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The Guardian - AU
The Guardian - AU
James Wallace (earlier and Rob Smyth (later)

Play abandoned as Australia chase England target of 384 on day four of fifth Test – as it happened

Rain at the Oval
I’m only happy when it rains, said no cricketer ever. Photograph: Andrew Boyers/Action Images/Reuters

That’s all from me for today, and indeed for the 2023 Ashes. Thanks so much for your company and emails today and throughout the series. I haven’t felt so alive at work in years. See you for the World Cup!

Read Simon Burnton’s Ashes diary

Ali Martin on Stuart Broad

Stumps: Australia 135-0 chasing 384

It’s over, you don’t need to tell me. The umpires have accepted the futility of the situation, so it’s time for everyone to do one. They’ll be back tomorrow for the last day of this magical series. The forecast is better, and all four results are still on the table. Of course they are: this series has had enough momentum shifts to give WinViz a nervous breakdown.


“Surely the ultimate ‘lost Bazballer’ is one of the closest to making it to their era: Jos Buttler?” says Phil Harrison. “The selectors were, of course, right to move on from him when they did. But I’m still infuriated to think how snarled up in angst he looked for most of his Test career and to imagine the utter carnage he might have unleashed with the complete ‘eff it’ freedom Stokes and McCullum would have afforded him.”

Though I agree with you, I suspect Buttler’s biggest problem at Test level has been his own subconscious, not the England selectors and coaches. You can infer from his interview that he feels like he’s trespassing when he wears whites, and that’s a very difficult mindset to change. If anyone can…

We might yet find out. I have a hunch he’ll play some Test cricket next year.

“Hello Rob!” writes Phil West. “OK, it wasn’t retiring from making zillions of dosh like the candidates that a few others have mentioned - but for retiring at the top I cannot think of anyone in any sport better than Herb Elliott. WR holder and Olympic 1500m champion, never beaten over a mile, then retires at 22 and goes on to make his mark in business.”

I had literally never heard of him (obviously I’m not a golfer), but that sounds like a great story.

“To change sport again,” writes Penelope, “Ash Barty retired from tennis right at the top, rated number one, when she was only 25.”


“I know it doesn’t really count as he played 117 Tests,” says Adam Roberts, “but I have felt all summer that DI Gower would love being in this team with no-one moaning about his lack of application.”

Or falling into a leg trap on the stroke of lunch. Different times, eh.

“Boa tarde Rob,” says Geoff Wignall. “May I throw another name into the mix re: Tim Sanders 23:13 musings about those who would have thrived under Bazball: Graeme Hick?”

“Another player for the ‘who would have thrived under Bazball’ team,” writes John Jones. “Matthew Maynard.”

Yep, agree with both of those. In fact, I’ve made this very helpful list of England players who would probably have excelled under the captaincy of Ben Stokes.

Graeme Hick
Graeme Hick shows his Bazball credentials against India in 1996. Photograph: Adrian Murrell/ALLSPORT


“The weather’s nice, isn’t it? A little brisk.”

With that, I’m away to grab a coffee. There’s a 0.06 per cent chance of us seeing any more play today, but we’ll keep the OBO going until the umpires get all official on us.


Another early retirement

Frank Rijkaard was only 32 when he quit, after Ajax won the Champions League in 1995,” writes Rob Knap. “His list of honours is just ludicrous!”

He’s somebody who would fit into modern football without a scintilla of difficult. Pep Guardiola would happily pay about £500m for him.

“Greetin’ into my beer listening to Mike Atherton talking with McGrath about their ever-linked careers,” writes Simon McMahon. “So thoughtful and gracious it almost beggars belief. McGrath and Warne up there in the retirement chat..?”

I’d say they were more fairytale retirements (which are also very rare in all sport, especially for the true greats) than premature: Warne was 37 and McGrath 36, and Warne might have gone in 2005 had Australia not lost the series.


Another plug for Ali Martin’s fine tribute to Stuart Broad, England’s chief brawler of the past 15 years.

Tomorrow’s forecast is better, though there could still be some light showers. If you have a spare farm, put it on the draw.

“So Broad - and almost certainly Anderson - will bow out with four Ashes series wins,” says Max Williams. “Brilliant record although weird to think that last of them came in 2015. Both have played nine series, an unbelievable number - Michael Vaughan only played two.

“Even weirder? The most successful English Ashes cricketer in the 21st century (and God knows how long) is Ian Bell. Five series wins out of seven - although the two losses were 5-0. He’d have done OK in this team as well.”

That’s right. Bell is one of only two Englishmen since the war to win five Ashes series, Sir Ian Botham being the other. What an unlikely Aussie-bashing duo they make: a thrilling specimen of primal masculinity who gave an entire nation the chills for over a decade, and that fella who walked from Land’s End to John O’Groats. Honk.

“The rain delay is allowing me to catch up with the GAA final live from Dublin on BBC2 (as alerted earlier on OBO),” writes Brian Withington. “Marvellously barmy sport. My tiny footballing youngest son was introduced to it as a nipper by the local Celtic mafia in West Midlands, and improbably took to it like a duck to water.

“We went to the regional u13 (ish) final and I’d never seen anything like it. Rival factions marching with banners, flags and massed bands before the game and utter mayhem once it started, with impromptu field hospitals on each side like something out of M*A*S*H. Ended in a relatively low-scoring draw.

“Replay was won by said nipper in an extraordinary MotM performance - proudest day of my life, despite not really having a clue what was going on. Said son just texted to say he’s forgotten the rules. ‘What rules?!’, I replied.

“2013 was a fascinating series,” writes Phil Harrison. “Much closer than the scoreline suggested (Aus were robbed by weather at, naturally, Old Trafford) and the Trent Bridge and Durham games could have gone either way.

“I’m having 2019 a lot lower (totally in the shadow of the World Cup and the draw flattered England every bit as much as a draw in this series would flatter Australia).

