Australia set England 227 for victory

Australia declared to set up a potentially exciting final session of the series.

Australia declared to set up a potentially exciting final session of the series. Picture: AFP

OVAL - Australia lost six quick wickets before declaring at tea on 111 for six to set England a victory target of 227 on the final day of the fifth Ashes test at The Oval on Sunday.

The touring side, 3-0 down in the series, will have 44 overs to bowl out England, who made 377 in their first innings, and secure their first victory in nine tests.

The fourth day was washed out by rain and England resumed on 247 for four, needing 46 runs to avoid the follow-on.

Chris Woakes, on 25, soon edged a good-length ball from Ryan Harris straight to Michael Clarke at second slip but Matt Prior, searching for form after a disappointing series with the bat, played positively from the start.

He pulled Harris for four and clipped Peter Siddle through mid-wicket for two to take England to the follow-on target of 293.

Ian Bell, continuing his rich vein of form to reach an assured 45, was unlucky to be out when he flicked James Faulkner down the leg-side and was well caught by wicketkeeper Brad Haddin.

Bell, Faulkner's first test victim, has scored 545 runs in the series and made three centuries.

Prior's fifth four, a slash to third man off Siddle, took England past 300 but Mitchell Starc returned to the attack to uproot Stuart Broad's middle stump.

Graeme Swann immediately went on the offensive, taking 10 runs off the first three balls he faced from Starc and dancing down the pitch to hit off-spinner Nathan Lyon straight for six and lift England to 350 for seven at lunch.

Prior, on 47, skied Faulkner to mid-on where Starc ran round to take a fine diving catch and James Anderson edged the same bowler to Haddin who took a record-equalling 28th catch of the series.

Simon Kerrigan, who took none for 53 off eight overs in a miserable debut with the ball, managed to get off the mark and Swann's breezy innings ended on 34 when he was bowled by Faulkner who completed figures of four for 51 in his first test.

Australia sent out Shane Watson to open with David Warner and the all-rounder, who made 176 in the first innings, was badly dropped on nought by Broad off Anderson.

Watson smashed Anderson over mid-on for a huge six before the England fast bowler dismissed Warner for 12, lunging across the wicket to hold a fine one-handed catch off his own bowling.

Watson, on 26, drove Swann to Kevin Pietersen at long on, Haddin nicked his first ball off Broad through to Prior and Faulkner, after making 22 from 22 balls, also edged Broad to the keeper as Australia stumbled to 67 for four.

Steve Smith, who made 138 not out in the first innings, got to seven before lofting Broad to Swann at long-on and the fast bowler produced a fierce full-pitched delivery to bowl Harris for one.

Clarke made 28 not out and Starc was unbeaten on 13 at tea when Australia declared to set up a potentially exciting final session of the series.