|Ground:||Kennington Oval, Kennington|
|Scorecard:||England v Australia|
|Player:||JC Buttler, NM Lyon, AN Cook|
|Event:||Australia in England and Ireland 2015|
Australia on the verge of victory in fifth Test
London Australia should wrap up the final Test possibly around lunch time today with an innings victory on the fourth day. With Australia having been in a commanding position it would have taken batting of extraordinary grit for England to save the Test. But there had been no lack of application from the captain Alastair Cook who battled in the most determined frame of mind for over five-and-a-half-hours for 85 from 234 balls after England were made to follow-on.
By stumps, with two days remaining, England were 203 for six, trailing by 129 runs, with Australia totally in control of the eventual outcome. With England trailing by a massive 332 runs on the first innings, Australia captain Michael Clarke enforced the follow-on for the first time in his captaincy career.
He had not done that previously even at first-class level. Perhaps it was the forecast of rain the next day that influenced his decision and England were at the crease for the second time just over an hour before lunch. If Clarke had intentions of grabbing a wicket or two cheaply before the break, he succeeded to an extent.
Adam Lyth lasted for 50 minutes for his 10 runs when Peter Siddle had him edge to second slip for Clarke to take a low catch. It was an excellent ball which moved away late from the left hander and the first wicket had gone on 19 after twelve overs. Lyths poor run in the series with scores of 6, 37, 0, 7, 10, 12, 14 and 19 will be of concern to England who will need to continue their search for a partner for Alastair Cook. Lyth has been in good form for his county Yorkshire but at the highest level of cricket he has been struggling.
Ian Bell, who got back into form with two half centuries in the third Test, fell for 13 with Clarke picking up his second catch at second slip. It was a rising ball from Mitchell March which flew off the shoulder of the bat from not particularly short of a length. England then progressed from 62 for two to 99 before losing Joe Root for 11. He had played a lovely square cut for four off Johnson before top edging the next ball, a bouncer, into the hands of long leg just inside the boundary.
Meanwhile Cook had been picking up runs steadily but in one over off Marsh he aggressively took three boundaries with a square cut, an uppish cover drive and another firm drive to cover off the back foot. By Roots dismissal he had grittily brought up his 44th Test half century and the 11th against Australia, from 119 balls.
Jonny Bairstow helped Cook in a stand of 41 in 14 overs but with Nathan Lyon returning for another spell, Bairstow departed with the off spinner finding an inside edge for a catch at short leg. Lyon struck again four balls later and this time had Ben Stokes edge his drive to Clarke at slip without scoring. Both wickets, the fifth and sixth, had fallen on 140.
Along with Jos Buttler, Cook put on 59 as they both offered solid resistance over 25 overs until Clarke took the unusual step of bringing on the occasional bowler Steve Smith and his leg spin finally ended Cooks heroic stand. The England captains forward prod was edged low to short leg where Adam Voges clung on. That virtually would have ended any fight that remained in the England innings. Buttler was still there at the close on 33 in a little under two hours.
Earlier, resuming their first innings on 107 for eight on the third morning, England added as many as 42 runs before the innings was wound up after 38 minutes. Moeen Ali and Mark Wood, who were both on 8 overnight, played their shots freely, scoring at the rate of five-an-over but avoiding the follow-on target was a tall order as to do so they needed 175 further runs at the start of the day.
Australia got the breakthrough with Mitchell Johnson coming on to bowl and with his third ball he had Woods wicket. It was a bouncer which the batsman decided to hook but hit it high for a catch at wide mid-wicket. Remarkably, his 24 runs had all come from boundaries. With the next ball Johnson ended Alis resistance over an hour-and-a-half when he edged his push behind the stumps. With his 30 runs he had top scored in Englands brief innings.
(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
Copyright © 2015 Andy Jalil)