By Matthew Sherry at the Kia Oval
Bowling coach David Saker insists England have not given up hope of winning the fifth and final Investec Ashes Test.
The hosts, already boasting an unassailable 3-0 lead, face a tricky task at the Kia Oval after Steven Smith’s 138 not out led Australia to a first-innings total of 492 for nine declared.
Saker and England’s spirits were no doubt lifted, though, as openers Alastair Cook and Joe Root responded with an unbroken 32-run partnership.
With rain forcing a three-and-a-half-hour delay today and a dreadful forecast for Saturday, it would take another stellar effort for the hosts to seal the desired 4-0 series triumph.
Yet Saker said: “We still believe we can win the match from where we sit. We’re going to go out there and try to put on a big score.
“They (Australia) are obviously in a strong position having batted really well for two days. We know the Oval wicket can dry up and be something of a turner and that’s why we picked two spinners.
“If we can bat well enough for long enough, the game is still on. They’re desperate for a win and we’re desperate to win 4-0 so there could easily be a result.”
Saker is confident, too, that England have the firepower to respond tomorrow.
“We can hopefully have a really good day (tomorrow) with the bat and get somewhere near their score,” he added.
“If we can get up near 400 to 450, we will put some pressure on them and the game will be on.”
England’s batsmen will hope to deliver an innings akin to Smith, who reached three figures in this format for the first time.
“It was an unbelievable feeling,” he enthused. “Obviously I’ve played 12 Tests now and I probably would have hoped it would come a bit sooner.
“I feel like I am improving, my mindset is good and I am getting better mentally. It’s just about trying to improve every day.”
Smith's innings was particularly important given Australia’s batsmen entered the game fighting for places ahead of the reverse series that begins later this year.
The number five admitted he was under pressure heading into this match – something that made his effort all the more satisfying.
“I was probably under a little bit of pressure but I was trying to put it at the back of my mind,” he said.
“I just tried to go out and play my game and I guess now that I’ve got one hundred under my belt it’s going to be a little bit easier getting into the nineties.”
While the press conference was taking place, the ICC fined Australia coach Darren Lehmann 20% of his match fee for making inappropriate comments about Stuart Broad.