We look ahead to day three of the fifth Ashes Test at the Oval, with three best bets.
Final Test still in the balance
Australia hold a slender lead following the first innings but it’s still all to play for, as the teams head into day three of the fifth Test at the Oval.
The tourists started the second day’s play on 61-1 and struggled to add early runs, with Usman Khawaja and Marnus Labuschagne getting bogged down.
England only managed to claim one scalp before the lunch break but it was a big one, when Labuschagne was caught brilliantly at first slip by Joe Root.
It was the hosts that then dominated the afternoon session, with Australia falling from 115-2 to 185-7 – including two quick wickets for the evergreen Stuart Broad.
Steve Smith top scored for Australia with 71 before falling to Chris Woakes – one of three scalps for the Warwickshire seamer.
The visitors’ tail wagged, with captain Pat Cummins making 36 while Todd Murphy smashed 34 off just 39 balls, as the Aussies took a 12-run, first-innings lead.
England will look to make a quick start on Saturday, with Zak Crawley and Ben Duckett likely to try and take the game to the Australian bowlers.
It is worth noting that Duckett has been caught behind by Alex Carey on five of his eight dismissals in the series.
Crawley in confident mood
England would love for opener Crawley to deliver another century, similar to his ton in the fourth Test at Old Trafford.
The 25-year-old has looked more and more confident as the series has progressed and has made 30+ runs in four of his last six innings.
If Crawley can get through the first 30 minutes on Saturday, then he could steer the hosts to a strong position as they look to level the series at 2-2.
The Kent batter can be backed at 6/5 to score over 26.5 runs against an Australian pace attack that looks to be tiring as the series draws towards the end.
Moeen absence leaves England light
A groin injury for Moeen Ali, suffered whilst batting in the first innings, meant he couldn’t bowl and it looks unlikely that he will play any further part in this match.
That leaves England a batter light and it means that at least one of the middle order will have to hang around for a long period to help the hosts set a tough total for Australia to chase down.
Moeen’s absence means captain Ben Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum have a decision to make as to who bats at three.
It’s been a troublesome position in recent years and that was made even more difficult when Ollie Pope was ruled out of the series following the second Test at Lord’s.
England may decide to push Harry Brook back up the order or they could ask former skipper Joe Root to fill the void on this occasion.
Whether Root does bat at three or not, England need their top Test batter to produce one of his special innings and spend a long time at the crease.
England Method of 1st Dismissal in 2nd Innings: Keeper Catch 5/2
Zak Crawley Total Runs in 2nd Innings: Over 26.5 6/5
Top England Batsman in 2nd Innings: Joe Root 13/4