Aus retain Ashes despite draw
Sustained excellence from Steve Smith, who scaled new heights with 774 runs, complemented by the searing pace and accuracy of Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood enabled Australia to cling on to the Ashes despite losing the final test against England on Sunday by 135 runs.
Smith, the former captain who returned to the national side for this year’s World Cup and Ashes after he was suspended for his part in a ball-tampering scandal in South Africa, finally fell to earth when he was out for 23 in Australia’s second innings on a glorious sun-drenched autumn afternoon at The Oval.
With his departure, greeted with generous applause from a capacity crowd aside from a few scattered boos, Australia’s faint hopes of reaching a victory target of 399 also vanished despite a battling century from Matthew Wade.
However, victory in the fourth test at Old Trafford meant the Australians could not lose the series and the 2-2 scoreline meant they retained the urn.
It was the first drawn Ashes series since 1972 when Ian Chappell’s Australians squared the series 2-2 at the same London venue.
Smith, who missed the third test after he was concussed by a blow to the neck at Lord’s, scored 144, 142, 92, 211, 82 and 80 before Sunday.
Each knock was the highest for his team and the first innings at the Oval was his 10th successive score exceeding 50 against an England test attack.
In the history of test cricket only his incomparable compatriot Don Bradman, who averaged 99.94 from 52 tests, stands ahead of Smith whose average has risen to fractionally below 65.
England 294 (Jos Buttler 70, Joe Root 57; Mitchell Marsh 5/46) & 329 (Joe Denly 94, Ben Stokes 67; Nathan Lyon 4/69) vs Australia 225 (Steve Smith 80, Marnus Labuschagne 48; Jofra Archer 6/62) & 263 (Matthew Wade 117, Mitchell Marsh 24; Jack Leach 4/49) England win by 136 runs.