Australia lift Ashes after drawn series
Matthew Wade hits a sparkling century as Australia lift the silverware in drawn series after England claim fifth Test win
Andrew Ramsey at The Oval
16 September 2019, 07:06 AM AEST
Australia's current 18-year wait to win an Ashes series in the UK will stretch until at least 2023 after England squared the 2019 campaign 2-2 with a 135-run win at The Oval.
The home team's deserved win, achieved as shadows stretched across south London on a gloriously balmy Sunday evening, completed the first drawn Ashes contest since 1972 when Ian Chappell's young team ended square with Ray Illingworth's outfit.
England appeared on track for an even more emphatic win when they dismissed Australia's batting maestro Steve Smith for a rare 'failure' of 23 shortly after lunch.
But a typically feisty century from Matthew Wade, which included a compelling duel with England fast bowler and his Hobart Hurricanes teammate Jofra Archer, delayed the outcome and, at one stage, seemed set to push the match into a final day.
But when Wade finally fell for 117 as the eighth man out, the visitors' final two wickets fell to consecutive deliveries as Joe Root's team formed a celebratory huddle, before Australia captain Tim Paine accepted the urn that his men had retained.
Wade's innings was studded with some textbooks drives and sweetly struck pull shots including a six from the bowling of Archer, and it was his post-tea duel with the England quick that proved the day's highlight.
The stroke that cleared the boundary, from Archer's second over after the break, clearly infuriated Wade's KFC Big Bash League teammate who went after the left-hander during a fiery, eight-over spell.
Archer bombarded his combative foe, who had targeted the bowler with some gratuitous on-field advice during the fourth Test at Old Trafford, with a series of searing bouncers, several verbal volleys and a prolonged malevolent stare.
But the closest he came to knocking over Wade was with a skidding short ball that slammed into the Tasmanian's right shoulder but failed to slow his march to a defiant, deserved hundred.
Wade reached the milestone, the first century scored in the final Test despite The Oval's reputation as a batter-friendly venue even in such a bowler-dominated series, with a leg-glanced single off Stuart Broad.
So keen was he to aim his celebration in the direction of the Australia dressing room he almost ran through the bowler's end stumps.
He also enjoyed a hat-trick of near misses soon after against the part-time off-spin of Root, who could have claimed the former keeper's wicket with three consecutive deliveries.
The first was a missed stumping with Wade on 104, when the ball leaped out of the deepening footmarks and struck England gloveman Jonny Bairstow in the chest with the batter well short of his ground.
Next ball, Wade tried an expansive drive that flew high and fast to Ben Stokes at slip who instinctively threw up a hand but had little chance of completing the catch.
To complete the triumvirate, Wade was then adjudged caught by Stokes as he swung at another full ball that spun so sharply from the rough the batter was unsure if he'd hit it or not, with a rare successful Australia review confirming he had not.
His luck expired, however, a couple of Root overs later when he again danced down the pitch and was beaten by the off-spinner's turn and comprehensively stumped.
That dismissal came at the scheduled time for stumps, but with almost eight overs of the day's allocations to be bowled in which England desperately sought the two wickets separating them from victory.
The first came at 6.08pm when Nathan Lyon swept spinner Jack Leach low to Root at square leg, and the last from the next ball that Josh Hazlewood squeezed to mid-wicket where Root had positioned himself for a one-handed catch diving to his left.
Ultimately, it was another failure by Australia's top-order that ensured they fell short of their ambition to end the 18-year Ashes-winning with only Smith, Wade and Marnus Labuschagne averaging above 30 with the bat.
Indeed, when Smith was caught in a carefully crafted trap at 2.05pm on Sunday for his only sub-50 score in eight Ashes Tests dating back to December 2017, England celebrated as if they had won back the ancient urn.
The glee was partly due to the eventual success of a strategy to remove Smith which involved the placement of a fine leg-slip with Stuart Broad firing the ball into the hip of the world's top-ranked Test batter.
