England’s hopes of squaring the Ashes may need turned on the tiniest of margins on the Kia Oval as Australia’s Steve Smith got here desperately near being run out by substitute fielder George Ealham in a pivotal second within the fifth Test.
Australia have been 295 all out off the ultimate ball of the second day, 12 runs forward, as Smith rode his luck to top-score with 71 following a scare simply after tea.
The 21-year-old son of former England all-rounder Mark Ealham appeared to have replicated Ricky Ponting’s well-known 2005 dismissal by the unknown Gary Pratt, combining with wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow to go away Smith diving for the road.
Smith initially appeared bang to rights however, as a substitute of departing for 44 and leaving his aspect 195 for eight, he was reprieved by TV umpire Nitin Menon.
Replays prompt Bairstow had begun to nudge one of many bails unfastened along with his arm earlier than amassing the ball cleanly and there was some debate over whether or not both bail was totally dislodged earlier than Smith’s bat slid dwelling.
What mattered most was the ‘not out’ determination that appeared on the massive display and the 100 runs which adopted.
That was simply Australia’s most efficient interval of a day that had seen them embark on pedestrian go-slow within the morning session and a jittery collapse within the afternoon.
Having watched England blaze 283 in 54.5 overs, Australia crept simply above that mark in 103.1, Ben Stokes taking a superb two-stage boundary catch to finish the innings within the closing moments.
England have been one bowler down as a result of Moeen Ali’s groin pressure, however Australia got here out with nothing however survival on their thoughts, Usman Khawaja and Marnus Labuschagne scoring simply 13 runs off the bat in a primary hour that examined English persistence within the discipline and in stands.
Labuschagne was utterly bereft of intent, scratching out 9 off 82 deliveries earlier than Mark Wood lastly drew the surface edge England had spent nearly 90 minutes probing for.
It appeared a regulation catch for Bairstow however he froze on the spot, leaving Joe Root to hurl himself into motion at first slip and declare a superb one-handed seize. That was the peak of the pre-lunch leisure, with the scoreboard trudging to 115 for 2 by the break.
Australia had put miles within the English legs and brought day out of a sport their rivals must win, however that they had barely moved the dial in actual phrases.
The limitations of that strategy have been uncovered within the afternoon, with England taking 5 for 71 to take management of proceedings. Stuart Broad performed the function of ringleader, dismissing Khawaja and Travis Head in successive overs to inject some electrical energy right into a sport that had gone to sleep.
Khawaja had spent greater than four-and-a-half hours in defiance when Broad speared one in from around the wicket and trapped the left-hander in entrance of leg. Five balls later the seamer was celebrating once more, difficult Head exterior off stump and getting the nick.
England continued burrowing by means of the center order as James Anderson belatedly opened his account for the match within the sixteenth over, bowling Mitch Marsh off a hefty inside edge and cracking a protracted overdue smile within the course of.
The errors stored coming, Alex Carey chipping Root’s tempter to brief cowl and Mitchell Starc flapping Wood straight up within the air.
Smith was shaping as much as be the important thing determine as he reached tea on 40, however he got here desperately near a self-inflicted dismissal.
Turning again for a second as Ealham sprinted in from the deep and flung a flat throw to the keeper, he struggling as he dived for his floor.
Replays initially appeared to seal his destiny, along with his bat wanting the crease line because the stumps have been damaged. He was midway to the pavilion when he sensed one thing could be amiss, with the slow-motion footage suggesting Bairstow had nudged one bail unfastened earlier than gathering the ball in and parting the stumps.
The photos have been scrutinised for a few minutes, analysing when and the place the bails left their grooves, earlier than Menon dominated in Smith’s favour. His determination was met with frustration among the many dwelling supporters and a wholesome dose of confusion elsewhere, because the assembled pundits tried in useless to deliver some readability.
Smith added one other 44 earlier than skying Chris Woakes over his shoulder to Bairstow, who did his work nicely this time.
England ought to nonetheless have taken a lead into day three however struggled to mop up the tail. Pat Cummins made an assured 36 and Todd Murphy landed three sixes on his approach to 34.
Woakes had the skipper lbw late on and Root completed issues off when Stokes affected a wise catch-and-release tackle the boundary to dismiss Murphy.
England will bat once more on day three, with barely an inch to separate the perimeters.