Archer and Smith steal show again as England take advantage

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Jofra Archer claimed his second Test six-for and Steve Smith hit 80 as England secured a 69-run lead over Australia in the final Ashes Test at The Oval.

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England began the day on 271/8 and extended their innings by 23 runs, with Jack Leach again demonstrating his capable technique. Jos Buttler fell for 70, unable to build on his heroics from the previous evening, while Mitchell Marsh finished proceedings off, bowling Leach to claim his first Test five-for.

With the bat, it was a familiar story for Australia. Once again, the openers fell cheaply, Archer getting both to edge behind in an exemplary new-ball spell, and once again Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne rebuilt.

David Warner's struggles continued at The Oval

David Warner’s struggles continued at The Oval

The latter outscored his senior partner, but having made 48 he was pinned LBW by Archer to dash his hopes of a half-century. Matthew Wade and Marsh each hung around in useful stands, but both fell before reaching 20, the former struck in front by the impressive Sam Curran, and the latter picking out fine leg off Archer with a pull shot.

From 160/4, Australia soon found themselves 166/7 as Curran struck twice in two balls, nicking off Tim Paine before swinging one devastatingly back into Pat Cummins, who reviewed to no avail.

Sam Curran claimed three crucial wickets

Sam Curran claimed three crucial wickets

Watching all the while was Smith, who proceeded in his usual fashion past 50, taking his run of consecutive half-centuries against England to 10. No one else has as many against a single opponent. He enjoyed one moment of good fortune, when Joe Root dropped him off Curran at first slip, but otherwise he was untroubled, and it seemed a fourth century of the series beckoned.

Instead, Chris Woakes achieved the seemingly impossible, beating Smith’s leg-side flick and dismissing the Australian talisman for 80 – his lowest score of the series. Nathan Lyon swung his bat merrily to lift Australia past 200, and when he was dropped off Archer, Leach spilling what would have been the seamer’s fifth wicket at fine leg, it appeared England were rattled.

Smith starred again before Woakes removed him unexpectedly

Smith starred again before Woakes removed him unexpectedly

Archer, however, wasn’t and resolved to simply do it himself, a knuckleball yorker rattling the base of the stumps. He did have Rory Burns’ splendid catch to thank for his sixth, the opener diving and plucking at gully before running off to prepare to face the new ball.

He and Joe Denly, who had since the end of the first day become a father for the second time, just about made it to the close, though there were some moments of alarm. Denly edged to Harris in the cordon, who shelled the chance, while off the last ball of the day, Burns was given LBW, only for a review to show it pitched outside leg.

There is the prospect of plenty more fierce bowling to come tomorrow, but with England leading by 78 runs, they will know if they can battle through it, they could carve a match-defining lead.

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