“I’d have 2009 a lot higher too (the Oval game in that series was one of those baton-passing games - we said goodbye to Freddie and hello, in earnest, to Stuart Broad). Jimmy and Monty, too!”

There’s a good argument for those four series – 2009, 2013, 2015, 2019 – to be in any order. For example 2015 included Broad’s eight-for, one of the great Ashes tone-setters from Joe Root and some mighty batting from Steve Smith, but there no close finishes. We’ve been very lucky with the Ashes series in England since 2001. Not so much down under, though that’s largely England’s fault.

“Test cricket is a truculent beast isn’t it?” says Phil Harrison. “Imagine turning up at the Oval today? If you were an England fan, you’d think you’d hit the jackpot. A Broad five-for? A mixture of joy and tears while watching a lap of honour under early evening sunshine as Bazball is vindicated and one of the true England greats is saluted? You’ve watched Jimmy be lbw and then you’ve watched Warner and Khawaja dealing comfortably with Joe Root’s part time off-spin. Thank goodness Broad hit that six at least...”

“G’day, Rob,” writes Sarah Bacon. “Although I’ve been penning missives to the Grauniad since I first touched down in Ingerland in ‘04, one memorable occasion from The Past is when you ‘retired’ in 2007, and I’d bashfully accepted an invitation to your farewell drinks at the Coach & Horses. Still warms the cockles that you haven’t left yet. Thanks for the memories. Cheers!”

That wasn’t an OBO retirement; that was a full-on bye-bye-Guardian flounce. I lasted about eight months before noticing a certain lack of greenness on the other side.

The weather at the Oval is despicable, the end. Trust me, there won’t be any more play today, but we’ll keep the OBO going until it is confirmed.


A few nominations for people in all sports who have retired at the top

Seymour Nurse retired (prematurely) at 35, averaging 111.60 in his last series and with a final test innings of 258,” writes Marcus Abdullahi. “I think that is a reasonable way to bow out.”

“Different sport, but this applies to the Australian rugby great Mark Ella, who many considered the most naturally talented player Australia had produced,” writes Martin Gillam. “He hung them up at age 25, reportedly because he could not stand playing under coach Alan Jones (whose day job was and is aggressive right-wing radio commentator). Ella later expressed some regrets, because shortly after he retired the World Cup was created, which he said he would have stuck around for, coach notwithstanding.

Bjorn Borg was 25 when he retired in 1981,” writes Nick Walmsley. “Marco van Basten’s retirement was certainly memorable - a packed San Siro, handshakes with Pierluigi Collina, Fabio Capello bawling - but we all wish it hadn’t been like that.”

I didn’t know until recently that the injury that eventually ended his career also facilitated his amazing goal against the USSR. If anyone’s interested, I think we talk about it on tomorrow’s Nessun Dorma podcast.

Max Williams sent this email yesterday but a) I missed it as we my inbox was bursting and b) it’s perfect for a rainy day

Ok let’s do the ranking - home Ashes series since 2005 (away Ashes is just 2010/11 and pick your poison). Thoughts?

1) 2005 - Realistically will never be bettered. This one might have come close but ending 18 years of hurt against one of the greatest teams of all time is unmatched narrative.

2) 2023 - So nearly an all-timer before the rain did its thing. Still a brilliant series that looks likely to produce the most crushing of moral victories.

3) 2019 - Served up the greatest match/innings I’ve ever seen and some iconic moments. Plus - through gritted teeth - a historic series from Steve Smith.

4) 2009 - Apart from 2005, the only series since 1985 where the Ashes were at stake in the last match. But all the matches were fairly one sided other than Cardiff.

5) 2015 - A 3-2 scoreline flattered the Aussies. Felt like the start of something. Haven’t won one since.

6) 2013 - The forgotten series. Basically made redundant by the immediate sequel down under. Poor Ian Bell.

I feel the same about 1 and 2. I find it hard to distinguish between the others because they all have good and bad bits. For eg 2013 had four tight finishes, and a genuinely astonishing match at Trent Bridge, but it was 3-0 and then 0-5. I’d say 2009 was the poorest in terms of quality, yet at the time it was all-consuming. My instinct was to put 2019 lower, but then I remembered Stokes’s innings and Jofra Archer’s spell to Steve Smith, the Atherton v Donald of this generation.

This is a nice, wistful email from Rob Knap

I’m in a very reflective frame of mind this afternoon. Warner and Khawaja are doing well, but I feel strangely unmoved by the prospect of an England defeat. I was very moved yesterday though, when Broad said that this would be his last match. Test cricket seems to mark time for many of us believers. Growing up, I remembered years and events beyond cricket according to who was touring, or notable performances: 1985 – Gower. 1990 – 333. 1995 – Cork. And so on. 2008 came to mind yesterday – Broad against SA, when he looked like a proper allrounder.

Thinking back to those markers, I tend to recall what’s happened since – and I was remembering all sorts of things that have happened since Broad’s first Test summer last night. In short: 15 years is a long, long time. (And this is without getting into the way Test matches can play out in the background during some of the most momentous moments in life, good and bad. Broad’s been a major part of that for these last 15 years.)

Longevity itself doesn’t tell his whole story, but I think it’s an important part of what makes it so remarkable. 15 years! Christ knows what it’ll feel like when Jimmy says he’s off.

On top of all that, something I’ve not shaken off since I was about nine or 10 years old, the Oval Test* just seems to trigger a sense of brooding: end of careers, end of test summer, end of summer holidays…

So, after an amazing series, now it’s no more Broad, no more Tests this summer (it’s still July for God’s sake). For a moment I was starting to get a bit desperate, but it’s OK: the Premier League’s firing up again in under two weeks!

* I know – it wasn’t always the last one in a summer.

