Australia streak set to be prolonged
Matthew Sherry at the Kia Oval and Chris Devine
England looked set to extend Australia's winless run in Test cricket to nine matches after their batsmen ground it out on an attritional day at the Kia Oval.
With the hosts already boasting an unassailable 3-0 lead, there is little need to force the issue on a surface that is hardly encouraging stroke-making in the fifth and final Investec Ashes encounter.
England, therefore, adopted a patient approach as the third act yielded just 215 runs in 98.3 overs. It ended with the home side comfortable on 247 for four in response to Australia's 492 for nine declared.
The tourists toiled hard but, despite the odd delivery offering turn, were unable to build any real momentum.
Given the dreadful weather forecast for day four, a draw remains favourite.
While England headed into this game desperate to seal a 4-0 victory, starving Australia of a face-saving win could be significant ahead of the reverse series that begins in Brisbane at the end of November.
That appears all the more likely following useful contributions from Joe Root, Kevin Pietersen and Jonathan Trott.
While none of the trio was able to make a significant score, they showed great discipline to strike 68, 50 and 40 respectively.
The tone was set in a first session that, while hardly setting pulses racing, represented a nice throwback for the purists in attendance.
It all started at relative thrill-a-minute pace as Root and Alastair Cook found some early boundaries, the former catching the eye via a flowing cover drive.
Yet, with Australia's bowlers proving typically disciplined and the pitch slowing as the game wore on, the tone was to change.
There were some exceptions, Root looking particularly stylish on the pull and when late cutting.
But Cook, in particular, struggled for timing, although it was still surprising when his dismissal came.
Driving at a Ryan Harris delivery angled across his body, the England captain could only manage a thick edge that nestled into a diving Brad Haddin's gloves.
Root continued on his merry way, bringing up a half-century on the stroke of lunch.
He resumed in a similarly comfortable vein after the interval too, immediately getting going by cutting and punching James Faulkner for boundaries.
It appeared a second century of the series was on the cards, only for Nathan Lyon to intervene.
Enjoying sporadic moments of turn and bounce, he got one to lift on Root - who gloved an attempted sweep to Shane Watson at 45.
It was a scalp that heralded the most intriguing moments of the day.
With Lyon and to a lesser extent part-time leg-spinner Steven Smith enjoying some assistance, Trott and Pietersen had to be alert.
While the former operated within his shell, the latter got itchy feet on a couple of occasions as inside edges narrowly evaded short-leg.
Having also seen David Warner miss a shy at the stumps with England's number four well short of his ground, Pietersen responded impressively.
Smith was the victim, bunted down the ground for four as the batsman got to the pitch having advanced.
It was perhaps the moment that persuaded Michael Clarke to take the second new ball.
That decision paid immediate dividends as Trott was trapped plumb in front by Mitchell Starc.
Ian Bell, the outstanding player of the series thus far, wasted little time in getting going; having confidently driven four through point early in his innings, he rotated the strike impressively.
All the while Pietersen was happy to play the waiting game at the other end, his inability to dominate in usual fashion perhaps best illustrating the difficult challenge facing England's top order.
To their credit, Australia's bowlers stuck to their task and were rewarded as Pietersen edged a wide delivery from Starc to first slip.
But the accumulation continued thereafter, from the moment Chris Woakes slapped his first delivery in Test cricket through the covers for four.
The signs were certainly encouraging thereafter for Woakes, who looked at ease alongside Bell as England ambled on until the close.
Live Text Commentary
6:52pm - STUMPS - Eng 247/4; Bell 29, Woakes 15 - England end a day of steady accumulation trailing by 245. Australia's hopes of ending the series with a win have been severely dented today, particularly given the forecast for tomorrow is so poor.
6:45pm - Both Bell and Woakes appear comfortable as the day drifts towards its end. We have now seen five maidens in succession.
