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Friday, October 4, 2019 8:59:02 AM

Their batting got a bit gummed up in the second half of their innings. Stokes once again the honourable exception in a dreadful batting display, but England have been thoroughly outmatched in all three departments here. Five for Behrendorff and four for Starc the obvious highlights. A couple of excellent catches on the boundary. Even if England do manage to wangle their way into the top four — and make no mistake if they do so with anything other than two wins from their last two games they will be immensely fortunate to have done so — they look a million miles away from the side that has bestrode ODI cricket for the last few years.

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Past problems, glimpse of the future Media playback is not supported on this device 'Almost an incredible catch' - Root drops difficult Smith chance on 66 Before this Test, England captain Joe Root said that his team must use this match as the beginning of their building towards the next Ashes in Australia in It may be that the pace of Archer and the skiddy swing of Curran are the pillars of England's attack in the future, especially when James Anderson and Stuart Broad retire.

They were the standout performers on a sun-kissed day at The Oval, when a collectively strong England performance was only mildly marred by three missed catches.

Friday began with the news that Denly's wife had given birth overnight and progressed with steady excitement from a crowd that exploded with noise when Smith was sent on his way. And, if the likes of Archer and Curran really are England's future, then so too is the problem of how to dismiss Smith, who gave another reminder that he will remain the biggest obstacle to them regaining the Ashes in two and a half years.

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That, though, is for another day. For now, England must pounce on the chance to end this storied summer with a series-levelling victory.

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Archer and Curran lead England attack Media playback is not supported on this device 'What a catch! With pace up around 90mph, Archer constantly asked questions of the batsmen, who were challenged with the accuracy of his full deliveries and hostility of the short ones.

David Warner was given caught behind on review, opening partner Harris edged to second slip and Marnus Labuschagne played across a straight one to be lbw.

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By that time, Curran - playing in his first Test of the series - had already pinned Matthew Wade lbw, but it was the right-handers that he really troubled either by swinging the ball in or angling it across.

That was typified by the dual strike. First Tim Paine edged behind, then Pat Cummins was trapped leg-before by a hooping in-ducker. Smith was the last of four wickets for 37 runs, after which England were held up by Nathan Lyon and Peter Siddle.

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In the space of eight deliveries, Archer had Lyon put down by a diving Leach, bowled the same man with a dipping knuckleball, saw Root fail to move when Hazlewood edged his first ball and had Siddle push to gully, where Burns took a sensational one-handed grab.

Smith the standout - again Media playback is not supported on this device 'I can't believe what we have just witnessed' - England finally dismiss Smith With the pitch flat and the sun shining, nothing seemed more certain than Smith torturing England's bowlers again.

Despite some early problems against Curran and the resumption of his compelling series-long battle with Archer, he did just that. Smith arrived at - Warner's five was his eighth single-figure score of the series - and received support from Labuschagne but not much else.

He batted as he does; never still and with comical flamboyance.

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He nurdled off the pads, hit the same part of the cover boundary with drives off front and back foot, and hit spinner Leach for six over mid-wicket. Slowly, though, Archer and Curran restricted his scoring. He was dropped on 66 by a leaping Root at first slip off the bowling of Curran.

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When Curran was replaced, Woakes got one to keep a touch low and a deceived Smith was plumb in front. Such was his disappointment, he could barely drag himself from the crease.

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That signalled the start of a swiping stand of 37 between Siddle and Lyon, before Archer had the final word. But from this position, England should get enough runs to win the game. He wants to take a wicket every ball and we keep telling him you can't do that, you have to set the batsman up.

It's hard to say that when our play on the field maybe reflects that. But we came to win the Ashes and we really want to do that.

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