Now it’s official. Stuart Broad actually writes his own scripts. How else to explain the rather unbelievable Ashes extraordinary finish on their last day in Test cricket.
It was 6.25pm on the pulse-pounding final day of the fifth Test after 24 days of gripping drama when Broad seized Alex Carey’s advantage and saw the ball nestle in Jonny Bairstow’s gloves.
The last of Broad’s 604 Test wickets had given England their fair share of this tumultuous series and sent one of their best bowlers out into a golden sunset.
How perfect that Broad had the last word and how typical of a man to make the decisive intervention in the best Ashes series since 2005.
Broad also had the penultimate say, taking over from Todd Murphy just as Australia had perhaps begun to think they might crash his retirement party.
Stuart Broad celebrates after taking the final wicket to seal victory in the fifth Test
Alex Carey was caught behind the Broad bowling as England tied the Ashes series
Broad sent The Oval into chaos when he claimed the last two wickets in his match
The bowler’s family reacts after seeing his Test career come to a fairytale end on Monday.
Broad was joined by his partner Mollie King and their daughter on the pitch after the match.
England captain Ben Stokes and Australia captain Pat Cummins pose with the shared trophy.
Australia needed 55 more than their target of 384 with eight down and minds were turning to the first Test at Edgbaston when their last two wickets added the same number to take victory and set up what would become their urn retention.
But it was then that Broad produced more theatrics by indulging in his new party trick of changing the balls at the non-striker end – “I thought it was a good luck Aussie thing,” he insisted afterwards – and then took Murphy’s wicket with his very next delivery. Who writes the scripts for him actually, as Graham Gooch once asked Ian Botham.
How perfect it was, too, for Broad to lead England toe-to-toe with Moeen Ali, called out of retirement as an emergency replacement for Jack Leach before Ashes and now braving injury to play his own lead role in what became a 49 -run win.
Now Moeen is set to return to white ball cricket, surely not even Ben Stokes can convince him to tour India in January, after taking three wickets on Monday despite a groin strain that has restricted his movement from day one.
Broad made his way off the pitch with one of the stumps after the fast-paced finish of the Test
The Oval crowd saw off the 36-year-old on a sunny afternoon.
Broad made the most of special moments on the court with his family as he said goodbye
But if Broad and Moeen shared the spotlight, Chris Woakes, an often underrated man, was the key figure on Monday, just as he has been even since he made his late introduction to this series in the third Test at Headingley. .
Woakes not only took four wickets, but claimed the biggest of them in Steve Smith much to the relief and delight of the England captain.
He was one of four Australian dismissals in just 19 balls after another long rain break propelled England towards their part of this series before Broad and Moeen pounced.
More importantly, it was the wicket that ensured that a bizarre incident involving the captain was not responsible for what would have been the gross injustice of a 3-1 win over Australia and their first success in the Ashes series in England. in 22 years.
England produced an impressive final session after rain halted play in London
In the center was Smith, still Australia’s longest haired man and a batsman averaging close to a hundred at this famous old south London pitch.
The last Test and this tumultuous series were very much on the line when the former Australian captain put a glove on Moeen and saw the ball swell towards Stokes as it skidded off his leg.
The captain rose to grab it over his head, but as he regained his balance and perhaps prepared to throw the ball in celebration, the ball hit his leg and fell to the ground.
There was confusion as referee Joel Wilson remained unmoved, Stokes looked embarrassed knowing deep down what he had done, and England finally called for a review not quite sure if their captain had control of the ball before it fell to safety. .
Australia pose with the Urn of Ashes after retaining it against England this summer
Stokes was clearly not in full control of either the ball or his body and Smith, who had somehow survived a controversial burnout incident in the first innings, escaped in 39 and with Australia just 147 short of their target of 384 with seven wickets. in the hand
Just to add salt to Stokes’s wounds, he not only had to worry about the incident over lunch, but for two more hours as rain threatened this final just as it did with England all but certain to claim victory last week at Old Trafford.
When Stokes was asked before this Test if he had any regrets about the two opening defeats that ultimately cost England the ballot box, he said ‘I just dropped Nathan Lyon at Edgbaston’. That was the toughest chance, but now it seemed likely that one of world cricket’s safest catchers had screwed up again and lost a piece of this Ashes series.
Fortunately for both Stokes and England, there was to be one more twist in a series filled with the most sublime cricket drama from the moment Crawley smashed the first ball at Pat Cummins’ Edgbaston to the hedge fence.
When play finally resumed at 4:20pm, Australia had a whopping 52 overs (soon reduced to 47 as the umpires had miscalculated) to get the remaining 146 they needed with Smith and Travis Head in the crease. They were almost favourites.
It was the perfect end to what has been a legendary career for the England bowler.
Australia had started the final day needing another 249 with all wickets intact and their ex-captain Ricky Ponting grating on the Sky comment box about the ball England were using having been changed on Sunday night and bobbing and sewing a lot more. than the previous.
There was certainly a big move for Woakes, who quickly reclaimed David Warner for the fourth time in a row and soon followed that up by sending Usman Khawaja back.
When Mark Wood, who had damaged his left heel during his brief appearance on Sunday, brought Marnus Labuschagne to Crawley, England were on top but Smith and Head, aided by Stokes’ misstep, added 95 and Australia were able to breathe again.
But the hopes of the modern Australian greats of finally winning that elusive opening series in England were soon dashed and Cummins was left to lift the urn in low-key, deflated fashion after what must surely be an empty triumph.
Just two rainy days in Manchester prevented England from pulling off the best Ashes comeback of all and it’s a shame it wasn’t an Ashes decider. That really would have put even the legendary 2005 win in the shade.
This remains an Ashes series for the ages and one that has brought the great old game to life when it’s under attack like never before by the rise of T20 franchises. It’s one that has surely inspired more viewers new to the game than a slick new format like the Hundred, which now claims the cricket stage throughout August with indecent haste.
And it is a series of ashes that no one who has followed it will ever forget. Not least, Stuart Broad, who, in front of his family, wrote the best goodbye of all.