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England vs Australia, 5th Test: Australia finished at 135/0 at the end of day 4 need 249 runs to win

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On a day where rain played spoilsport, Usman Khawaja and David Warner both got to their respective fifties as their century stand drove Australia’s strong start in pursuit of 384. Both batters continued from where they left off in the morning to get the visitors to 135/0 at the drinks break in the afternoon, before bad weather intervened. What started off as a steady drizzle intensified into a proper downpour, forcing the umpires to call for an early Tea. Hopes for a resumption soon faded away and incessant rains forced a premature abandonment of the day’s play.

Much of the morning’s talk was about Stuart Broad’s overnight announcement regarding his retirement. England chose to continue batting with Broad and his bowling partner-in-crime James Anderson together at the crease. The fun lasted only for about 10 minutes which included a slogged six from Broad against Mitchell Starc, much to the delight of the vocal crowd at The Oval. However, Todd Murphy got Anderson LBW to close out the innings, leaving Broad unbeaten in his final Test innings. Having walked into the ground to a guard of honour from the Australians and a huge reception from the crowd, Broad walked off to a similar response.

Despite Broad hogging the limelight, it were the Australian openers who shone bright in the morning, thereby ensuring that the visitors ticked the first box in pursuit of the big target. Unlike his first innings, Khawaja batted with positive intent from the word go and didn’t miss out on scoring opportunities. Warner was his usual self, being very busy at the crease and the two openers got Australia off to a strong start. The scoring rate was healthy enough and neither batter gave England a chance.

In the brief session of play after lunch, Australia’s opening batters continued to look very comfortable with the pitch seemingly flatter than it was on previous days. There was also a general lack of pace off the deck which allowed the batters to adjust to any deviation that the bowlers were getting. There was spin on offer but with the footmarks being very wide on both sides, there were no real alarms for Warner or Khawaja who did their part by batting with a fluent tempo.

With Moeen Ali not fully fit, Joe Root continued to handle the specialist spinner’s role and the premier batter did get some purchase from the deck. However, he too wasn’t able to create any chances although the odd ball did grip and turn big to keep the fielders interested. After a slow start, Warner picked up pace and got to just his second fifty on the tour. A lofted check-drive off Anderson was the highlight as the opener gradually found his rhythm.

At the other end, Khawaja batted with assurance and while getting to fifty, also got past Zak Crawley to top the run-scorers charts for the series. He had his unorthodox methods to handle spin and it worked once again for him.

Brief scores: Australia 295 and 135/0 (Usman Khawaja 69*, David Warner 58*) trail England 283 and 395 (Root 91, Bairstow 78, Crawley 73, Starc 4/100, Murphy 4/110) by 249 runs

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