Joe Root leads England charge with fifty as lead over Australia passes 250

Joe Root picked up the baton with an unbeaten fifty after Zak Crawley hit 73 to help England’s lead move beyond the 250 mark by tea on day three of the final Ashes Test.

Crawley had walked off at lunch on 71 not out but could only add two more runs to his total before he nicked off to Pat Cummins, bringing a stellar series to an end with a final total of 480 runs.

England captain Ben Stokes followed him back to the pavilion when he picked out Cummins off Todd Murphy to join Ben Duckett in departing for 42.

When Harry Brook edged Josh Hazlewood behind for seven at the Kia Oval, the hosts were on the verge of throwing away a strong morning session where 130 runs were scored for the loss of one wicket.

Root ensured that would not be the case and reached tea on 61 not out after receiving support from Jonny Bairstow, unbeaten on 34, to guide England to 265 for four, a lead of 253 at the end of another run-fuelled afternoon session.

After Australia were all out for 295 from the last ball of day two, Crawley and Duckett walked out to glorious sunshine in south London with a 12-run deficit to wipe out.

England took six balls to move into a lead with Crawley beginning his final innings of the series in the same vein he started this Ashes at Edgbaston, crunching his first delivery through cover for four.

Mitchell Starc was on the receiving end this time and his opening two overs went for 22 runs, more than the 21 Australia had ground out during a pedestrian first hour on Friday.

It continued the culture clash between the two teams as Duckett clipped and cut away for four with ease to put on a fifty stand with Crawley inside nine overs.

Australia did finally make the breakthrough after nearly 90 minutes of play with Starc striking in the first over of his second spell when Duckett’s booming drive got the faintest of edges and, despite an initial not out call, Cummins’ review showed a spike on UltraEdge and the England opener departed for 42.

Stokes entered the fray at three, after Moeen Ali was absent from the field on day two due to his groin injury, but it quickly turned into the Crawley show.

Three runs off a Cummins misfield at mid-off saw Crawley reach his half-century off 61 balls before he swept Murphy for consecutive fours to bring up the fifty partnership before lunch.

Crawley took guard at the start of the afternoon session on 71 but there would be no Ashes hundred on this occasion after he nicked off two runs later, but with his place at the top of the run-scoring charts established.

Root encountered trouble during the early stages of his innings, wearing one on his body before he survived a tight lbw appeal against Hazlewood, with an Australia review showing it was umpire’s call on impact.

It would prove decisive with Root’s trademark ramp shot brought out to hit Mitch Marsh for six and a pull for four off Starc brought up another fifty partnership for England.

At the other end, Stokes had mixed aggression with patience alongside a degree of luck with Starc only able to stumble over the boundary rope after taking a catch at fine leg straight after lunch.

Stokes’ next attempted big shot did prove his downfall though with Cummins picked out at mid-on to give Murphy his first wicket of the day.

Brook followed for seven, although only after smashing Murphy back over his head for six.

Root had already reached fifty by this point but dropped anchor after the arrival of Yorkshire team-mate Bairstow at the crease.

England wicketkeeper Bairstow was happy to adopt the role of counter-punching, smacking five fours to march off for tea on 34 not out with the hosts’ advantage now beyond the 250-mark.

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