Saturday, 27 November 2021

Australia retain the Ashes but England square series


LONDON: England defeated Australia by 135 runs in the final Ashes Test at The Oval to draw the series 2-2. Australia took an unassailable lead at Old Trafford last week to retain the urn, but were unable to become the first touring side to win the Ashes on these shore since 2001. England’s victory in south London concludes a memorable summer in which they won their first men’s 50-over World Cup. It is only the second time an Ashes series has ended in a draw and the first time since 1972.

At the start of day four, Stuart Broad hit Pat Cummins for two sixes as England added 16 runs to their overnight total before being bowled out for 329, setting Australia a target of 399 to win. Australia’s openers, both enduring dismal runs, then survived for 4.5 overs before Broad knocked over Marcus Harris for nine. In his next over, Broad found Warner’s outside edge to dismiss the Australian for the seventh time this summer. Warner finished the series with just 95 runs at an average of less than ten. Record-breaking batsman Steve Smith and in-form Marnus Labuschange steading the innings for almost ten overs but the latter was stumped off Jack Leach before lunch to leave the tourists wilting on 56-3.

Smith made his tenth consecutive half-century against England in the first innings of this match but fell short in his pursuit of an eleventh after glancing Broad to Ben Stokes at leg gully for 23. Despite a rare failure, Smith still finished the series with 774 runs at an average of over 110. Mitchell Marsh, boosted by his seven wickets in the match, was offered a reprieve when he was caught off a Chris Woakes no-ball. Shortly after, the all-rounder saw another outside edge off Woakes palmed over the slips by Rory Burns, who has emerged as one of England’s safest pair of hands this summer.

Marsh failed to make England pay, however, prodding forward and tamely pushing the ball straight to Jos Buttler at bat pad after Joe Root had brought himself on to bowl before tea. The proactive Matthew Wade reached a fluent fifty in the afternoon session and continued to frustrate England after tea, hooking Jofra Archer for a maximum as he moved into the 70s. Tim Paine also made a bright start to his innings but failed to convert another start into a substantial score when he was trapped lbw to become Leech’s second victim of the day. Wade was still fighting to hold the Australian innings together, however, and survived a thrilling spell from Archer before posting his second century of the series and fourth of his Test career. England then missed two half-chances to remove Wade; first Bairstow failed to complete a difficult stumping and, off the next ball, Stokes put down a tough chance at slip. However, the hosts’ disappointment soon turned to joy with Broad finding Cummins’ outside edge in the next over to reduce Australia to 244-7.

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