England win fifth Test to leave Ashes drawn
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 the ones lifting the 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.
The result sent England’s outgoing coach Trevor Bayliss out on a high after more than four years at the helm and denied Tim Paine the bragging rights of becoming the first Australia skipper since 2001 to oversee an outright win on these shores.
Smith was expected to be the main obstacle to a home success on day four and as long as he was active, anything was possible. For once he betrayed his mortality, suckered into a well-laid trap to finish with a gargantuan series tally of 774 runs scored, 1,196 balls faced and an average of 110.57.
It fell to the team’s sledger-in-chief, Wade, to carry the fight and he fought through a fiery and ill-tempered tussle with Jofra Archer to make a fine hundred. He was eighth man out deep in the evening session when England skipper Joe Root had him stumped, his second wicket in a useful cameo with the ball.
Root was also involved at the death, holding both catches as Leach picked off Nathan Lyon and Josh Hazlewood, and so ended a famous summer for cricket in this country taking in a historic World Cup win at Lord’s and a compelling Ashes contest.