Funnily enough I was writing something about football, memory and neurodivergence this week, and was overwhelmed by the ephemeral snapshots that appeared whenever I recalled a match or a moment. For plenty of people who didn’t keep a diary growing up, the neural connections created by sport (and music) are the closest thing we have to a journal.

If you haven’t seen it, this is pretty lovely

Weather update See the last weather update. I suspect we’re done for the day.

Another Stuart Broad stat. I like this one, and I reckon he would too. It’s list of players with the most man of the match awards in Ashes-winning victories*.

3 Stuart Broad

2 Sir Ian Botham, Steve Smith

1 Graham Gooch, Gladstone Small, Geoff Lawson, Allan Border, Steve Waugh, Ian Healy, Stuart MacGill, Shane Warne, Damien Martyn, Michael Hussey, Sir Alastair Cook, Scott Boland.

* This doesn’t include, for example, Kevin Pietersen in 2005, because although England won the Ashes that day, they didn’t win the match. Similarly, it doesn’t include draws that secured a series victory – although in one such case, at Adelaide 1990-91, the man of the match was actually the beaten captain Graham Gooch.

“Hi Rob,” says Simon McMahon. “(Sir) Alistair Cook talking very eloquently on radio about his England retirement and the similarities/differences with Stuart Broad. Effectively admitting he lost some focus after reaching 10,000 Test runs. As you do. I’m not quite there myself yet, think I’m more in the Jimmy Anderson mould. Reckon I’ve got at least another year sending emails to the OBO while eating peanuts and drinking beer in my kitchen.”

Ha. I think I first announced my OBO retirement in 2005, so from now on I’m keeping quiet until the Grim Reaper withdraws my central contract.

“Did I miss something or wasn’t the ball changed when Khawaja was hit on the helmet?” wonders Neil Parkes. “Pretty sure the silver ball case came out anyway.”

Yeah, apparently it was knocked out of shape when it hit Khawana on the head.

Usman Khawaja
Thankfully, Usman Khawaja’s helmet did it’s job. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian


“Afternoon Rob,” writes Nick Parish. “To distract from the terrible spectacle on the pitch (and I don’t mean the rain), I was wondering whether Stuart Broad will be the cricketer retiring from test cricket closest to the peak of his form. After all he’s going to be either the first or second highest wicket taker in this Ashes, and feels to me like our most valuable bowler at present. I’m struggling to think of another cricketer who has retired while so close to the top. Who is the cricketing equivalent of Eric Cantona?”

That’s a great question. I was chatting about this last night, and I reckon Broad is a banker for the Joy of Six: Retirements. Not just the timing but the manner and even the interview, which was perfectly pitched, his face a picture of pride and serenity.

A lot of great cricketers have had Hollywood farewells – Murali, Nasser, Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath – but Cantona was different: a JFK moment and an early retirement. Broad is close, but ultimately he’s still 37. From memory Cantona was a few days short of his 30th birthday. Or was it a few days after? Either way, I’m struggling to think of an equivalent. Any suggestions?

Weather update There is no update.

“I’m beginning to sulk a bit here,” weeps Steve Pye. “Sadly the forecast looks a bit more threatening than our bowling attack at the moment. It seems a good time to plug a blog I wrote about Australia’s great team in 2001. Not sure how we were supposed to compete against that XI, especially as we collected key injuries along the way.”

Well, we weren’t. Easy to forget, though, that before the injuries there was an expectation of a really close series. One of those injuries, the one that ruled Michael Vaughan out of the series, did England a favour. I feel quite strongly that, had Vaughan played on spicy pitches in 2001, England wouldn’t have won the Ashes in 2005. Instead, his first Test series against the Aussies was on flat pitches in 2002-03, when he scored a million runs and cemented his belief – shared by nobody in England at the time – that the only way to beat Australia was to attack them.

A different kind of Bazball XI

“I’ve tried to select an XI of players whose on-off Test careers might have flourished under the present leadership,” writes Tim Sanders. “Here are eleven batters who were seen as a bit too attacking and inconsistent; bowlers who took wickets but whose lines and lengths varied more than their peers.

“There will be many better alternatives, but it would take a strong call indeed to dissuade me from Jonny’s dad behind the stumps, or Closey’s leadership. He really should’ve had more than 22 caps in a 37-year span of Test cricket.

  1. Colin Milburn
    Percy Holmes
    Ravi Bopara
    Mark Ramprakash
    Roland Butcher
    Eoin Morgan
    Brian Close (captain)
    David Bairstow (wkt)
    Steven Finn
    Devon Malcolm
    Alfred ‘Tich’ Freeman.”

Does the Judge qualify? He had a fantastic Test career, though it was on-off towards the end. Under Ben and Baz he’d have averaged 50+ and taking most spinners apart. Another one who would have really thrived, I suspect, is Phil Tufnell.

Ali Martin pays tribute to Stuart Broad

That giddy performance [in 2015] across the road from his beloved Nottingham Forest was the apex mountain for a super fit and robust right-armer never more in his element than when there was nip and carry to exploit. And when he vaporised South Africa the following winter, that electric six for 17 at the Wanderers including five for one in 31 balls, not only did it seal yet another series at the clutch moment, it propelled him No 1 in the world Test bowling rankings. This period was the Broad supremacy.

“A wet hello,” squelches John Starbuck. “I reckon the current set of the match is Australia’s answer to Bazball. By batting time - which they have plenty of - they can win or draw this game and thus win the Ashes. One problem with Bazball is that it’s so frenetic that after a while your opponents, who are supposed to give in under the pressure, get used to it and play old-fashioned long-game cricket.

“England have one way to play but it only asks one question: dazzle the opponents and they will wilt, won’t they? Another aspect is that Bazball is over too quickly, which the moneymen hosting the matches won’t like. Not that it’s not entertaining - it certainly is - but that in the long run the tortoises from down under are going to win. Opportunity - yellow tortoise-style bucket hats?”