It was also largely the result of removing Smith for 23 after he had produced scores of 144, 142, 92, 211, 82 and 80 in his previous innings this series – returns that saw him named the Compton-Miller Medallist as the player of the series – and knowing the first and last line of steely resistance had been breached.
As the England players embraced Smith walked off to a standing ovation but shaking his head in disappointment as Australia sank to 3-56 and all thoughts of an historic win went with him.
In reality, the chances of chasing 399 against England's rampant seamers with such a misfiring batting line-up were fanciful from the start.
Those long odds stretched further when openers Marcus Harris (9) and David Warner (11) were sent back inside the first seven overs, in keeping with the manner that Australia has begun every innings of this series.
That the 18 runs the pair posted before the first wicket fell was Australia's best opening stand of the northern summer spoke volumes for the woes the tourists have experienced against the new Dukes ball.
With England's most successful Test bowler, James Anderson, hobbled after bowling just four overs in the opening match it was expected that life might become marginally easier for Australia's top-order bats.
But in his long-time partner's absence, veteran seamer Broad stepped up to exert utter dominance over Australia's openers, especially Warner.
Unlike the previous Tests in this campaign, Warner survived Broad's first over and wasn't even the first Australia batter to fall.
That dubious honour was Harris's, who was worked over by Broad's two-card trick – a full delivery angling in (that Harris on-drove sweetly to the boundary) followed by a full delivery that moved away (that sent off-stump cartwheeling).
However, Warner's nemesis had to wait only three more deliveries to complete his set of seven dismissals from 10 innings when he once again had the former vice-captain caught behind the wicket.
It ended Warner's leanest-ever Test series with 95 runs at an average of 9.5 (including one score of 61), and equalled the most vice-like stranglehold a bowler has established over an opposition opener in the course of a single series.
The only other opener to have succumbed to the same foe seven times in a solitary campaign was Trevor Goddard, haunted by England quick Brian Statham throughout South Africa's 1960 tour of the UK.
Having paved a path to Australia's middle-order while the ball was still new, England understood that beyond the tourists' best-performed batting pair Labuschagne and Smith lay imminent victory.
The first obstacle was removed in unlikely fashion with Labuschagne stretching so far forward to counter left-arm spinner Jack Leach that his back foot briefly left the crease and he became the series' first stumping victim.
The sight of Smith exiting the battlefield early (by his peerless standards) led the full-house to believe England's golden summer would be fittingly crowned on another languid Sunday afternoon, eight weeks after their World Cup triumph on the other side of the River Thames.
Root became the focus of that celebration when he brought himself on to bowl, and duly removed Mitchell Marsh in his second over when the allrounder knocked a catch straight into the hands of short-leg.
Marsh's 34 was a charmed knock, given he had been brilliantly caught at slip by Rory Burns having scored six but was reprieved when video replays confirmed bowler Chris Woakes had overstepped for the first time in his 30-Test career.
The victory march was further slowed by a defiant 52-run sixth-wicket stand between Tasmania pair Wade and Paine.
England squandered both the reviews to spurious lbw reviews in a bid to part the pair, so Archer took it upon himself to crank up the attack on Wade.
But it was the intervening over of spin from Leach that brought the breakthrough, when Paine was pinned on his stumps and sent packing – perhaps fittingly – after lodging his final, unsuccessful review of the series.
Australia XI: David Warner, Marcus Harris, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Matthew Wade, Mitch Marsh, Tim Paine (c, wk), Pat Cummins, Peter Siddle, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood
England XI: Rory Burns, Joe Denly, Joe Root (c), Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Chris Woakes, Jofra Archer, Stuart Broad, Jack Leach
2019 Qantas Ashes Tour of England
Australia squad: Tim Paine (c), Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner.
England squad: Joe Root (c), Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Jack Leach, Craig Overton, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes (vc), Chris Woakes.
First Test: Australia won by 251 runs at Edgbaston
Second Test: Match drawn at Lord's
Third Test: England won by one wicket at Headingley
Fourth Test: Australia won by 185 runs at Old Trafford
Fifth Test: September 12-16, The Oval