England’s Harry Brook missed out on a maiden Test century against Australia as the visitors held the upper hand on the opening day of the fifth and final Ashes Test at The Oval on Thursday.
Brook, who had already hit three half-centuries in the series, top-scored with an aggressive 85 as England were dismissed for 283 inside 55 overs.
Australia, who lead 2-1 and will claim a first serieswin in England since 2001 if they avoid defeat, were 61/1, trailing by 222, at the close with opener David Warnerthe man to fall.
Having won the toss and asked England to bat in murky conditions, Australia will be content with their day’s work and will hope Usman Khawaja (26 not out) can lay the foundations for a first-innings lead on Friday. Australia made diligent progress with Warner and Khawaja rock solid before Chris Woakes struck in the 17th over with Warner fending a delivery to a diving Crawley at second slip.
Brook had earlier led a counterattack after England had slipped to 73/3, but he fell in the afternoon session asthe hosts lost four wickets for 28 runs.
Australia skipper Pat Cummins finally won a toss and not surprisingly put England into bat. Also unsurprising was the way in which England’s openers, Ben Duckett in particular, went about their business, scoring at almost a run-a-ball in the opening hour.
Cummins almost removed Duckett with his first ball of the day but Warner spilt a routine catch at first slip. Duckett was out for a 41 off 41 balls, gloving a leg-side Marsh delivery behind to Alex Carey. Zak Crawley (22) went in the next over with Smith taking a record 55th Ashes catch.
When Joe Root chopped on to Hazlewood having made only five, England were reeling and Brook was lucky when Carey dropped him off Cummins when he had made five.
Brook made the most of his reprieve with some rasping strokes, making 48 off 41 balls before lunch. Brook and Moeen Ali, who was struggling with a groin injury, continued the assault after the interval with one Cummins over going for 19.
Off-spinner Todd Murphy’s second ball was dispatched to the boundary by Moeen but then England’s wheels came off as they slumped from 183/3 to 212/7. Chris Woakes was dropped twice as he made a useful 36 while Mark Wood chipped in with a handy 28. Starc was the pick of the Australian bowlers with 4/82.