They would look quite smart with the Australian colours. As for the culture war, I can see both sides!

“Would David Warner scoring a hundred on Stuart Broad’s indulgent farewell be peak Broadhousery?” asks Akshay Shah.

What’s this now? Broad is many, many things, but I’m most sure he’s ever been a shithouse. That word suggests underhand behaviour, no? Broad will look you right in the eye as he changes the bails, or tells you the Ashes are void, or nicks one to slip via Brad Haddin and takes guard.

Stuart Broad watches as David Warner edges through the slips.
Stuart Broad watches as David Warner edges through the slips. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian


“Greetings from Golspie in the Highlands... Aussie on holiday,” writes David Gilbank. “I’m not particularly superstitious but I’ve noticed that any time throughout this series, each time I listen to the BBC or watch the telly, disaster strikes the Aussie team. So I’ve resolved to stay close to the Guardian updates. This is working. No telly or radio for me.”

Now that’s what I call a selfless sacrifice.

Let’s have a bit of statgasmic love for Usman Khawaja, who moved past 5,000 Test runs just before the rain arrived. In the history of this thing, 160 gentlemen have scored at least 1,000 runs while opening the batting. None of them can match Khawaja’s average of 62.10.

  • 62.10 Usman Khawaja (Aus)

  • 61.10 Herbert Sutcliffe (Eng)

  • 56.90 Bruce Mitchell (SA)

  • 56.47 Len Hutton (Eng)

  • 56.37 Jack Hobbs (Eng)

Cheers Jim, hello everyone. I see I’ve timed my arrival about as well as I used to time my on-drive. The break probably favours England, who were looking a little befuddled by the serenity of Australia’s progress. The forecast is much better tomorrow so we should still get a result. And – who knew – it could well be an Australian victory.

The forecast is a bit grim I’m afraid to say, but here comes Rob Smyth to inject some vitamin D (and O, B and O again) into your screens.

Thanks for your company, it is tense!


37th over: Australia 135-0 (Warner 58, Khawaja 69) Chris Woakes back into the attack and he sends down a maiden as the rain begins to fall quite steadily here at the Oval. Yep, the umpires knock off the bails and the groundstaff hurry on to cover the wicket. England might be glad of a delay, they looked a bit spent out there after lunch.

Australia need 249 more runs to win and still have ten wickets left in the hutch.

Ben Stokes
England need this rain break. Photograph: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images


36th over: Australia 135-0 (Warner 58, Khawaja 69) A long delay but we’re good to go now. Khawaja is fine and has a new helmet for his troubles. Wood is roared in by the increasingly jittery home crowd. There’s a whiff of desperation starting to seep off them. Or it could just be 8 quid beer. An edge through a vacant gully brings Khawaja four more followed by a leading edge that lands safe and brings another couple.

“Hi James, wow are you? Casual I hope.”

Always, David Bowen, always.

“With this 100+ opening partnership, could we be seeing the effects of the much maligned Australia first innings of ‘putting overs into the legs’ of Englands bowlers? That 9 from 81 from Marnus looks a bit more valuable now…”

I don’t like it much, but it is not a bad point David.

Wood has hit Khawaja on the back of the helmet. He seems ok but we are going to have a bit of a delay here. It was a brutal blow, thudding into the bit of the lid just above the stem guards as Khawaja turned at the last moment.

Usman Khawaja is hit on the helmet off the bowling of Mark Wood. Oof.
Usman Khawaja is hit on the helmet off the bowling of Mark Wood. Oof. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian


36th over: Australia 126-0 (Warner 58, Khawaja 61) A punishing over for England to swallow – three boundaries plundered with ease off Root. Khawaja plays a late cut with Swiss watch timing for four. A single brings Warner on strike and he doles out some justice boundaries too. A lash behind point and a lap slog over mid-wicket. It’s as flat as a pancake in a Lincolnshire mangle for England out there. The Aussie fans, well they always believed this was possible. It very much is.

35th over: Australia 113-0 (Warner 50, Khawaja 55) Fifty to David Warner – a gritty knock from the much maligned Aussie opener. He got there with a powerful hook shot that Harry Brook did amazingly well to haul in on the boundary and keep to two runs.

34th over: Australia 110-0 (Warner 48, Khawaja 55) Root spears one in and it nutmegs Jonny Bairstow to run away for four byes. Australia add a couple more and this partnership grows ever worrying for England.


33rd over: Australia 104-0 (Warner 47, Khawaja 50) Mark Wood it is. He’s up at 87mph straightaway, no sign of injury to my eye. A bouncer is evaded by Khawaja and then he brings up his fifty with a genuine edge along the floor wide of gully for four! Well batted that man, he’s been a thorn in England side all series, he needs four more to become the highest run scorer in the series.

An email plops into the mailbag from my old comrade Tim Sowula – its title: “OBO – The agony”

“At the start of the series I explained to my 9yr old that Test cricket was the ultimate sporting challenge because of the length of the drama - up to 25 days of fierce concentration and commitment.

“At this culminating point, as England have contrived to enable a scenario - Australia batting to slowly crush English spirits - that every Australian was born to be part of... is this series the slowest motion car crash in sporting history?”

Tim was always a big ol’ barrel of laughs in the office…

Usman Khawaja celebrates his half century.
Usman Khawaja celebrates his half century. Photograph: Kieran McManus/Shutterstock


32nd over: Australia 99-0 (Warner 46, Khawaja 46) Just a single off Root. Mark Wood is warming up. In fact – Mark Wood is coming onto bowl. This is not a drill.

31st over: Australia 98-0 (Warner 45, Khawaja 46) David Warner goes down on one knee and launches James Anderson over mid-on to the boundary. The walrus tache’d one held the pose for good measure. Dangerous! Jimmy sends down a beamer! Nearly cleans Warner up and soars away wide of Bairstow. Five more to the Aussie total. Anderson holds up his hand in begrudging apology.

