Jos Buttler’s late hitting went some way towards rescuing England’s hopes after a fairly disappointing batting display on the opening day of the fifth and final Ashes Test against Australia at The Oval.
Buttler fired in three sixes in his 64 not out to take England to 271-8 in an unbroken stand of 45 with reliable tailender Jack Leach.
The hosts had earlier lost five wickets for 56 runs to slide from 170-3 to 226-8.
That position could’ve been worse for England had Joe Root, who made 57, not been dropped three times, while Rory Burns overturned an lbw decision on the way to 47.
When they were together, Australia captain Tim Paine’s decision to field first after winning the toss looked like backfiring at times.
The tourists were given the ascendancy by 4-35 from Mitchell Marsh, only for Buttler to launch his sensational counter-attack.
By the end, there was the feeling that England are still short of par on what looks to be a true batting surface, but they have been kept in the game by Buttler.
And the pitch may dry out enough for a fourth-innings chase to be tricky for Australia, though that would require England to first find a way to dismiss the prolific Steve Smith, then post a challenging target.
Former England captain Michael Vaughan: “England should have been on course for 400 to at least put some scoreboard pressure on Steve Smith.
“A combination of a lack of application, poor thinking and some decent bowling means England have collapsed again.
“Australia will be delighted with this position given they actually had a poor day.”
England’s Jos Buttler, speaking to TMS: “It’s nice to contribute a little bit. The boys batted really well in the morning and we got ourselves into a fantastic position but could not capitalise.
“Batting has been hard work and not enjoyable this series so I wanted to take the shackles off and play with a smile on my face.”
Australia all-rounder Mitchell Marsh, speaking to Sky Sports: “I was like a kid at Christmas this morning. It can be a long tour when you are not playing. I just wanted to try and get an opportunity at some stage and it was nice to produce today.
“The ball came out reasonably well. I just wanted to come in today and take a few wickets.”
Source: [Stephan Shemilt / BBC Sport]