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England v Australia

Denly 94 puts England in strong position to level Ashes series

Yas Rana by Yas Rana
@Yas_Wisden 3 minute read

An assured, career-best 94 from Joe Denly lifted England into a commanding position at the end of day three at The Oval to leave them strong favourites to level the series.


Despite a flurry of wickets late in the day, England will begin day four on 313-8 with a healthy lead of 382.

Resuming the day on 9-0 with a lead of 78, Denly and Rory Burns steadily took England to the highest opening partnership of the Test summer. Burns fell on 20 to a short, wide delivery from Nathan Lyon as a poorly executed cut shot saw him feather one to skipper Tim Paine behind the stumps.

Joe Root briefly seemed back to his fluent best, racing to 21 before he too fell to the wily off-spinner; playing for non-existent turn, the England skipper edged the ball straight to a grateful Steve Smith at slip. Shortly before the lunch break, Australia had wrestled back a degree of momentum just as England looked likely to ease into a dominant position.

It was only two Tests ago that Australia bowled England all out for 67 and despite the unresponsiveness of the Oval pitch, Australia would have harboured realistic ambitions of skittling England’s at times flimsy middle-order out in quick time. Ben Stokes and Joe Denly had other ideas though as the pair batted through the second session with the unusually warm September sun shining down on The Oval.

Stokes became Lyon’s third victim after tea, bowled by the delivery of the day: one that drifted, dipped and turned sharply away before rattling the left-hander’s off-stump. Denly inched closer to a maiden Test hundred but as he entered the nervous nineties for the first time in his Test career, the run-scoring eased slightly for the Kent batsman. Peter Siddle cut Denly in half with a booming inswinger that narrowly sailed over the stumps, before he extracted an outside-edge that went straight to Smith at slip. Denly was dismissed for 94, comfortably the most complete innings of his Test career and one that will surely confirm his place on the first of England’s winter tours.

Jonny Bairstow fell soon after for 14 – he momentarily held his ground after Smith took his third catch of the day – and England were in danger of squandering the strong position Denly and Stokes had put them in.

Sam Curran departed for 17, but Jos Buttler’s counterattacking innings took England past 300. But Smith then intervened with a stunning diving catch at second slip before Buttler perished for 47 to Peter Siddle. Jofra Archer and Jack Leach held the fort to see England to the close of play.

There remains a considerable body of work for England to undertake before they can level the series. Taking 10 wickets on this surface in these conditions will not be straightforward but England will be pleased with their efforts on day three. Australia’s celebrations when lifting the urn after the conclusion of this Test may well be rather muted.

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