30th over: Australia 87-0 (Warner 36, Khawaja 45) Root rattles through an over, just a single off it.

Lovely this from Tom Johnstone. I’ll miss this series too. Cycling to the ground this morning in watery sunshine with a stupid grin on my face will be a happy memory in the long dark months of winter.

“Like many Australians, now semi-permanently sleeping on the couch, I have come to love - almost need - the nightly rhythm of this series. Tense for the first session, changing tempo the next, dozing off to sleep somewhere in between - then waking up to scroll the updates and daily summaries.

Whilst I’m a diehard Australian supporter (and pray for an Aus miracle and series win) - I am beginning to see the big picture of this series - a rare opportunity to witness two wonderfully talented teams in transition, stacked with legends of old and wonderkids, both playing every form of the greatest game, occasionally in the same session, with a good dose of tongue in cheek and pantomime. Whoever wins or loses (morally and on the scoreboard) - we will all be richer for the experience. I am properly going to miss, perhaps mourn, the end of this series. Thanks for the memories Ashes 23!”

29th over: Australia 86-0 (Warner 36, Khawaja 44) Shot! Warner faces down five dots from Anderson before pouncing at the last. A shorter ball is deliciously late-cut in the gap wide of slip for four. Australia well on top here, this opening pair have taken a decent bite out of the target.


28th over: Australia 82-0 (Warner 32, Khawaja 44) Root whirls away, Warner and Khawaja are proactive in defence and attack, using their feet to meet the ball and negate any turn.

“Hello James, something about this England side, and its reluctance to admit that anything has gone wrong all summer reminds me of the short, but exhilarating premiership of Liz Truss. Is Bazball the cricketeting equivalent of Trussonomics? And was the early declaration at Edgbaston the Mini Budget that crashed the Ashes Economy?
Both have been fascinating to watch, for very different /similar reasons. The OBO has been a joy this summer, thanks immensely.”

Exhilarating you say, Tom Murrow. I can think of a few other more choice words… but thanks to you for tuning in.

27th over: Australia 79-0 (Warner 30, Khawaja 43) Two more to Australia and Khawaja with a drive through mid-on off Anderson.

“Another brilliant and wacky day so far. To say the least, this is a key session now. We’re all still wondering why Wood hasn’t bowled, any news?

I know nuthin, Jeremy Boyce.

“Whatever, it’s a fascinating Bazball v Tradition showdown that you can’t take your eyes off, this will all only ever happen once. Makes you wonder, where do England go next after Bazball, when either they, or HE, needs to move on ? We’re a long way from that, hopefully...”

Ben Stokes confirmed the other day that he fully expects to lead England Down Under in two years time. Whether he’ll be able to fulfil the all-rounder role remains to be seen, an operation on his troublesome knee seems highly likely in the near future.

26th over: Australia 77-0 (Warner 30, Khawaja 41) Close! Warner rocks back to cut Root square of the wicket and nearly succeeds in feathering an edge to Bairstow.

25th over: Australia 76-0 (Warner 30, Khawaja 40) Anderson is full but a bit too wide. Khawaja glides to point for a single and Warner blocks out two dots to see out the over. Dan Lawrence was fielding for Mark Wood for that over, ah there he is – Wood is back on the field for the next, which Joe Root is going to bowl. Still no word on any injury concerns for Wood. Curious and curiouser.

Here come the players… James Anderson has the ball in hand. The crowd twitchy for a wicket, apart from those in yellow of course.

Oh, and this guy:


Edward B Wilson has dipped his quill:

“Dear James,

Edward here in Mannheim again, totally dependent on The Guardian OBO which is great as usual. The series has been interesting to say the least no matter what happens in these two days. Here’s my thoughts about Bazball in rhyme:

You can keep your “moral victories”,

And the “Spirit of the Game”,

Something, Broad for instance,

Only honours in the name.

Drinking all the KoolAid,

Without a second thought.

Believing entertainment’s better,

Than what standard coaches taught

A Kiwi snake oil salesman,

With an unorthodox approach,

Allowing soon-to-be-retirees

To pretend they’re beyond reproach.

Belittle caution and technique,

And treat opponents with disdain,

And argue that they’ve really won,

Despite two losses - again.

When all that’s really happening,

Is the Ashes have been lost,

Australia has retained them

So Bazball has a cost.


“One of the many Irish fans following this brilliant series on the OBO - most of us will, I suspect, be hoping for a home victory. A draw or a loss with be very harsh for an England team that has lit up the summer.

If any OBO-ers can be tempted away could you give a shout out for the All Ireland Final? - live on the BBC for the first time since 1991 at 15:30 - Dublin v Kerry is the equivalent of the Ashes - long historic rivalry pitching the Blue machine against the purists of Kerry.

If rain stops play or Australia are 147 for 1 in 2 hours its well worth the watch.”

Consider it plugged John Kerry!

Time for me to grab a bit of scran. It’s gloomy here at the Oval but currently not raining. Whether that is the case in 30 minutes when play is due to resume…

“Maybe Broad will retract his retirement over lunch, it seems to have discombobulated the team!” notes Andrew Benton.

LUNCH: Australia 75-0

Firmly Australia’s session. Warner and Khawaja unbroken and England a little off it with the ball. Worryingly there was no sign of Mark Wood. Time for some lunch a bit of and a bit of re-think for Stokes and co, this game is firmly alive.

24th over: Australia 75-0 (Warner 30, Khawaja 39)


23rd over: Australia 72-0 (Warner 29, Khawaja 37) A maiden from Anderson as a few drops of rain begin to fall.

J.A. Hopkin is feeling a bit miffed:

“From the very first innings of the series when Stokes declared, England have not been putting themselves in an unassailable position after long periods of thrilling dominance. And that is the aim of test cricket, however you get there. For all its bludgeoning brilliance, Bazball seems to leave the opposition with a sniff.”

