Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo
England 294 (Buttler 70, Root 57, Marsh 5-46) and 329 (Denly 94, Stokes 67, Lyon 4-69) beat Australia 225 (Smith 80, Archer 6-62) and 263 (Wade 117, Leach 4-49, Broad 4-62) by 135 runs
For the first time since 1972 there was a drawn Ashes series as England prevailed by a convincing 135 runs at The Oval with Stuart Broad and Jack Leach taking four wickets apiece alongside two for Joe Root who enjoyed a good day as captain. Matthew Wade struck a fantastic century, which included a compelling duel with Jofra Archer, but England shifted Steven Smith for 23 and Wade could not find anyone to stay with him long enough to bring the target within sight.
After what happened at Headingley just a few weeks ago - and because Australia have the best since Bradman - even with a target of 399 it didn't quite feel like a foregone conclusion when the chase started early on the fourth day. However, with Broad continuing his stranglehold over Australia's openers - getting David Warner for the seventh time in the series - and returning to have Smith caught at leg gully (and plan 774-runs in the making) it was 85 for 4 with the feeling the end could come swiftly.
Wade then added stands of 63 with Mitchell Marsh, 52 with Tim Paine and 44 with Pat Cummins, each time England nabbing the breakthrough before things got troublesome. He and Archer went toe-to-toe during an hour of thrilling cricket after tea - Archer touching 95mph but staying wicketless during an eight-over spell - with Wade reaching his hundred from 147 balls before being stumped off Root which heralded the end. On a day where he saw plans come together, Root had the satisfaction of taking the final catch with a brilliant snare at midwicket.
Broad made the early moves with the new ball as he has done so often during the series. A beauty extracted Marcus Harris' off stump (of course from around the wicket) and then had a skittish Warner sparring outside off to third slip where Rory Burns was again very sharp. The first of those wickets made him the only England bowler to take 20 wickets in four-Ashes series and the Warner scalp put him in a small club of those to remove a batsman seven times in a series.
Getting through the top two has not been a problem for England (today's stand of 18 was Australia's best of the series) but the third-wicket stand has caused more difficulties. Therefore, Leach's first incision, shortly before lunch, was key when he lured Marnus Labuschagne down the pitch, beat him with spin and Jonny Bairstow completed a slick stumping.
It was six overs after the break, though, when England celebrated the wicket they surely presumed would secure victory. England have gone with a leg-side heavy field plenty of times during the series but Smith has endlessly found the gaps. This time, when he went to flick Broad off his hip, he didn't quite keep it down and Ben Stokes took a superb diving catch. Smith walked off to a fully deserved standing ovation, any lingering boos drowned out by loud applause. A personal mission accomplished.
Australia made England work hard for the rest of their success but in a theme of the series starts were not converted. Marsh, who was given a life on 6 when caught at slip off Chris Woakes' first Test no-ball, turned Root lazily straight to short leg and Paine was pinned lbw by Leach from a delivery that just pitched on leg stump. Kumar Dharmasena took an age to raise his finger; England were relieved he did as they had spurned their two reviews.
Around this, Wade dominated with a very fine innings. He had been positive from the start, driving strongly and picking off anything straight through the leg side, but the highlight was when Archer revved things up after tea against a player who has got under England's skin throughout the series. A top-edge six seemed to really get Archer's juices flowing. There was very little pitched in Wade's half - and when there was a full delivery, Wade generally pounced - and he took a stinging blow on the shoulder. Words were exchanged but Archer also responded with an extended starring contest.
Archer survived and Wade spent 14 balls moving from 96 to his century when he worked Broad into the leg side. In the next over from Root, Bairstow missed a tough stumping and next ball Stokes missed a high, fast edge at slip to just suggest that the mood was with Wade as Cummins blocked effectively alongside him. However, Broad then found Cummins' edge with a full delivery and could have had a five-wicket haul if there had been a second slip to Peter Siddle.
Wade had been given caught at slip, driving at Root the ball after Cummins fell, but the DRS showed bat had hit the ground. The England captain kept throwing the ball up outside off, extracting considerable turn from the rough, and eventually beat Wade as he charged down the pitch with Bairstow having plenty of time behind the stumps.
With that, the match was not heading into a fifth day - which was probably a good thing for everyone - and Leach finished off the series with two wickets in two balls. Root was the catcher for both, firstly at square leg and then, with his final act of an historic, draining, dramatic and thrilling summer, plucking out Josh Hazlewood's flick at midwicket. Australia's Ashes, England's match and one heck of a season.
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