LONDON, Sept 15 (Reuters) - Steve Smith was unbeaten on 18 as Australia, chasing 399 for victory, slumped to 68 for three at lunch on the fourth day of the final Ashes test against England at The Oval on Sunday.
The prolific Smith, who has scored more than 700 runs in the series, carried Australian hopes of snatching the win that would secure their first Ashes series triumph in England since 2001.
The touring side have retained the Ashes but England need seven more wickets to ensure the first drawn test series between the teams since 1972.
Australia lost the wickets of Marcus Harris, David Warner and Marnus Labuschagne after England had added 16 runs to their overnight score of 313 for eight.
Harris was bowled by Stuart Broad for nine, his off stump sent cart-wheeling out of the ground by the England fast bowler, and Warner’s miserable series was completed when he edged Broad to Rory Burns at third slip for 11.
It was the seventh time the left-hander had been dismissed by Broad in 10 innings and he trudged off the ground to a chorus of boos in reference to his role in last year’s ball-tampering scandal.
Smith was bidding to pass fifty for the 11th time in a row in tests against England and he again proved to be an immovable object.
Labuschagne has enjoyed a good run of form but, on 14, he was drawn forward by a flighted delivery from spinner Jack Leach and wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow whipped off the bails with the right-hander narrowly out of his crease.
Matthew Wade joined Smith and the pair survived to the interval without undue alarm but although batting conditions were good under blue skies in south London, England will be confident of levelling the series at 2-2 with five sessions remaining. (Editing by Clare Fallon)