22nd over: Australia 72-0 (Warner 29, Khawaja 37) Ben Stokes grimaces as Joe Root is hit for back to back fours by Khawaja. The second was a beauty, the left-hander rocking back and cutting the ball late late late just before it reached Bairstow’s gloves. Still no sign of Mark Wood, you’d think that is no longer a tactical thing?


21st over: Australia 63-0 (Warner 29, Khawaja 29) Anderson replaces Broad. He’s just getting a bit of movement with this ball now, five dots and then a swipe from Khawaja nearly brings the breakthrough, the batter hit the floor rather than the ball. England wisely choose not to review.


20th over: Australia 63-0 (Warner 29, Khawaja 29) Root it is. He gets some grip and turn but is negated by nifty footwork from Warner. Five defensive dots before Warner dances down and clips for two into mid-wicket.

Andrew Tomlinson is feeling un-sentimental:

“Just wondering if sentimentality is going to cost England the Ashes. In the fourth Test letting Bairstow try to get his century, rather than declaring to have some extra time bowling at the Aussies, as well as letting Broad get his guard of honour this morning, when an early declaration last night could have got a couple of early wickets.”

I’m not sure either had/will have a bearing on results Andrew but don’t let that stop you!

Ben Stokes shows despair as Usman Khawaja plays and misses.
Ben Stokes shows despair as Usman Khawaja plays and misses. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian


19th over: Australia 61-0 (Warner 26, Khawaja 29) Dot followed dot followed dot followed dot… you get the picture. Broad sends down a maiden. Here comes Joe Root.

18th over: Australia 61-0 (Warner 26, Khawaja 29) Moeen continues, the floodlights piercing the gloom a bit more prominently now. A couple off the over. Still no sign of Mark Wood but I can spy Joe Root warming up. Time for some GoldenArm? England need to make something happen.

17th over: Australia 59-0 (Warner 25, Khawaja 28) Just a single off Broad’s over, Warner clips a ball fired in at his pads away to leg for a single.


16th over: Australia 58-0 (Warner 24, Khawaja 28) Just a couple off Moeen’s over. Surely won’t be long til we see Mark Wood and a few thunderbolts?

Hey Jim! Really loving the OBO! (I called you “Jim” to establish myself as US-born, in our aggressively friendly yet humourless way.)

Flattery always works here Bob Harris.

“I’m a US-born Aussie. Migrated 5 years ago and now a citizen, and I’ve followed Aussie cricket since the mid-2000s, so I’m not exactly impartial. But I’m also not a lifelong partisan, so I like to think my judgment is semi-fair.

Am I missing something?

Has no one looked at the weather forecast? Rain has been forecast for today and tomorrow since before the test began. Play might continue for two whole days, but there may also be only be 60-70 overs left. It has been obvious for days that play on days 4 and 5 could be shortened; often, day 5 has looked like a potential washout, although that has improved now. It looked worse yesterday.

If England are actually keen to get a win, and thus justify their claims to moral victory, does it not seems nuts to have batted as long as they did? The most likely result is rapidly becoming a draw. Lacking an earlier sporting declaration, Bazball’s claims to be about a contest, taking risks, playing to win, fearless of losing… yeah, nah.

Broad’s entry to the ground was lovely this morning, and we’d hate not to have that to remember, so there’s that.”

I think the pitch is still pretty good and England felt they’d need plenty of runs, as this opening Australian stand is proving. There is weather knocking about but I don’t think it is due to be as bad as to knock out the end of the game as it did at Old Trafford. (He says whilst paging the MET office nervously…)

15th over: Australia 56-0 (Warner 23, Khawaja 27) The crowd roar Broad in but there’s nowt doing for him. He managed to beat Khawaja’s edge but is also picked off for five runs, he hasn’t been able to land the ball in the right spot consistently, the same could be said for all of England’s bowlers this morning. Australia have batted very well, much more proactive than at certain stages in their first innings.


14th over: Australia 51-0 (Warner 23, Khawaja 22) Just a couple off Moeen, he’s settled into a bit more of a rhythm. Grey clouds roll over the ground as well as a ripple of anticipation as Stuart Broad is summoned for his second spell.

13th over: Australia 49-0 (Warner 22, Khawaja 21) Woakes keeps his miserly hat on and starts with a maiden after the break.

Sending warm wishes from us to you Andy Taylor:

“Was diagnosed with heart problems last week, so if things get tense I may have to abandon following the match at some point. Still, following the OBO retrospectively can be even more enjoyable, so thanks Jimbo et al.”

12th over: Australia 49-0 (Warner 22, Khawaja 21) Big turn off the pitch! Moeen gets one to drift and bite the surface, the ball fizzing past Khawaja’s edge and flying between Root and Bairstow and away for four. Promising signs for Moeen (and Root) proffered by the wicket there. Urgh! Moeen serves up a long hop that is duly walloped for four by Warner. Time for a drink. In and amongst it all it has been Australia’s morning so far.

11th over: Australia 38-0 (Warner 16, Khawaja 20) Chris Woakes dots together a maiden. Australia have done well to dampen the heady atmosphere here, the crowd starting to get a bit restless.

Hello to a no-doubt bleary eyed Babor Ahmed:

“Hi James, I got accidentally drunk yesterday in Tenerife due to a translation issue. We ordered a lot of chopitos (fried baby squid), what turned up was a lot of chupitos (alcoholic shots, home brewed as it turned out).

(Not sure this would stand up in court…)

“As a result I was unable to follow the game live, and instead read the OBO in chronological order bleary eyed before bed.

What struck me was that there was no real celebration or praise of England’s amazing run rate, and it hit home that this team has now normalised their way of playing. We just expect it now, they’ve made the extra-ordinary ordinary. Long live Bazball!”

