Paine and Wade both had their arms around Dharmasena in what appeared to be a conciliatory gesture as they left the field for lunch. The captain later attempted to defuse the incident between Wade and Root, saying “there was nothing in it at all”.
The run-in between Wade and Root is one of the rare instances umpires have warned Australia for their on-field behaviour since they pledged to clean up their act in the wake of the ball-tampering controversy in South Africa last year.
Australian frustrations grew as the hosts seized on more errors from Paine’s weary men to bat themselves into a commanding position at The Oval. England were 8-313 at stumps on the third day, a lead of 382.
A week after the high of retaining the urn at Old Trafford, Australia have turned in comfortably their sloppiest performance of the series.
The bowlers are tired at the end of a long campaign, not helped by five dropped catches and two incorrect calls not to use the decision review system which cost them wickets, and their woes with the bat have continued.
To their credit, they did not drop their bundle and were rewarded with two outstanding catches by Smith and Marnus Labuschagne late in the day, which has left the door slightly ajar.
“It was a pretty special catch late in the day after he’s been batting for seven weeks straight,” Tim Paine said of Smith’s effort.
They still have to set a record for the highest successful run chase at The Oval, which currently stands at 263 by England in 1902, if they are to become the first Australian side to win a series here since 2001.
Australia may well wonder what may have been if they had held on to their chances in the second innings or used DRS more astutely.
The two reprieves they gave to Denly and Stokes cost them 154 runs, denying Australia the opportunity to fight their way back with the ball. It will now be up to the batsmen, or more so Smith, to conjure a miracle.
Denly made Australia pay dearly for Marcus Harris’s sitter on the second night. On zero at the time, the opener made 94 before being belatedly dismissed by Peter Siddle.
Denly had another let-off on 54 when Paine chose not to refer an unsuccessful review for lbw, which would have been overturned.
Stokes made 67 after being put down by Smith, who could not hold on to one which flew quickly to him at first slip from the spin of Nathan Lyon, early on the third day.
They were denied another wicket when they decided against reviewing an lbw verdict in favour of Jos Buttler, who was on 19 at the time. He made 47.
“I’m going to do some umpiring school when I get home, I’ll enroll in a level-three umpires course and see if I can get them right,” Paine said. “Yeah, that was tongue in cheek.
“We’re getting it wrong, it happens, it’s fast, it’s a tough job. As I’ve said throughout the whole Test series I’ve got a new respect for umpiring, particularly in Test cricket because it’s a bloody hard job.
“For years players whinged about umpiring and now we’ve got it in our hands a little bit and we’re finding that it’s hard.”
If Australia had not been so poor with the bat a day earlier, they would have been batting in ideal conditions; instead, it was Stokes and Denly who set England up with a 127-run stand for the third wicket.
There was little movement for the quicks though Lyon created some concern, for England and Australia’s batsmen, with a ripping off-break to remove Stokes. The ball pitched on middle and leg and fizzed past Stokes’s bat to hit his off stump.
Lyon was the pick of Australia’s bowlers with 3-65 though he must be struggling physically otherwise he would have been given more than 22 overs.
Andrew Wu writes on cricket and AFL for The Sydney Morning Herald