Joe Denly and Ben Stokes pressed home England’s advantage with an unbroken century stand in a wicket-less afternoon session on day three of the final Ashes Test at The Oval.
England, striving to secure a 2-2 series draw after the tourists retained the urn at Old Trafford, were 193-2 at tea on a sunny Saturday in London – leading by 262 runs on a good pitch.
Nathan Lyon removed Rory Burns (20) and Joe Root (21) before lunch, but Denly was unbeaten on his highest Test score of 82 not out after putting on 106 for the third wicket with Stokes (57no).
Stokes was dropped on seven by Steve Smith, while Denly – whose wife gave birth to their second child this week – was fortunate not to be given out leg before off Mitchell Marsh after being put down by Marcus Harris on day three.
Harris was unable to field after having seven stitches in his left hand to repair split webbing sustained when he spilled Denly before he had got off the mark on Friday.
A fantastic @joed1986!
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Burns and Denly started positively after England resumed on nine without loss, but the highest opening stand of the series was halted at 54 when the left-hander chased a wide one from Lyon and feathered behind.
Root fell tamely, edging the spinner to Smith at first slip before lunch, and Stokes should have departed in the same fashion, only for the best Test batsman in the world to drop a simple chance.
Denly, struck on the box by Pat Cummins in the morning session, had a fourth Test half-century courtesy of a wristy boundary off Josh Hazlewood.
Stokes swept Lyon for four and six off back-to-back deliveries and there was more frustration for Australia when Denly survived an lbw appeal off Marsh that should have been answered in the affirmative and Tim Paine opted not to review.
Vice-captain Stokes, playing as a specialist batsman due to a shoulder injury, raised his bat after hammering a Marnus Labuschagne full toss for six. Denly then brought up the century stand by driving the spinner for four as he closed in on a maiden Test hundred.