6:35pm - Spin from both ends now as Steven Smith enters the attack to partner Lyon. Can England make it through to stumps without further loss.
Here's enjoying a day at The Oval to watch the . Photo: Visionhaus — Investec Cricket (@InvestecCricket)
6:24pm - This is glorious from Woakes. A textbook back-foot off-drive takes the all-rounder into double figures. Faulkner is reintroduced but Bell is equal to the task and finds the cover fence with a sweetly timed stroke.
. making a good start to Test cricket as a batsman for Bid for his shirt — Cricket United (@CricketUnited)
A turgid haze cloaks The Oval as Starc comes around the wicket with Woakes in his cross hairs. England 4-231 — Cricket Australia (@CricketAus)
6:11pm - Woakes collects another boundary with a tickle through fine-leg off Starc. Twelve overs remain this evening, although I’m not sure we’ll get them all in.
Before Chris Woakes, the last Englishman to hit the first ball he faced in Tests for 4 was Richard Johnson v Zim at Chester-le-Street, '03 — BBC TMS (@bbctms)
6:02pm - There seems to be a bit more life being extracted from the pitch now under the lights. Ryan Harris strikes Woakes on the glove with a well-directed short delivery. Bell chases a wide one from Starch in the next over and only just clears the man at cover.
5:57pm - Well, that's not a bad way for Woakes to start! He drives Starc to the cover rope to register a four off his first delivery.
5:55pm - WICKET! Pietersen c Watson b Starc 50; Eng 217/4 - Pietersen steers an innocuous full delivery from Mitchell Starc to slip. The umpires check for a bump ball but replays prove conclusive. Test debutant Chris Woakes is the new batsman.
5:50pm - Bell draws cheers with a crunching pulled four off Siddle, his first boundary of the season.
5:42pm - FIFTY! Pietersen (127b 4x4 0x6) - Pietersen brings up his half-century in streaky fashion, inside-edging an attempted pull off James Faulkner past the stumps.
5:36pm - The ever-willing Siddle now finds movement away from the bat under gloomier skies to beat Pietersen’s back-foot prod. Ian Bell has moved quietly into double figures.
Impact outside the line. Not out. No reviews left for Australia. England 3-206 — Cricket Australia (@CricketAus)
5:30pm - REVIEW - Siddle appeals enthusiastically as Pietersen is struck on the pad walking across his stumps. Michael Clarke opts to go upstairs but replays show the impact was just outside the line. KP remains!
5 - Australia have five times failed to win a Test in series of five Tests or more, most recently in 1977 (lost 3-0). Jubilee. — OptaJim (@OptaJim)
5:18pm - Australia are in need of a spark. England continue to progress slowly and steadily on a pitch that is offering slow turn but little else.
5:06pm - Peter Siddle returns at the Vauxhall End with England 200 for three. The scoreboard at the Kia Oval suggests otherwise; it has been stuck since tea.
4:59pm - Ah, the joy of bonus runs. Nathan Lyon finds turn that beats the bat of Pietersen and wicketkeeper Haddin to run away for four.
England's women on top in the 2nd ODI. 138/6 in the 37th chasing 257. — BBC TMS (@bbctms)
England football manager Roy Hodgson here watching the cricket at the Kia Oval — England Cricket (@ECB_cricket)
4:40pm - Kevin Pietersen gets off and running for the evening session by pulling Ryan Harris through fine-leg for four.
Highlights of the afternoon session on day three at the Kia Oval
4:12pm - TEA! England 181/3; Pietersen 29, Bell 4 - Ian Bell, the series' outstanding player, gets off the mark with a flowing drive. Time for a break.
4:01pm - WICKET! Trott lbw Starc 40; England 176/3 - Trott, having played his best shot of the innings when pulling Smith through midwicket, falls immediately to the new nut, trapped lbw by Starc.
Australia have taken the second new ball — BBC TMS (@bbctms)
3:50pm - A mixed bag from Smith as, the over after being hit for an aerial four by Pietersen, he beats Trott with a beauty that turns and bounces.
