LONDON – Joe Denly led England to 88 for two as the hosts extended their lead over Australia to 157 runs at lunch on the third day to retain the upper hand in the final Ashes test on Saturday.
England, seeking to level the series at 2-2, lost Rory Burns for 20 and Joe Root for 21 in bright sunshine at The Oval, but Denly hit a six and five fours in a fluent unbeaten 37 which kept his team in control of the match.
Australia ensured they will retain the Ashes by winning the fourth test in Manchester and are bidding to secure their first test series win in England since 2001.
After resuming at 9-0, Burns drove Peter Siddle sweetly through mid-off to bring up the first half-century opening stand of the series but soon departed after a wild slash at a wide ball from spinner Nathan Lyon which he edged to wicketkeeper Tim Paine.
Root looked comfortable as he went in search of his first test century of the summer before he pushed forward tentatively at Lyon and nicked a simple catch to Steve Smith at slip.
Ben Stokes joined Denly at the crease and was unbeaten on nought at the interval.