Ashes 2015: England collapse as Australia dominate at Oval
|Fifth Ashes Test, Kia Oval, day two:|
|Australia 481: Smith 143, Warner 85, Voges 76, Starc 58, Finn 3-90|
|England 107-8: Cook 22, M Marsh 3-18, Siddle 2-18, Lyon 2-32|
|Australia lead by 374 runs|
Steve Smith's century and a dreadful England batting collapse handed Australia total control of the fifth Ashes Test at The Oval.
The tourists' captain-in-waiting, who was caught off a Steven Finn no-ball on 92, went on to score 143 and propel his team to an imposing 481 all out.
England then crumbled on a largely blameless pitch, losing seven wickets during a disastrous final session to close the second day on 107-8.
Peter Siddle and Mitchell Marsh justified their recalls by sharing five wickets, while Nathan Lyon found some turn to bowl Alastair Cook and Jos Buttler.
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In keeping with a series in which batsmen from both sides have been reckless under pressure, some of England's shot selection beggared belief as Adam Lyth, Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes all top-edged needless pull shots.
England have already regained the Ashes after assuming an unassailable 3-1 lead with victories at Cardiff, Edgbaston and Trent Bridge.
But a heavy defeat in the final Test would both dampen their spirits and give Australia a huge lift at the end of a difficult series.
Lyth fails again
Despite their resounding series win, England's top order has been a constant weakness that Australia's bowlers were once again able to exploit.
There was no obvious sign of imminent collapse as Cook and Lyth eased England to 30-0. But on the stroke of tea, a delivery from Nathan Lyon turned out of the rough and rattled into Cook's off stump.
England's post-tea capitulation began when Lyth went after Siddle's second ball and skied a catch to mid-on.
The Yorkshire opener has only scored 105 runs in eight innings and will surely need a big score in the second innings to have any chance of retaining his place this winter.
The collapse continues…
Ian Bell and Joe Root both fell to good deliveries but it was not long before England's batsmen were bringing about their own demise.
Bairstow took Mitchell Johnson's bait as he pulled a short ball to deep square leg, and after Jos Buttler had been bowled through the gate by Lyon, Stokes thrashed at a Marsh lifter and gifted a simple catch to a backtracking Peter Nevill.
Stuart Broad then edged his fourth ball to slip to leave England's innings in tatters.
England's dismal batting display actually followed a much-improved bowling performance in which they removed Australia's last seven wickets for 194 runs.
The biggest obstacle was Smith, whose 11th Test century underlined why he has been chosen to succeed Clarke as Australia captain following the Ashes.
In this series so far, Smith has embodied Australia's fluctuating fortunes. He made an imperious 215 in the victory at Lord's, but contributed four single-figure scores as Australia surrendered the Ashes in the successive three-day defeats at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge.
Here he was back to his belligerent best, cutting and pulling regular boundaries against an England attack struggling to find consistent lines.
He added 146 with Adam Voges and 91 with Mitchell Starc, who scored an entertaining 58 at number nine to help Australia rally from 376-7 after two quick wickets from Moeen Ali before lunch.
Moeen, Stokes and Finn all captured three wickets - with the latter collecting his 100th Test scalp when he dismissed Marsh.
Follow-on or not?
With Australia seemingly set for a lead of more than 350 and rain forecast for Sunday, Clarke may consider changing the habit of a lifetime by enforcing the follow-on and raising the prospect of a three-day win. He has had the opportunity four times, and declined each time.
Regardless of his decision, England's batting approach will require a sea change to give them any chance of avoiding ending the series in defeat.
Stats of the day
- Mitchell Starc has joined ex-New Zealand spinner Daniel Vettori with the most scores of 50+ in Tests batting at number nine or below (six).
- Steve Smith (508) has overtaken Chris Rogers (480) as the highest run-scorer in the series.
- Smith and Starc's stand of 91 was Australia's highest eighth-wicket stand in an Ashes Test at The Oval, beating the 83 by Syd Gregory and Charlie McLeod in 1899.
Quotes of the day
England pace bowler Steven Finn: We're disappointed, we've had a very, very poor day. Australia batted well then showed us how to bowl.
"It's not a 107-8 pitch. It's a good wicket, but Australia have got more out of it than we did. We didn't bowl well, but not badly either. We have to fight tomorrow."
Australia batsman Steve Smith: "That's the best we've bowled all series, we created pressure, made them earn their runs and got eight wickets, so it speaks for itself. There's enough there in the wicket if you hit the right spot.
"I couldn't get in a real rhythm for my first 20 runs but the more time you spend out there, it gets easier. It was part of my game plan to wait for balls to hit."