Australia took two wickets in the afternoon session but England captain Joe Root had an unbeaten half-century at tea after being dropped three times on day one of the fifth Ashes Test at the Oval.
England, unable to regain the urn but attempting to salvage a 2-2 draw, were 86-1 at lunch with Joe Denly falling to Pat Cummins for just 14 after Tim Paine won the toss and surprisingly opted to bowl.
Josh Hazlewood dismissed Rory Burns (47) while Mitchell Marsh – in for Travis Head – sent Ben Stokes (20) back to the pavilion, but Root (57 not out) and Jonny Bairstow (22no) saw England through to 169-3 at tea.
Root was given three lives by the sloppy tourists, who took a 2-1 lead with victory at Old Trafford, as he passed 7,000 Test runs on a good pitch under blue skies in London.
7000 – Joe Root (158 innings) has now scored 7000 Test runs, the 12th @englandcricket batsman to reach that milestone with only three taking fewer innings to reach that tally (W Hammond – 131, K Pietersen – 150, A Cook – 151). Embedded. pic.twitter.com/3Lu3nx03eU
— OptaJim (@OptaJim) September 12, 2019
A juggling Smith caught Denly at the third attempt to end an opening stand of 27 – the highest of the series – and the excellent Cummins should have had a second wicket when the recalled Peter Siddle put Root down on 24 at deep backward square-leg.
Root had just another run to his name when he was spilled by wicketkeeper Paine after Cummins drew an edge, while the home skipper was on 30 when Smith dropped a tough chance diving to his right at second slip, Siddle the unfortunate bowler on that occasion.
England’s premier batsman drove Hazlewood for four to reach a notable personal milestone after lunch and Burns looked well set before he tamely top-edged the same bowler to Marsh at mid on, having struck seven boundaries in an otherwise assured knock.
Stokes, playing as a specialist batsman due to a shoulder injury, struck Cummins for back-to-back boundaries before gifting a wicket to Marsh, attempting to pull the all-rounder but ballooning to Nathan Lyon for 20.
Bairstow started positively with two fours off as many balls from Siddle – preferred to Mitchell Starc – and Root reached 50 as the Yorkshire duo combined for an unbroken stand of 39.