10th over: Australia 38-0 (Warner 16, Khawaja 20) A mixed bag from Moeen and that is being generous. He ambles in off just a few paces, a full toss is nearly cloth’d by Warner to the fielder at mid-wicket. My days, that was a horrible bit of cricket all-round. A leg side ball from Moeen is glanced away nicely for four by Warner. Australia will be looking to hit Ali out of the attack so as to make Ben Stokes keep bowling his seamers.

Moeen Ali chucks down a pie for David Warner to gobble up for four delicious runs Photograph: Kieran McManus/Shutterstock


9th over: Australia 31-0 (Warner 11, Khawaja 19) Woakes is accurate but a smidge too short. Khawaja nudges a single. Moeen Ali is coming on to bowl, this will be interesting. I wouldn’t say he’s been moving around in the field like a spring chicken/march hare/man without a groin strain.

More odes to Broad. Here’s some balance:

“A pity he didn’t retire at the end of the next Ashes in Australia where he would have got the proper send-off he so richly deserves.”

Something tells me that Richard Coleman might be Australian.

8th over: Australia 31-0 (Warner 11, Khawaja 18) The chase is on! Usman Khawaja walks down to Jimmy Anderson and times him away for four to the mid-wicket fence. Four more. Ussie drives handsomely down the ground. A clip for three makes it 11 off the over. Australia punching back once more, you didn’t think it was going to be straightforward did you?


7th over: Australia 20-0 (Warner 11, Khawaja 7) A threatening first over from Woakes, he’s been a revelation since his return at Leeds. He beats Warner on the outside edge and then probes away on a full line. Shot! Warner pounces on a half-volley and drives through mid-on for four.

6th over: Australia 16-0 (Warner 7, Khawaja 7) Anderson sends down England’s third maiden in a row. He beats Khawaja with a swinging delivery off the final ball. “Ooh Jimmy” exclaims Usman as the ball passes. This sounds a bit more Frank Spencer written down than it perhaps actually was in reality. Chris Woakes is coming on to replace Broad.

5th over: Australia 16-0 (Warner 7, Khawaja 7) Close! Broad gets a jagging delivery to take the shoulder of Warner’s bat and the edge flies towards Ben Duckett at third slip but lands plenty wide in the end. Duckett does well to pull off a Peter Shilton esque save to stop the boundary.

4th over: Australia 16-0 (Warner 7, Khawaja 7) Anderson has looked more threatening than his opening partner in the early exchanges, he bowls a maiden but Warner scampers a leg-bye off the final ball to keep strike.

A lovely email from Adam Simpson pings into my inbox:

Hi James – I’m a long-time friend of Robert Lewis (see pre-play hijinks, 11:17 BST). One of the ways we maintain our friendship is by looking out for each other’s comments when posted here on the OBO. I highly doubt we’re the only ones who enjoy this little ritual, so this seems like a good opportunity to thank you for all the unseen joys that the OBO brings to so many of us around the world. Keep doing what you’re doing!”

3rd over: Australia 15-0 (Warner 7, Khawaja 7) Another good over for Australia, five singles taken easily as Broad struggles with his line, it’s all been a bit too leg side so far from him. There are a few spots of rain falling here at the Oval.


2nd over: Australia 10-0 (Warner 6, Khawaja 3) Khawaja flicks Anderson through mid-wicket for three runs, Broad hauls the ball in to another big cheer. Moeen Ali looked a bit ginger chasing that but is apparently ready to bowl when called upon. Warner and Khawaja pick off a single each.

“Batting looks so easy here, 384 is going to be a doddle” suggests Jim Maxwell on TMS. I think he was joking. Gloomier still at the Oval, rain might not be too far away.

1st over: Australia 6-0 (Warner 5, Khawaja 0) Broad goes full to Warner, nearly sneaking a full ball through the defences but Warner jams down on it just in time and sneaks a single off the first ball. A bye as Jonny Bairstow fumbles a leg-side take brings Warner back on strike. The crowd begin their ooooaaaahs… ah leg side ball. Then four, nice shot from Warner, leaning on a full ball and it races away to the fence.

Jimmy Anderson to start from the Vauxhall End.

Stuart Broad to David Warner…

Here come the players… Broad is going to start with the new ball. Moeen is on the field at mid-on, that’s got to be good news for England.

“Great start from the Retirementhawk, surely at least seven wickets for him by teatime…” chirps Tom Hopkins.

“When an old cricketer... There’s surely nothing like the Summer Game for bringing out the pathos. I bet there were tears in eyes all over the world when Broady came out for the last time. There certainly were here in Istanbul, and even my Turkish wife got it for once. Cheers, and thanks for everything.”

Robert Lewis getting misty eyed…

This made me chuckle, Barney with an alternative view.


The clouds are filling in here at the Oval and it has got a bit cooler. There is some weather around, let’s hope it stays away.

“Thanks again for being with us all summer!”

The pleasure is all ours, Sean Roberts.

“I’m sure that lots of broad memories are being sent in for us to share today, one I’ve never been able to find is his interview on tour in new Zealand when the sandpapergate controversy exploded.

Broad, angel eyed, expressed his shock and claimed it must have been the first time they’d done it or someone would have noticed (paraphrasing), immediately widening the lens of the story to the ashes just past when Australia were getting the ball reversing early.

Summed him up - never better than when he’s got that twinkle in his eye and an opponent to wind up. Haven’t always been his biggest fan, there were a few periods in his career when it felt like there must be better new ball bowling options out there, but he always came back to prove me and whoever else doubted him wrong.”

WICKET! Anderson lbw b Murphy 8 (England all out for 395)

That’s it for England’s innings. Anderson is adjudged lbw by Umpire Wilson and the DRS confirms it. Broad sprints off to get his bowling boots on, his last act as a batter in Test cricket was to spank a six off Mitchell Starc.

