England won the final Test at the Oval by 135 runs to level the series and draw the Ashes 2-2.
With the visitors securing the urn in the 4th Test the Ashes were safe, but England saved their most confident performance until the end with a solid day in the field.
Matthew Wade’s superb century frustrated England throughout the day, particularly after they removed Steve Smith for 23 early on, but his resolve was eventually broken with the day closing in.
England began the morning on 313-8, and a lead of 382 runs. The hosts added 16 before Pat Cummins removed Jofra Archer for three and Nathan Lyon got Jack Leach as he went for a big sweep that only managed to edge to Josh Hazlewood.
With the Ashes secured a Test early, Australia now needed 399 to win the final Test and take the series 3-1.
From the off, Stuart Broad was in no mood to hang about. After being hit for four off Marcus Harris, he then knocked out his off stump with the very next ball. Going round the wicket, he kept the ball low and on a length to leave Harris playing down the wrong line.
Broad followed that up with his customary wicket of David Warner, continuing a hoodoo that’s been existent all summer. The Notts quick got his man for the seventh time in 10 innings with an outside edge that Rory Burns took at first slip.
Over the entire series Warner went 35-7 against Broad and ended with 95 runs at an average of 9.5 to top off a rotten individual series.
All of which meant Australia had Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne at the crease, both of whom have been in exceptional form. England, however, broke the partnership early on.
A wonderful flighted delivery from Leach had Labuschagne leaning forward, but the ball zipped past his bat and into the grateful hands of Jonny Bairstow, who whipped the bails off instantly. After the decision was sent upstairs one of Australia's thorns in this English side was sent back to the changing rooms.
Three wickets down and with lunch looming, Leach applied a ton of pressure with Matthew Wade in pure survival mode. In the meantime, Steve Smith continued to be Steve Smith, cracking fours to the off side, while continually picking up singles along the way and generally looking the most relaxed man in south London.
Soon after lunch, with Smith and Wade looking to settle in, England got the key wicket, removing Smith for 23 – comfortably his lowest score of the series and the only time he hasn’t managed at least a half-century.
Broad continued his good form for the day and got Smith to edge to Ben Stokes at leg slip, leaving Australia 85/4. As Smith departed for the final time this summer the Oval gave him a huge round of applause, won over by an Ashes performance that will go down in history as one of the very best.
Ten minutes later and England thought they had another, with Mitchell Marsh nicking off Chris Woakes to Rory Burns, but the bowler overstepped his mark by millimetres and a no ball was called.
Despite chances still coming England’s way, the partnership of Wade and Marsh steadied the ship. With the fall of Smith’s wicket it looked as though England might then rip through the Aussie middle order, but the pair showed resilience in keeping Broad, Archer and Woakes all at bay. When a single from Wade brought up the 50 partnership it left Australia on 136-4, with over 200 still required.
Wade didn’t have to wait much longer to get a 50 of his own. With Joe Root coming on for a bit of spin, he sweeped the ball for a single to become the first Australian to get a half-century in the innings.
But it was the England skipper that made the eventual breakthrough, tossing up a nothing ball outside leg stump. Marsh couldn’t resist and clipped into the hands of Jos Buttler.
Wade, however, had no intention of giving up his wicket and looked in fine form all day. He cracked a boundary off Leach just as England were starting to leak some runs going into the tea break.
With one session in the day remaining, Wade continued to impress. Captain Paine now alongside him ticking along, he shovelled a huge six off Archer’s loose delivery and safely navigated the inevitable bouncers that came as a result.
Despite being teammates at club level, Wade and Archer were at each other. More bouncers were sent down, with plenty of chat coming back in return and an eventual stare off. It looked certain to produce a breakthrough, but it was Paine whose wicket eventually ended the partnership.
Leach caught Paine, who didn’t really offer a shot, and the ball stabbed into his pads. After a lengthy wait, umpire Dhamasena eventually gave it out. The Aussie skipper reviewed but the decision was correct all along.
As soon as the ball was back in Archer’s hands he was sending hostility down to Wade once more. After a brief lull, Wade eventually made his century, striding down the pitch to work the ball square and pick up a simple single.
England then missed two glorious chances to get the centurion immediately out. Bairstow couldn’t gather a Root delivery and wasted a chance to stump him, before Stokes dropped (admittedly, what would have been an incredible) catch at slip.
With the day coming to a close, England’s bowlers got looser and started giving up runs at a worrying rate. The huge lead diminished the importance, but still frustrated the home side, especially after their start and getting Smith out for so little.
Broad eventually removed Cummins for nine and Wade’s stand was finally broken shortly after. His 117 was an outstanding performance given the circumstance and his battle with Archer the highlight of the day. It was Root, however, that got him, getting plenty of turn and allowing Bairstow to stump the Australian.
The tourists’ resolve was utterly broken and three runs later Leach removed Lyon, too. With the game up, spinner Leach forced Hazlewood into a shot towards mid-wicket, only to find Root who took an exquisite catch to his left and win the Test match with a day to spare.
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