England all-rounder Ben Stokes has urged his side to summon the brutal form which has repeatedly decimated Australia in a single session this series after a sedate start to the fifth Investec Ashes Test at the Kia Oval yesterday.
Opener David Warner and captain-elect Steve Smith drove a resilient Australia’s response to two harrowing Test matches, which have seen the Ashes ripped from their grasp, as they closed on 287-3. Warner struck 85 while Smith remains unbeaten on 78.
That scenario is a far cry from their torturous experience at Trent Bridge, when the tourists were obliterated for just 60 before lunch, although Stokes insists England can still snare the upper hand this morning.
“We bowled fantastically with the new ball [Stuart Broad and Mark Wood] to start with, so if we can bowl anything like that [this morning] we can hopefully take three of four wickets with the new ball,” said Stokes.
“The first hour we were fantastic, we didn’t give them any scoring opportunities. We only have them three down but, on another day, we could have bowled worse and had them five or six down.
“Australia played a lot better than they did at Trent Bridge, they left the ball a lot better, but as a bowling group we were very happy with how we bowled.
“We came into the game already knowing we are getting the Ashes back but we set ourselves the challenge to win 4-1 as no other England team has done that, so the eye is still on the prize. We’re not taking our foot off the gas at all.”
Australia were invited to bat under heavy skies on a green-tinged pitch, with memories of their demise at Edgbaston and that surrender at Nottingham in similar conditions still resonating.
But openers Chris Rogers and Warner were watchful and disciplined, navigating the first session without undue alarm and amassing 110 for the first wicket. Rogers was first to depart, edging the impressive Wood to skipper Alastair Cook at slip, while Warner followed suit for 85, having added 51 with Smith for the second wicket.
Warner notched his fifth half-century of the series without converting to three figures before edging off-spinner Moeen Ali to Adam Lyth, which brought retiring skipper Michael Clarke to the crease.
Clarke was afforded a guard of honour by the England players, although he has a solitary innings left to make one final mark on Test cricket after tickling Stokes behind to wicketkeeper Jos Buttler for 15. Smith finished the day on 78 after sharing an unbeaten stand of 101 with veteran middle-order batsman Adam Voges, who scored 47, while the second new ball is available in just two balls this morning.