Fifth Ashes Test, day five: England hope Stuart Broad provides fairytale finish

An enthralling Ashes will come to its conclusion at the Kia Oval on Monday with Stuart Broad and England eager to fashion a “fairy-tale finish” to square the series.

Sunday’s washout following only 39.5 overs means the latest instalment of the England versus Australia rivalry has gone to the wire with plenty on the line.

Australia are 135 without loss in pursuit of 384 to win a series in England for the first time since 2001, but the hosts are desperate to claim a victory that would earn them a share of the spoils at 2-2 despite urn returning Down Under.

Throw in Broad’s retirement in addition to this arguably being the end of an era for several members on each XI and it sets up the prospect of a fitting finale to an Ashes series that has left its mark on a generation.

View from the dressing room

England may prefer for Australia not to get their target down to single figures but Broad will be dreaming of a leading character role. Australia need 249 more runs to pull off victory and claim a 3-1 series win, but their pursuit of 384 would represent the second highest Test chase in this country. It is geared up to be another thriller.

Symbolic send-off

England v Australia – LV= Insurance Ashes Series 2023 – Fifth Test – Day Four – The Kia Oval

Stuart Broad and James Anderson arm in arm before the former received a guard of honour from Australia (Mike Egerton/PA)

Broad lapped up the benefits of making his retirement plans public on Saturday night when he walked out to bat for one final time on day four.

A sold-out Kia Oval crowed greeted his emergence from the pavilion with a standing ovation before old rivals Australia gave the veteran a guard of honour.

Alongside Broad was his friend James Anderson with the duo arm in arm before the latter told his fellow his new ball partner to soak up the special moment alone.

Stand and deliver

After the testimonial vibes of Broad’s standing ovation and guard of honour, a bizarre opening passage occurred from Mitchell Starc’s opening over with singles turned down during the first five balls.

It was quickly forgotten when Starc’s final delivery was short and Broad latched onto it with a swashbuckling pull for six over square leg.

Anderson was trapped lbw by Todd Murphy in the next over, which meant Broad’s maximum was the final ball he faced in cricket. Some way to go.

Little birthday joy for Jimmy

While Broad would have hoped for a wicket on what could have been his swansong, Anderson may have also envisaged a different 41st birthday.

The elder statesman of the England team was serenaded by the Kia Oval crowd with happy birthday and his children made a poster for their dad which was picked up by the TV cameras, but he was out lbw after five balls.

Anderson then again ran in hard and produced his normal pace, but he and the rest of the bowling attack were blunted by Australia’s openers and worryingly barely an opportunity was created in 38 overs. Captain Ben Stokes knows that must change early on Monday.

Khawaja kicks Creepy off top spot

No two batters have better highlighted the culture clash between the teams than Usman Khawaja and Zak Crawley, who will end the series as numbers one and two in the run-scoring charts.

Crawley’s classy 73 on day three took his overall tally to 480 runs and left Khawaja with a 57-run target to pip him to the top spot, which he managed in stoic fashion on Sunday and the Australian opener walked off unbeaten on 69.

While Khawaja is seven runs shy of the 500-mark, the eye-catching difference between the duo is the number of balls faced. Crawley needed 541 deliveries to score his tally at a strike rate of 88.72. In contrast Khawaja has taken 1,248 balls with a strike rate of 39.50 to demonstrate the different methods adopted by the teams this summer.

Broad’s Ashes?

Broad has already confirmed he will retire but he is not the only player set to bring their Ashes career to an end on Monday.

Warner will bow out in January and is 32 runs shy of signing off here with a first hundred in England while Moeen Ali signalled earlier this summer he would go back into red-ball retirement.

The next Ashes is more than two years away and it looks a tall order for 41-year-old Anderson to feature while Mark Wood, 33, may even struggle and doubts have to be cast over Stokes given his ongoing knee concerns.

Australia’s XI includes several players over 30, with Steve Smith (34), Khawaja (36), Josh Hazlewood (32) and Mitchell Starc (33) unlikely to grace these shores again.

It all contributes to the end-of-an-era feel surrounding day five but with 20 wickets in this series and this ground the scene of his first big Ashes moment in 2009, you would not bet against Broad producing a fairy-tale finish.

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