The England bowling attack blunted the Australian batsmen – Steve Smith included – to claim a decisive victory in the 2019 Ashes 5th and final Test at the Oval, London to square the series 2-2 and remain unbeaten at home against Australia since 2001 – but the series draw enough for Australia to retain the urn and take the Ashes back down under, where they will defend it against England in two years time.
Only a defiant 70 from Jos Buttler (above) gave England a half decent first innings total – ending on 294 – but was still felt to be well below par after Australia had won the toss – captain Tim Paine somewhat surprisingly putting England in to bat, on a good looking pitch and just a few days after the conclusion of the 4th test. Australia’s reply followed precedent – in trouble early on before Labuschagne and Smith stabilised things. Smith looked set for another Ashes century but fell on 80 – something of a victory for England – who went on to claim a useful first innings lead of 69, dismissing the Aussies for 225 – Jofra Archer taking 6 Australian wickets in the process.
With three days remaining, England asserted control of the match, with Joe Denly coming to the party eventually. His final 2019 Ashes innings producing 94 invaluable runs, though he looked desolate finishing just 6 runs shy of his maiden Ashes century. Healthy contributions from Ben Stokes – playing as a specialist batsman – and Buttler again saw England pass 300 for just the fourth time this series – and take the game away from Australia – IF they could remove Steve Smith without too much damage. The England innings closed early on the 4th days play on 329 – meaning Australia would need shrapnel short of 400 to win the series.
It never looked likely from the start. Stuart Broad, excellent across the series, once again took early wickets to put the Australians immediately on the back foot. He terrorised David Warner, and when he got him to nick a delivery to the waiting Rory Burns in the slip cordon, it was the 7th time he had removed Warner this Ashes. For Warner, it spelt the end of a nightmare series, averaging less than 10 overall. Steve Smith arrived again as saviour for Australia – but even he couldn’t halt the England procession – posting just 23 before the irrepressible Broad snaffled him. Only Matthew Wade (above) stood firm – hitting a magnificent 117 before being stumped off the bowling of Jack Leach but still 140 odd runs behind the England total with now 8 wickets gone – a few runs later and it was all over, Josh Hazelwood being caught by Joe Root again off the bowling of Leach (below), for England to win by 135 runs and finishing the series on a winning note.
The 5th test, despite Australia knowing they couldn’t lose the Ashes, had more passion and snipe between the two teams than seen in the previous four. Many times there was snippy chat between batsmen, bowlers and fielders – on both sides, with glares and hostility very noticeable. Both teams wanted to win the final test for different reasons. England to avoid a test defeat on home soil – Australia to win the series in isolation. It was an Ashes test in every sense of the word.
So the 2019 Ashes series will go down in the history books as a draw. England maybe more relieved, Australia maybe more aggrieved at that result. Both teams will know they have work to do, especially with their respective batting line ups. Only three batsmen from both sides have averaged 50 or more – Stokes from England, Labuschagne and of course Steve Smith from Australia. After that, an average of 39 is the next best (Rory Burns). The argument will continue about whether this poor batting show is a knock on effect of so much limited over/white ball cricket invading the Test arena, with a lack of technique/discipline very evident on both sides – or the fact that, simply speaking, both teams had much better bowling attacks than their opposition’s batting line ups. Steve Smith apart. Australia will claim they have the best bowling corps in Test cricket – England aren’t far behind, but know that Stuart Broad cant go on forever, James Anderson could be done, and Jofra Archer needs support, time and some patience to develop – but is a frightening prospect. Sam Curran looked good, Jack Leach may well have the spinners spot tied down for now, whilst Chris Woakes genuine but maybe not world class at Test level.
But on the back of a fantastic ODI World Cup, this 2019 Ashes series gave a timely reminder that the five day game is alive and kicking, and can provide as much drama, excitement and action as the limited over version of the sport. Much needed – and both teams will know that attention to the true form of the game is needed going forward – as much, if not more, than the shortened version.
- England 1st Innings : 294 (Buttler 70, Root 57, Burns 47)
- Australia Bowling : Marsh 5/46, Cummins 3/84
- Australia 1st Innings : 225 (Smith 80, Labuschagne 48)
- England Bowling : Archer 6/62, Curran 3/46
- England 2nd Innings : 329 (Denly 94, Stokes 67, Buttler 47)
- Australia Bowling : Lyon 4/69, Marsh 2/40, Siddle 2/52, Cummins 2/67
- Australia 2nd Innings : 263 (Wade 117, Marsh 24)
- England Bowling : Leach 4/49, Broad 4/62, Root 2/26
- ENGLAND WON BY 135 RUNS
- Man of the Match : Jofra Archer (England)
- Australian Man of the Series : Steve Smith
- English Man of the Series : Ben Stokes
- Venue : The Oval, London
- Dates : Thursday 12 September to Monday 16 September