben Stokes held on to his 100th Test catch at short cover to send the wicketkeeper-batter packing for 10, just after slog-sweeping him for a six on the previous delivery.

The wicket of Mitchell Starc taken by Mark Wood ensured that England had a dream second session to hold a tight grip on the match. But Smith went on the attack in the final session, with Cummins giving him able support. Smith escaped an extremely close run-out call and reached his half-century, continuing his staggering record at The Oval.

The vital 54-run stand finally came to an end when Smith tried a big shot against Chris Woakes, leading to a top-edge that was caught by Jonny Bairstow, and to be dismissed for 71. Murphy walked out and took the aggressive route by hitting Wood for three sixes.

He played an entertaining knock of 34, sharing a 49-run stand with skipper Cummins, before being trapped lbw by Woakes as the end of the day edged close. Cummins was 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.

Brief scores: England 283 trail Australia 295 in 103.1 overs (Steve Smith 71, Usman Khawaja 47; Chris Woakes 3-61, Joe Root 2-20) by 12 runs.



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