England dominated the morning session on day three of the fifth and final Ashes Test match against Australia, making 157-4 to put the series’ hosts in the driving seat of the deciding clash with a lead of 329.
Having ended the previous day at The Oval on 58-3 in their second innings, the home side continued the good work with captain Andrew Strauss making 75 before being caught off the bowling of Marcus North, with debutante Jonathan Trott adding a 50 on his debut. With the stadium buzzing with expectation of the first Ashes win by England since 2005,Trott was lucky to survive an early scare. Facing the opening ball with only eight runs under his belt, Australian pace man Peter Siddle bowled millimeters past the Englishman’s outside edge before wicket keeper Brad Haddin took the catch and appealed. A packed house at The Oval held their breath, fearing the detoriating pitch, that had caused so many problems for Antipodean batsmen the day before, had claimed another victim. But umpire Asad Rauf’s keen eye and ear correctly judged that ball had not touched bat, allowing Trott further time to acclimatize to the middle. With the sun peaking through a scattering of clouds, the growing belief among the crowd that a dominant position from England could deliver the victory necessary to recapture The Ashes was palpable
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And confidence was found in the middle too as the left-handed Strauss, knocked one past the slips for two sealing the 17th fifty of his Test career from the bowling of Stuart Clark. Australia captain Ricky Ponting — who controversially decided not to select a specialist spinner for a ground that normally plays well with the slower ball –brought on Michael Clarke to try and shake things up. The first ball flew into the air from Stauss’s pad suggesting turn in the pitch, but two fours from the English batsmen delivered the hundredth run from the partnership and pushed England’s lead to 300. The Aussie skipper rotated five of his bowlers to try and find a breakthrough and halt England’s march to an evermore dominant position and it was the trickery of Marcus North that delivered. Strauss first kicked away a full delivery from North which, despite protestations from the Australian field, was not enough to convince umpire Rauf that he should get his marching orders. However, shortly after the skipper’s impressive innings was brought to an end as he poked the off-spinner’s delivery to the slip fielder.
Matthew Prior came to the crease after a standing ovation saw Strauss to the pavilion to give Ponting another problem to think about during the lunch break. The unlucky Australian captain was hit in the face off Prior’s shot while fielding at the aptly named silly point from the last ball of the over leaving a bruised lip to add to his tactical headache.