Australia’s failed bid for Ashes series win

Australia have been left to rue a month of missed opportunities after their bid to win an Ashes series in England for the first time in 22 years collapsed in a heap at The Oval.

Aug 01, 2023, updated Aug 01, 2023
Australia captain Pat Cummins holds the Ashes Urn as Australia retain the trophy on day five of the fifth Ashes Test match between England and Australia. Photo: AP/Kirsty Wigglesworth

Australia captain Pat Cummins holds the Ashes Urn as Australia retain the trophy on day five of the fifth Ashes Test match between England and Australia. Photo: AP/Kirsty Wigglesworth

On a see-sawing final day to what has been one of Test cricket’s greatest ever series, Australia were bowled out for 334 with 18.3 overs left on Monday as they sunk to a 49-run loss.

Up 2-0 in the series after their dramatic win at Lord’s earlier this month, Australia have now been forced to settle for a 2-2 series draw for the second consecutive trip to England.

History will show Australia retained the urn after last week’s washed-out draw, in which they were outplayed at Old Trafford, but the chance to win an elusive series has gone begging with losses at Headingley and The Oval.

Australia’s mood was summed up in the post-match ceremony, where Pat Cummins lifted the urn beside his team with little pomp or celebration.

“It was probably just a feeling of missed opportunity,” Cummins said.

“It felt like we got ourselves into some really good positions winning the first two games.

“In Headingley and this week we got into match-winning positions and just didn’t quite capitalise. That happens.

“Once we reflect, we will be proud we retained it. It’s been a wonderful tour. But we all turned up today hoping to get up and win 3-1.”

Adding to Australia’s frustration is that for long periods on Monday the drought appeared likely to be over before a mid-innings collapse of 4-11.

Attempting to pull off the second-biggest fourth-innings chase in Australia’s Test history, the tourists were always fighting an uphill battle.

But with 120 runs to win after a lengthy rain delay and Steve Smith and Travis Head in control with seven wickets in hand, the match looked there to be won for Australia.

Then disaster struck.

Head was caught at slip trying to cover-drive a big-turning ball from Moeen Ali for 43, and the opening was there for England.

Smith followed in the next over when he edged Chris Woakes to slip on 54, before Mitch Marsh was caught behind off Moeen by a brilliant one-handed Jonny Bairstow catch.

And when Mitchell Starc edged Woakes to Zak Crawley in the following over, Australia had lost four wickets in 19 balls to see their hopes of a series victory slip away.

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Cummins was caught soon after trying to pull a half-tracker from Moeen, but Australia threatened one more twist in the tale when Toddy Murphy (18) and Alex Carey (28) got the required runs down to 55.

Eventually, they became Stuart Broad’s final wickets in Test cricket and a mighty Ashes series was completed at 6:25pm on the last night.

Woakes finished with 4-50 after ridding of David Warner (60) and Usman Khawaja (72) earlier in the day, while Moeen claimed 3-76 and announced his second retirement from Test cricket shortly after.

“I think 2-2 is genuinely a fair reflection of two very, very good teams going at it,” England captain Ben Stokes said.

“Being 2-0 down is a very hard task to come back from so being sat here able to say that we’ve levelled the series … I couldn’t be any more proud of the team in what they did.”

For Australia, they must now wait until 2027 for another chance to win in England.

By then, as few as three players from the fifth Test team may be available.

They will leave England as World Test Champions, having claimed the most famous win of this era at Edgbaston and a controversy-shrouded victory at Lord’s.

But despite it all, still feeling somewhat empty in a series they believed the legacy of this era would be defined.

“If it is our legacy, that is one I am happy to have,” Cummins said.

“The group has had some amazing achievements over the past few years.

“The last two series over here we retained the Ashes. That doesn’t happen very often.”


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