The fifth and final Ashes Test is finely poised after a gripping second day that saw England edge ahead slightly and keep its hopes of a 2-2 series result alive.

After losing its last two wickets early in the morning and being knocked over for 294, the home team's bowlers then hit back even as Steve Smith did his best to end England's summer on a miserable note.

England bowled Australia out for 225 late in the day then went so stumps at 0/9 to take a 78-run lead into day three, which it will be hoping to build upon in its last outing with the willow on home soil for some time.

Joe Denly was given a let-off by Marcus Harris, who dropped a simple chance at gully in the last over of the day.


Jofra Archer led the way with the ball for England, taking six wickets in a wholehearted display that once again showed just how talented he is. The brilliant fast bowler had to thank Rory Burns for his sixth scalp after the batsman took a freakish catch to dismiss Peter Siddle and end the Aussie innings.

Nine wickets down, Siddle glided a ball wide of gully but it wasn't wide enough. Burns dived low to his right to catch the ball – which was travelling at serious pace – with one hand in a spectacular display of athleticism.

Australian legend Ricky Ponting called it a "screamer" in commentary and former England player and coach David Lloyd said it was an "absolute stunner".

It was fitting Archer finished the job after starting the rot, getting rid of David Warner and Marcus Harris cheaply to reduce the tourists to 2/14 as the top order failed again. Warner was given out caught behind for five after DRS intervened and Harris edged to second slip for three.

Once again it was left to Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne to rescue Australia and they set about the task with their usual aplomb. Labuschagne was eyeing off his fifth half century in six innings but fell two runs shy of the milestone after being trapped LBW by Archer, ending a 69-run partnership between the pair.

But as sure as day follows night, Smith tormented England again. Not content with two centuries, two half centuries and a double ton this series, the world's No. 1 ranked Test batsman made life miserable for the hosts.

He latched onto anything short, particularly savage with his back-foot punches through point, and was quick to punish full deliveries through the covers. Smith launched spinner Jack Leach down the ground for six to reach his 10th half century in a row against England.

The 30-year-old looked certain to reach triple figures for a fourth time this series but he was running out of partners. Matthew Wade was LBW to Sam Curran for 19 and Mitch Marsh looked solid before he hooked Archer straight to fine leg on 17 as the Aussies failed to convert their starts.


Playing his first match of the series, Curran then brought the match to life by taking two wickets in two balls. The left-hander had Tim Paine edging behind for one then bowled the perfect inswinger to trap Pat Cummins LBW for a golden duck.

The Oval was rocking but a hat-trick eluded Curran, who finished with figures of 3/46.

Smith then shocked everyone by missing a ball on his pads to be dismissed LBW by Chris Woakes for 80. Normally so strong off his pads, Smith never misses balls when he tries to whip through the leg side but there's a first time for everything and the former captain's rare error left him 20 runs shy of a century.

"It's the first time in the series he's missed a straight one," former England captain David Gower said in commentary for Sky Sports.

Nathan Lyon took the long handle to the England attack, blasting a quickfire 25 from 30 balls but was undone by a clever Archer slower ball, bowled trying to smear him over the infield.

When Siddle picked out Burns Australia was all out for 225 and England had a tricky 20 minute period to bat before stumps. Burns and his opening partner Denly had some nervous moments but safely guided their team to the close of play.

The man Australian cricket fans love to hate, Mitchell Marsh, has made his critics eat their words by turning in an inspired bowling performance to rip through England's batting line-up on a disappointing day for the hosts.

Conditions were great for batting for much of day one of the fifth and final Ashes Test at The Oval but captain Tim Paine's decision to bowl first didn't turn out to be as big a blunder as some suggested because Joe Root's men failed to take advantage.

A late onslaught from Jos Buttler saved England from embarrassment as he cleared the fence and brought up his first half century of the series, smoking 64 not out to guide England to 8/271 at stumps.

Jack Leach also played his part, like he did alongside Ben Stokes at Headingley, surviving 31 balls to finish unbeaten on 10.

Had you said before the series Marsh would be responsible for an English batting collapse you would have been laughed at. Marsh wasn't expected to get a game this series and when it was announced he would be replacing Travis Head in the starting XI in London, social media went wild with anger.

But he showed just why selectors have kept the faith, taking four wickets to leave the field as Australia's best bowler in his first Test since being parachuted in on Boxing Day against India last summer. The West Australian swung the ball more than any of his teammates and he got it hooping both ways to cause havoc.

"I've certainly worked hard the last five months to get an opportunity again," Marsh said. "When you have setbacks you always think the worst, I thought I might not play again after a summer like I had last year.

"There has been no secret recipe, I just worked my bum off hoping t get another opportunity. Today was a really pleasing day.

"In the past my role has been to hold up an end. JL (coach Justin Langer) came up to me before the start of play and at lunchtime and said, 'Go for it, attack, bowl the way you want to bowl'.

"I was a little bit, not shocked, but it gave me great confidence to go out there and give everything I had. Maybe a change of mentality allowed me to bowl a bit more attacking. It was fun."

Marsh's first wicket was the third of the England innings when danger man Ben Stokes top edged a pull shot on 20 that was caught by Nathan Lyon at point. An emotional Marsh let out a visceral cry when Lyon pouched the catch, showing how much it meant to him to be back wearing the baggy green.

The 27-year-old continued his middle order demolition job when he set Jonny Bairstow up beautifully, bowling outswinger after outswinger to the right-hander before surprising him with a yorker-length inswinger that had him plumb LBW for 22.

Next up was Sam Curran, who was caught by Steve Smith at second slip swishing at a wide ball then Marsh picked up wicket No. 4 when another in-ducker hit Chris Woakes on the pad right in front of his stumps for two.

Marsh was Australia's most economical bowler as well as its most destructive, conceding just 2.16 runs an over as he strangled the life out of England after tea, finishing with figures of 4/34 after 16.1 overs before he stopped bowling because of cramp.

Plenty of pundits were questioning why Paine won the toss and bowled but while England threatened to make him pay, as has been the case so often this series, it let Australia back into the game.

Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood bowled well in the first hour but the runs still flowed and Joe Denly was the only batsman to fall, edging Cummins to Smith at slip for 14. Rory Burns and Root made things look easy as the sun shone brightly and the pitch flattened out, combining for a 76-run partnership as the home side went to lunch just one wicket down but both men failed to capitalise on promising starts – as did a host of others.

Burns was out for 47 miscuing a half-hearted pull shot that was swallowed by Marsh at mid-on before Root (57) followed Stokes, bowled by a Cummins pearler that angled in and straightened to smash into off stump, in almost identical fashion to how the Aussie quick knocked Root over in the second innings at Old Trafford.

Marsh then took three wickets on the trot before Hazlewood came back into the attack to dismiss Jofra Archer caught behind.

Buttler took matters into his own hands and went on the offensive, smearing Hazlewood for consecutive sixes down the ground then swatting the big quick over the leg side for another maximum a few overs later as he brought up his fifty.

Buttler followed that up by reverse sweeping leg-spinner Marnus Labuschagne to the fence and it didn't take long for Paine to put all his fielders on the fence to try and limit the damage the aggressive right-hander was doing.

Paine will need to figure out how to stop Buttler's six-hitting ways when play resumes on day two.