England in strong position despite Joe Root dismissal
England lost captain Joe Root just before lunch but still boasted a 157-run lead as they reached 88 for two on day three of the final Ashes Test.
The urn might have gone but the chance to build a series-levelling advantage sits in front of England, for whom new father Joe Denly was leading the way at The Oval.
Denly, whose wife Stacy gave birth to their second child on Thursday night, showed no signs of sleeplessness as he made 37 not out, with Ben Stokes fresh to the crease.
Nathan Lyon was responsible for both of Australia’s breakthroughs, Rory Burns caught behind for 20 and Root nicking to slip late in the session for 21.
England resumed on nine without loss having scraped through a tense four-over session on the second evening, during which Denly was dropped on nought and Burns overturned an lbw decision.
Marcus Harris, the man responsible for putting down Denly, split the webbing in his left hand as was off the field after receiving seven stitches.
Denly was having a more comfortable time, tucking the first ball of the day for two then driving to the mid-off boundary. Burns was also positive, slashing Josh Hazlewood up and over gully in an another early boost.
After eight overs Tim Paine turned to spin, but Lyon was quickly put on the back foot by Denly. Having taken three balls to size him up, the opener skipped down the track twice in a row, hitting straight and true for four and six.
Lyon’s next visit brought four more down the ground and when Burns punched Peter Siddle straight it brought up the England 50.
That was the first half-century first-wicket stand of the summer but it was as good as it got, Lyon getting Australia on the board with a short, wide delivery.
It was a poor ball but a worse shot, Burns stretching for a cut but nicking into Paine’s gloves. That represented a soft end to a series that has seen the Surrey man post 390 runs and cement his place at the head of the innings.
Pat Cummins and Hazlewood did their best to find a second wicket, with a handful of edges landing safe, but just as England seemed to have weathered the worst Root erred.
The skipper will be frustrated with the manner of his dismissal, pushing at a gentle off-break and edging straight to Steve Smith.