Just 24 hours after he became a father for the second time, England opener Joe Denly struck a brilliant 94 on Day 3 of the fifth Ashes Test at The Oval. His gritty knock and a 127-run partnership with Ben Stokes have comfortably placed England with a 382-run lead.
England haven’t been playing their best cricket this summer. But in Denly, they saw glimpses of how they would’ve liked to bat on most days. Their opponents have been far more giving. Dropping catches, being horrible at DRS and so on. That’s probably one of the most crucial issues Justin Langer and co. would be hoping to resolve after returning home.
Deflated Australia pay for their mistakes
Mistake #1: In the final over of play on Day 2, Australia almost had Denly caught at gully off Josh Hazlewood’s bowling. Marcus Harris dropped a sitter, and the Aussies had already made an error they’d go on to regret the next day. On Day 3, Rory Burns (20) and Denly put up a 54-run opening stand, England’s first in this Ashes, before Nathan Lyon broke through with the wicket of Burns.
Mistake #2: Having gotten a breakthrough with Burns, Australia should’ve had a couple of more wickets in the bag. Lyon did manage to remove Joe Root (21) cheaply but once Stokes was in, England went to lunch without further damage. Denly brought up his third half-century of the series and was once again reprieved on 54 when Australia decided not to review an lbw off Mitchell Marsh.
Mistake #3: Stokes got lucky as well, having been dropped twice in two overs, both coming from Lyon who was starting to get decent turn on a sunny day. He was on 7 when Steve Smith dropped a flying edge at first slip. The second time he was dropped by the same fielder, Stokes had already racked up 67 runs. On the next delivery, Lyon finally had his man with a peach of an off-breaker that crashed into his defences.
England collapse but lead grows
The final session of Day 3 brought as many as six wickets for Australia, who were finally doing the trick with the old and the new ball. Stokes’ departure was followed by Denly, who fell just six runs short of a well-deserved maiden Test hundred. This time, Peter Siddle got into the act with an angled-in delivery that nipped away to draw an edge off Denly’s bat. The ball hit Tim Paine’s thigh and ricocheted to Smith at first slip.
Jos Buttler, fresh from his smashing 80 in the first innings, walked in to salvage the lower-middle order. His 47 included six fours and three decent partnerships with Jonny Bairstow, Sam Curran and Chris Woakes. But Australia were cautious not to let him settle with the tail and straightaway went for the attack with Siddle. Buttler deserved another fifty but it was Marnus Labuschagne who deserved a diving forward catch more. Cummins and Marsh removed the rest, leaving England hanging at 313/8.
Brief scores: England 294 & 313/8 (Joe Denly 94, Ben Stokes 67, Jos Buttler 47; Nathan Lyon 3-65, Mitchell Marsh 2-40, Peter Siddle 2-52) lead Australia 225 (Steve Smith 80, Marnus Labuschagne 48; Jofra Archer 6-62) by 382 runs.