Australia took a giant stride towards securing a heavy victory over England in the fifth Ashes Test after Alastair Cook's late dismissal helped the tourists pay the perfect tribute to former opener Arthur Morris with another day of dominance at The Oval. Cook made 85 from 234 balls during a rearguard of over five hours but was caught at short leg off part-time spinner Steven Smith with two scheduled overs remaining to all-but end England's hopes of saving the match.
The wicket of Cook, which again denied the England skipper a first Test century at home against Australia, means the hosts face a near impossible task to save a match in which their performance has been unrelentingly lacklustre. Australia took six second innings wickets after enforcing the follow-on on the third morning, with Nathan Lyon taking 2 for 52, as England closed on 203 for 6, still 129 runs adrift of making their opponents bat again.
Hope the home side's attempts to keep intact their unassailable 3-1 series lead can be successful come in the form of the imminent inclement weather, which could see swathes of the remaining two days washed out. Australia will hope they can mark Michael Clarke's final Test with victory but they require early wickets on day four if are to defy the expected wet conditions.
The death of Morris aged 93 - a member of the 1948 'Invincibles' side under Don Bradman - was announced before play on day three and the tourists set about paid homage to the legendary left-hander. With an anticlimactic ending to the series looming for England, the hosts were tasked with eating further into Australia's huge advantage and Mark Wood dealt exclusively in boundaries as he struck 24 - the highest score of the innings - from 41 balls while putting on 57 for the ninth wicket with Moeen Ali (27). The pair lasted only 40 minutes of the morning however as they both succumbed to successive balls from Mitchell Johnson, who finished with 3 for 21 as England were bowled out for a paltry 149.
Possessing a lead of 332, Michael Clarke enforced the follow-on for the first time in his career as a Test captain, to give England the daunting task of needing to bat for at the least the remainder of the day and then hope for a bout of inclement weather. Adam Lyth and Cook naturally started in watchful manner, showing an improved temperament as the sun beat down in south London.
England's openers meandered their way to 19 without loss before Australia made inroads before lunch, as Lyth edged the excellently frugal Peter Siddle behind for just 10 in another blow to his future international aspirations. The Victoria-born right-arm bowler conceded just one run in his first six over spell before lunch as England grinded their way to the break without any further casualties.
Mitchell Marsh should have yielded a second England wicket when the uncertain Ian Bell edged to Clarke, but the skipper spurned the catch. But after Chris Rogers deflected a Bell (13) pull for four, the duo combined again with success as a Marsh bouncer looped up to Clarke.
Cook had taken 27 balls to get off the mark and it was becoming increasingly clear that his innings would prove pivotal to England's chances of saving the match. Breaking free from his resilient stances, Cook hit Marsh for three fours in the 30th over but it would be his doggedness which would define England's rearguard.
The Essex right-hander went to his half century but partner Root (11) couldn't stay with him as he top edged Mitchell Johnson high into the air to Mitchell Starc at deep fine leg. New man Jonny Barstow gave Australia plenty of encouragement with nicks towards the slip cordon but he survived until the tea interval.
As Australia built scoreboard pressure as the England scoring rate slowed the breakthrough came their way as Bairstow (26) glanced the ball to Adam Voges at short leg. Replays would later show that the Yorkshireman had been hard done by after the ball struck the helmet of Voges for being caught, thus being a dead ball. The injustice was compounded later in the same over as Lyon had more success, in another gloomy sign for England ahead of their visit of the United Arab Emirates in October, as Ben Stokes (0) was bamboozled and edged to Clarke as Australia sensed victory inside three days.
Designs on completing victory in double-quick time were ended as Jos Buttler ended his uncertain form with 33 not out, as part of a stand for the sixth wicket worth 59 with the ever-resilient Cook, who would not survive the day after a bat-pad dismissal to the wayward Smith appeared to consign England to an inevitable. The partnership nevertheless ensured play will slip into a fourth day and though Australia require just four wickets to snatch a consolatory win, their ambitions still hang in the balance amid the looming weather.