By Matthew Sherry at the Kia Oval
Joe Root admits extending Australia’s Test winless streak to nine matches would stand England in better stead when they head down under this winter.
Michael Clarke’s men have endured a wretched run in 2013 having lost 4-0 in India and surrendered the Investec Ashes series with a game to spare.
And their hopes of a face-saving victory in the final encounter of five at the Kia Oval took a hit today as England’s batsmen showed great discipline.
The hosts managed just 215 runs in 98.3 overs but, with a dreadful forecast for tomorrow, can feel confident in their ability to deny Australia.
That may carry extra significance given the next meeting between cricket’s great rivals is just three months away.
“You always want to come out of series with best possible outcome, whether that be 4-0 or 3-0, that's the target,” said Root.
“If we can go away with 3-0 it will obviously stand us in good stead going to Australia.”
England’s slow accumulation was necessary on a surface that is offering less pace as the game goes on.
However, Root says that, at 247 for four in reply to Australia’s 492 for nine declared, the home side still harbour hopes of even forcing victory.
“We have played hard cricket and it’s not always easy to just go out there and score at four an over,” he said.
“It was quite a slow day but we have played very good cricket. Hopefully we can kick on tomorrow, get a good start and put them on the back foot a bit. We've played some really good cricket this summer and hopefully we can finish on a high."
Root’s 68 is the highest score of the innings thus far, although Kevin Pietersen and Jonathan Trott chipped in with 50 and 40 respectively.
“The pitch is quite slow and hard to time the ball on. Australia bowled pretty tightly and we’ve played well to get to where we have,” he added.
A loss or draw would mean Australia take no consolation from a series in which they have been competitive.
Peter Siddle admitted today, in particular, was frustrating but felt the touring bowlers stuck to their task impressively despite having little assistance to work with.
“All I can go on is the way we bowled today and it was probably one of the better innings we have bowled in this series,” he said.
“We bowled very well and that is all we can control. We knew that we had to try and get the breakthroughs and push the game forward but it has been hard work out there.”