Australia will need to chase 384 runs to win and take the series 3-1. England need ten wickets to level it 2-2.

James Anderson gets one on the pad and England are all out for 395.
James Anderson gets one on the pad and England are all out for 395. Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA


In a curious move, Todd Murphy is coming on to bowl. The crowd sing Happy Birthday to Anderson. It’s all gone a bit pantomime out here.

81st over: England 395-9 (Broad 8, Anderson 8) Broad survives the first ball, and the first over. Trying to mow the first few balls from Starc but doesn’t connect with any, he turns down a few singles in the process. Last ball incoming… STUART BROAD SMASHES A SIX AND THE OVAL ERUPTS! Has there been a cricketer with more of a sense of his own theatre than Stuart Broad?

The Australians give Broad a guard of honour as he enters the field and the crowd are on their feet applauding, whooping and whistling. Special atmosphere here at the Oval. The camera pans to Broad’s parents in the stands looking proudly down.

“He’s gonna get out first ball, isn’t he” a mischievous colleague leans over to whisper in my ear. Here we go then. Buckle up knuckleheads.


Here come the Aussies, the crowd are on their feet already.

“Surely Ulysses (Odysseus) returned to Ithaca?” Not now Anthony Newey!


Will we see Broad and Anderson come out to bat together in a few minutes? My hunch says – YES – there’s been no sign of the roller on the wicket so it doesn’t look like England have declared, much to Dean Kinsella’s chagrin…

“Good morning James. Please tell me that England have declared. It was uncomfortable enough just watching Anderson getting battered last evening so it must have been jolly painful for him. And farewell to the Night Hawk, though something tells me we’ll be seeing and hearing plenty of him despite his retirement. Thank you for years of unstinting effort and excellent entertainment.”

I reckon the epic reception from the crowd and striding out to the middle with his partner in crime over the last decade or more might take the sting off that Starc induced bruise for Anderson. Still, if I was Australia I would definitely be bowling short and hostile. In and amongst the valedictory farewells – there’s a game on the line here.

McGrath on Broad:

“Let’s head toward the danger for potentially one final time together…”
Patrick in Italy is getting his Sunday morning Tennyson on:

“Very poetic and epic James. Reminds me of ‘Ulysses’ by Tennyson. Ulysses, having got back to Athens, gets bored and decides to sail off one more time:

“T’is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.”

Thanks for a great summer of OBO!”

Thanks to Simon in Luxembourg for doing the honours with the TMS overseas link:

“Morning James,

If it is needed, here is the TMS overseas link.

Will be hoping to see something special from Broad today. He set the scene very nicely last night. As a fellow Forest fan, I wish him and his family a happy future.”

It is bright and sunny here at the ground, though I’m hearing some reports of a bit of rain later. It couldn’t, could it?

Good morning and thank you to James Fielding:

“Bom dia from a beautiful morning in Lisbon!

So, was out the door at close of play last night for a few pre dinner sagres with some Portuguese friends, thought I’d scan the OBO for 1 last time in the bar, saw the news re SB and let out a blood curdling OH MY GOD! Was genuine concern amongst said friends and I just about managed a Stuart Broad-Ashes-retired-cricket. I can only describe the looks I received as a mixture of confusion and contempt, bless their Southern European socks, they just don’t get it! I’m now sitting here waiting for the start of play a complete emotional wreck!

Would just like to say, I have not missed a ball between TMS and the OBO all series and would like to thank the whole OBO team, you’ve made this English immigrant very happy.

What a man (SB) what a series, Ashes, Bazball, bloody hell….”


And now, the end is near, and so we’ll see the final knee-pump…

Hello and welcome to what could be the final OBO of this Ashes series. What a day it was yesterday. England rattled along to 389-9, cheered along in south London sunshine by a vociferous crowd at the Oval.

Crawley biffed, Duckett clipped, Stokes hooked, Root ramped, Bairstow clubbed and Moeen, ah Moeen, for one last time he unfurled. By the close, Jimmy Anderson was reverse-sweeping and scything for four off the final over and the whole place was in danger of erupting.

And yet, Australia kept taking wickets. A chastening day staring down the rifling on the Bazball bazooka it may have been for Pat Cummins and co but they hung in admirably and chipped away. A late flurry of wickets in the evening session has kept them in this game and they still have a sniff of taking the Ashes outright, they’ll just need one of the all-time great fourth innings run chases to do so.

Stumps on an enthralling day then and time to file copy and head for a well earned… WHAT? – STUART BROAD IS RETIRING?!

A genuine blond bombshell landed just after the close – Broad will hang up his white headband for the last time at the close of this match. Looking completely at peace with the decision (and why wouldn’t he?) Broad spoke articulately as ever:

It’s been a wonderful ride, a huge privilege. I’m loving cricket as much as I ever have… I always wanted to finish at the top and this is one of the best I’ve ever played in. I’ve been thinking about it for a couple of weeks. England v Australia has always been the pinnacle for me. I’ve got a love affair with Ashes cricket and I wanted my last bat and bowl to be in Ashes cricket.

I told Stokesy last night and the changing room this morning. It just felt like the right time. I was a bit emotional, and even until last night I wasn’t entirely sure. Once I went to Stokesy’s room and told him I just felt really happy. I’m content with everything I’ve achieved in the game. Ultimately, I knew I wanted to retire while I still loved cricket, and my lasting memories being of a really enjoyable changing-room. I wanted to walk away while playing with a group of players I love to bits.”

It promises to be an amazing day here at the Oval, the match and series situation coupled with Broad (and Moeen, again) bidding farewell, the old Gasometer that looks down on this ground might even feel itself go weak at the foundations.

Jim here with the call this morning and early afternoon til Rob takes you through to the close later. As ever, do get in touch and let’s head toward the danger for potentially one final time together…

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