England must wait for their chance to reclaim the Ashes urn but Stuart Broad and Jack Leach ensured a first drawn series since 1972 by condemning Australia to a 135-run loss at The Oval.
Last week’s win at Old Trafford ensured the tourists would be lifting one of sport’s smallest but most revered prizes at the close – but their celebrations came tinged with the disappointment of defeat and a 2-2 series scoreline.
After asking Australia to chase a towering total of 399, England finally cracked Steve Smith’s code – dismissing him for under 50 for the first time in 11 innings – and outlasted a defiant Matthew Wade, who made 117.
Broad and Leach finished with four wickets each as the tourists were bowled out for 263, Broad grabbing the main prize when Smith flicked to Ben Stokes at leg-slip for just 23 and Leach ending things at 6.10pm with two wickets in two balls.
Nothing to separate the sides after an incredible series 🤝— England Cricket (@englandcricket) September 15, 2019
Congratulations to Australia on retaining the Ashes 🏴🇦🇺 pic.twitter.com/XPml8EbIE8
Broad became the first England bowler to take 20-plus wickets in four Ashes series – 2013, 2013-14, 2015 and 2019. Only Sir Ian Botham and Bob Willis have done so on three occasions in modern times, matching the pre-1900 achievements of Bobby Peel and Tom Richardson.
The battle between Wade and Jofra Archer made for compelling afternoon viewing. There were repeated stand-offs and staring contests between the pair as England attempted to wrap up victory before stumps. Archer also struck Wade high up on the arm during a relentless spell of pace bowling. Ultimately, Wade, who has repeatedly attempted to wind up the opposition, won this mini battle, finishing on 117, while Archer ended the second innings wicketless.
Smith was, arguably, single-handedly responsible for Australia retaining the urn. He registered a superb average of 110.57 from his seven innings, despite finishing with his lowest knock of the series. The 30-year-old was denied an 11th successive 50 against England by Ben Stokes’ catch off Broad, falling for 23. His string of sensational knocks totalled 774 and Smith could easily have challenged Don Bradman’s five-match series record of 974 had he not been curtailed by concussion and missed three innings. He posted the highest number of runs in a five-match series since Brian Lara managed 798 against England in 1993-94.
In stark contrast to the remarkable contribution of team-mate Smith, David Warner endured an abysmal Ashes. He produced the worst display in history by an opening batsman in a five-match series. After being dismissed by Broad for the seventh time this series, he finished with just 95 runs from 10 innings, including being out for three successive ducks prior to arriving at The Oval, and managed only two knocks in double figures.
More renowned for his batting and far from being considered a genuine all-rounder, England captain Joe Root remarkably reached 50 international wickets across all formats on Sunday. A change of angle gave the Yorkshireman – who earlier in this match reached 7,000 Test runs – another milestone moment. Australian all-rounder Mitchell Marsh was the victim, prodding the delivery straight into the hands of Jos Buttler at short-leg. Root later took two fine catches off successive Leach deliveries to secure a 2-2 draw for his side.
Australia captain Tim Paine made his first successful review of this Ashes on what proved to be the final day of the series. Much has been made of Paine’s struggles with the DRS and he had been tetchy on Saturday when asked about his poor record, sarcastically replying that he was going to enrol on an umpiring course. He finally enjoyed some joy with the system on Sunday. Wicketkeeper Paine caught England tailender Archer off Pat Cummins and, after the umpire initially gave not out, his decision to challenge was vindicated when replays showed the ball brushed the batsman’s glove.
With England playing on their ground, Surrey used the final Test to kick-start a campaign to find their greatest XI. The county is holding an online public vote, which opens on September 23, ahead of next year celebrating their 175th anniversary. England opener Rory Burns is among the 434 players in contention, along with former internationals Bobby Abel, Jack Hobbs and Alec Stewart. Results will be revealed at a presentation ceremony on November 11.