An enthralling Ashes series is set to conclude at the Kia Oval on Monday, with England’s Stuart Broad hoping to achieve a “fairy-tale finish” to square the series. Sunday’s washout has added to the tension, leaving a lot on the line for both teams. Australia, needing 249 more runs, are currently 135 without loss in pursuit of their target of 384 to win the series in England for the first time since 2001. England, on the other hand, are desperate to claim a victory that would give them a share of the spoils at 2-2, despite the Ashes urn returning Down Under.
This match also marks the end of an era for both teams, with Broad announcing his retirement and several other players from both XIs nearing the end of their careers. It sets the stage for a fitting finale to a series that has left its mark on cricket fans of this generation.
In the dressing room, England assistant coach Marcus Trescothick expressed his hopes for Broad’s final performance, stating that it would be ideal if he could achieve a five-wicket haul to win the match. England will be hoping that Australia does not get their target down to single figures, while Broad dreams of playing a leading role in the team’s victory.
Broad received a symbolic send-off when he walked out to bat for the last time on day four. The sold-out crowd at the Kia Oval greeted him with a standing ovation, and Australia even gave him a guard of honour. It was an emotional moment for Broad, who was accompanied by his friend James Anderson before being encouraged to enjoy the special moment alone.
After the emotional start to Broad’s innings, Mitchell Starc provided some drama in the opening over. Starc bowled the first five balls such that singles were turned down, but then Broad hit a six off the final delivery, bringing excitement to the crowd. However, Anderson was soon trapped lbw by Todd Murphy, ending his brief innings.
While it was a memorable day for Broad, it was not a great birthday for Anderson, who turned 41. The crowd at the Kia Oval wished him a happy birthday, and his children made a poster for him, but Anderson was out lbw after facing just five balls. Despite Anderson’s efforts, the Australian openers blunted the English bowling attack, creating very few opportunities in 38 overs.
Usman Khawaja and Zak Crawley had an impressive series with the bat. Crawley’s classy 73 took his tally to 480 runs, making him the second-highest run-scorer behind Khawaja. Khawaja ended the series unbeaten on 69 and surpassed Crawley’s score, ending as the top run-scorer. The difference between the two lies in the number of balls faced, with Khawaja taking significantly more balls to score his runs compared to Crawley.
This match also marks the end of several players’ Ashes careers. Broad has confirmed his retirement, and David Warner will retire in January. Moeen Ali has previously announced his return to red-ball retirement. The next Ashes series is more than two years away, making it uncertain whether Anderson, Mark Wood, and Ben Stokes will feature. Australia’s team also includes several players over 30 who may not play on English soil again.
Amidst the end-of-an-era feel surrounding this match, Broad has the opportunity to leave an indelible mark with his performance. With an impressive record in this series and the Kia Oval being the site of his first significant Ashes moment, Broad has the potential to create a fairy-tale finish to his Ashes career.