Australia hit back after Harry Brook’s heroics at the Oval

Harry Brook hit a dashing 85 but England lost wickets in clusters as Australia made their move on the opening day of the final Ashes Test.

Sent in to bat in bowler-friendly conditions at the Kia Oval, Pat Cummins finally winning his first toss of the series, England battled to 250 for seven at tea.

Brook stood out, reeling off 11 fours and two audacious sixes, but could not hang in as the tourists made regular breakthroughs to disrupt the English momentum.

England lost three for 11 midway through the morning session to scupper a bright start, and four for 28 as the ball came to life in the afternoon.

Earlier Brook’s fearless strokeplay lit up a stand of 111 with Moeen Ali, the latter chipping in with 34 despite collecting a painful thigh injury.

Australia wicketkeeper Alex Carey would have been relieved to see the back of the Yorkshireman, having put him down when he had just five.

Chris Woakes and Mark Wood added 38 quick runs in a punchy counter-attack before tea, but it was a disappointing day for England’s experienced middle-order campaigners as Joe Root, Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow mustered just 12 between them.

Openers Zak Crawley and Ben Duckett made a bright start despite heading out under cloudy skies, posting a lively stand of 62 in just 12 overs.

Both had a life in the slips, David Warner putting down a regulation chance off Duckett and Steve Smith getting one hand to a much trickier one off Crawley, but applied pressure of their own.

Jonny Bairstow diverts the ball onto his stumps

Jonny Bairstow diverted the ball onto his stumps (Mike Egerton/PA)

Duckett was particularly assertive, making a run-a-ball 41 which peaked when he skipped down the track at Josh Hazlewood and clubbed him back down the ground for four.

He was slightly unlucky to be strangled down leg by Mitch Marsh, gloving one off his hip to get Australia up and running.

Crawley became the first batter to pass 400 runs for the series but was gone for 22, squared up by the excellent Cummins and squirting a catch off the shoulder of the bat.

England’s mini-collapse also consumed Root, dragging Hazlewood into his stumps having added only five to leave a precarious score of 73 for three.

Moeen made a steady start but Brook’s arrival kept things lively. His low edge off Cummins should have been gathered by Carey but popped loose, and a couple of flashy shots zipped away for four off the outside edge.

Ignoring his initial travails he barrelled forward on the front foot, crunching drives and then thrashing Marsh for a dismissive square six that will have dented the all-rounder’s pride.

He reached lunch with a flurry, including a second maximum when he anticipated a Mitchell Starc bouncer, stepped inside the line and hooked him high over fine-leg.

Moeen’s mission statement changed when he pulled up injured, going from 11 off his first 37 balls to 23 off his last nine. He was cleaned up by spinner Todd Murphy, swiping fresh air, to end a dangerous partnership.

Moeen Ali receives treatment

Moeen Ali picks up an injury (Mike Egerton/PA)

Brook reached his fourth half-century of the series with a pair of elegant fours off successive Cummins deliveries, but his scoring slowed as Australia’s bowlers tightened up.

But he lacked support. Stokes lost his off stump to a beauty from Starc that swung through the air and straightened off the pitch, and Hazlewood got an over-exuberant Bairstow to play on from a poor position.

Brook could, and perhaps should, have settled in for his ton but instead looked to take the attacking option. When Starc invited him to tuck into a wider delivery shaped towards the slips, he threw his hands at it and sent a thick edge to Smith.

Wood and Woakes took the situation on, flashing hard and taking quick runs, improving England’s position handily at the end of another rollercoaster session.

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