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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Rory Dollard

Stuart Broad’s bid to bow out in glory under threat from old rival David Warner

PA Wire

Stuart Broad offered a grin and a wink to his old partner James Anderson after a towering six off Mitchell Starc provoked a roar from the Oval crowd. England’s most prolific Ashes bowler was revelling in his role with the bat: an entertainer foremost, then a legendary English cricketer.

Broad left English cricket reeling with his shock announcement to retire on Saturday evening, confirming his intent to bring the curtain down on a magnificent career packed with 602 Test wickets. The stage was set for the swashbuckling quick to inspire victory in the fifth Test and secure a 2-2 draw from what has been a gripping, fiercely competitive series.

Broad has always relished tormenting his opponents, yet day four’s script was gleefully chewed up and spat out by old foe David Warner, who has represented 17 of his 151 Ashes victims. The party atmosphere fizzled out with every diligently-played ball from Warner and teammate Usman Khawaja, who combined for their largest partnership of the series – concluding play at 135-0 before the covers came on at 2:42pm, and the rain prevented any more action.

England’s joy and the collective celebration of Broad lasted 10 balls. The carnival atmosphere included Anderson being serenaded on his 41st birthday by the Barmy Army.

But Australia were in no mood to oblige, prompting moans and groans less than two overs into the restart when Todd Murphy trapped Anderson lbw. There was an agonising wait before umpire Joel Wilson’s finger was finally raised, which represented a starting gun for both sides to beat the weather and force a result to conclude a memorable series.

Australia chopped into their intimidating target of 384, a total of 121 runs more than the most successful chase ever at this ground and one that would represent the eighth-highest in Test cricket history. Warner, 58 not out, and Khawaja, 69 not out, capitalised on a pitch lacking pace and swing before rain suspended play and was eventually abandoned before 5pm, leaving the tourists 249 runs off their target.

Stuart Broad and David Warner will renew their battle on day five of the final Ashes Test
— (PA Wire)

A bitter rivalry at times, Broad has seen it simmer and boil over at various points across 14 enthralling years since his Ashes debut. Indeed, it is only a few weeks ago when Jonny Bairstow was controversially dismissed by Alex Carey. Yet beneath the sporting theatre, mutual respect endures.

Australia confirmed as much to begin the day’s play, producing a guard of honour for the 37-year-old, who opted to wait and stroll to the middle arm-in-arm with partner Anderson. Yet Anderson politely spurned the opportunity, allowing his friend to soak up the adulation from thousands of fans, many of whom have adopted his now iconic white headband.

Broad’s cameo with the bat secured his place as the fifth most prolific English batsman for total sixes hit in Ashes history, according to Test Match Special’s Andy Zaltzman, behind only Ben Stokes, Kevin Pietersen, Andrew Flintoff and Ian Botham. But, ball in hand, after a second ovation in less than half an hour, Broad hit a wall, bowling six overs for 15 runs.

Warner (batting) and Khawaja combined for an opening stand of 139 without loss
— (Action Images via Reuters)

Warner’s edge at 16-0 landed agonisingly short of Ben Duckett’s hands and England’s misery was compounded with every over that followed.

Warner’s confidence would soon balloon: driving magnificently off one knee for four before neutralising some real, unintentional venom from Anderson. A missile-like full toss headed for Warner’s chest, a career-first claimed Sir Alastair Cook, was guided past the slips for four more. An apology from Anderson swiftly followed, but the lack of control epitomised England’s day – and perhaps a series that will leave both sides with regrets.

While England will bemoan their luck and the weather, Australia may aspire for something more despite retaining the urn.

A deluge stopped play on day four of the fifth Ashes Test
— (AFP)

Warner and Khawaja’s partnership offered a glimpse of what this team can produce.

Khawaja’s attacking shot percentage was just 19 per cent in the first innings, according to Sky Sports, yet that rocketed to 34 per cent in the second innings, demonstrating the reward for bravery on the field. It is the epitome of Bazball. England and Broad will hope there is one final twist in this captivating Ashes.

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