3:38pm - Steven Smith comes into the attack with Australia's approach of bowling two spinners starving England quite effectively.
3:21pm - Lyon is bowling excellently to Pietersen, starving the number four from around the wicket. It almost brings reward as David Warner misses the chance to complete a run-out. At the other end, Trott has just been hit by Harris on the pull.
The Maasai have arrived at ! — England Cricket (@ECB_cricket)
3:06pm - There's the Trott Shot. Ryan Harris is too straight and slightly short and the number three clips off his hip for four. An over later, Pietersen's inside edge just evades short leg.
2:49pm - Lyon is finding a little turn and bounce here. England are not showing too much positive intent for the moment.
2:34pm - Australia had been doing a good job of stopping Kevin Pietersen getting off the mark. It took 11 deliveries but he did so with a glorious straight-driven four off Mitchell Starc.
Kevin Pietersen has made 4 Test centuries at The Oval, as have Len Hutton, Wally Hammond & David Gower. Only Herbert Sutcliffe (5) has more — BBC TMS (@bbctms)
2:22pm - WICKET! Root c Watson b Lyon 68; England 118/2 - Another unexpected wicket falls as Root top-edges an attempted sweep off Nathan Lyon straight to the man at 45.
2:08pm - There's another boundary from Root, who - having been beaten outside off stump by Peter Siddle - responds with a powerful pull through midwicket.
1:57pm - Trott produces a similarly confident late cut that brings three. England may well look to be a little more positive in this session.
1:43pm - What a lovely way to start a new session. After cutting through backward point for four, Joe Root ends the over by punching James Faulkner down the ground for another.
England 1st Innings
1:01pm - LUNCH! England 97/1; Root 52, Trott 9 - Nathan Lyon sends down a nondescript final over that costs five and it's time for lunch.
12:57pm - FIFTY! Root (141b 8x4 0x6) - Chants of "Roooooot" ring around the ground. The young opener flicks four through square-leg before a pulled single moves him to 50.
12:40pm - Rotation is the order of the day for the moment as Root and Jonathan Trott look to continue England's solid start.
12:23pm - Another open-faced guide brings four for Root, albeit this time there was a little more good fortune involved.
12:06pm - WICKET! Cook c Haddin b Harris 25; England 68/1 - Where did that come from? Australia snare a first wicket as Harris locates Cook's edge and Brad Haddin takes a diving catch.
11:55am - REVIEW! - Ah, that's more like it. Mitchell Starc sends one across Root, who opens the face and guides to the third-man boundary. In the following over, Harris raps Cook on the pad and Australia waste a review with the ball pitching outside leg stump.
11:39am - It's all gone a little quiet after that quick start. However, Cook and Root have now registered a half-century stand for the first time!
11:21am - Some dreamy stuff this morning from England's openers. Root produces the best shot of the lot, leaning into a cover drive off Siddle.
Cook & Root are yet to put on a fifty partnership for the 1st wicket in Tests. They have opened 8 times together before this innings — BBC TMS (@bbctms)
11:14am - Just the one leg bye from Peter Siddle's first over of the day, though he did find a bit of movement. Alastair Cook then sends Harris to the boundary with a square drive.
11:05am - Joe Root flicks a lovely shot through midwicket for four off Ryan Harris' opening over of the day, which concedes six runs. England are off and running.
10:57am - Here we go then. We're almost ready for the action. Can Cooky and Rooty continue to thrive?
10:30am - I am pleased to report that glorious sunshine has greeted my arrival. Perfect conditions for batting some might say...
10:15am - Hello and welcome to ecb.co.uk's live coverage of the third day between England and Australia at the Kia Oval. The hosts started well yesterday evening in response to a commanding total of 492 for nine, Alastair Cook and Joe Root taking the score to 32 without loss.
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