Choice of game
When I bought my ticket several months ago, the idea was that the final Ashes Test would bring about a thrilling climax to a series that remained undecided. Unfortunately, events at Old Trafford meant that England could no longer win the series, but along with friends I arrived at The Oval full of hope that England would square the series. Memories of a golden cricketing summer were fresh in my mind as I approached the ground: the World Cup victory and Ben Stokes's Headingley heroics had suddenly moved cricket from the margins to the centre-stage of English sport, and one final push from England would ensure a truly unforgettable season.

The last time I watched these traditional rivals in the Test arena was a couple of years ago, halfway across the globe, in the stifling heat of Melbourne. This time around, rather than endure a 22-hour long flight, I only had to navigate a short journey through south London and although there was a marked difference in temperature compared to Melbourne on Boxing Day, the Oval was bathed in sunshine and we enjoyed the unfamiliar sight of bright, blue September skies.

Key performers
Steven Smith. He arrived at the crease shortly after mid-day and I feared that would mean watching him pile on run after run for the remainder of the day, as well as his odd mannerisms such as touching the top of both his pads and then his thigh pad in strict sequence before each delivery. With his movement across the stumps, and the way he leaves the ball with his torso almost ending up facing the wicketkeeper, it's difficult to imagine you're seeing a modern genius at work. He reached his half-century with ominous efficiency, so it was a joyous surprise when he was out lbw for 80. Chris Woakes somehow managed to trap him in front as he tried to play the ball off the stumps through the leg side; a shot that has resulted in countless runs in the past few weeks.

England's bowlers were impressive in the way they toiled, and Australia were unable to build a match-defining partnership. Jofra Archer was the standout with his 6 for 62. From square of the wicket it was impossible to see the ball after it left Archer's hand but the positioning of Jonny Bairstow and the slip fielders, closer to the boundary than the stumps, gave an indication of the speed of Archer's bowling.

Wow moments
Woakes' dismissal of Smith and Rory Burns' stunning one-handed catch to claim Australia's final wicket, that of Peter Siddle, were both spectacular but the pivotal moment of the day was Sam Curran's two wickets in two balls. As a Surrey member, I've happily watched his progress from close quarters. He's always had more potential than his older brother Tom, his wholehearted approach always seems to make the unexpected happen, as demonstrated by his match-winning feats against India last year. As Smith was hoping to add more runs with the lower middle-order, Curran's brace of wickets ensured that the tail was open and there for the taking. The swinging ball to Pat Cummins would have claimed the wicket of plenty of top-order batsmen.

The one thing I'd change
The Oval always had a ramshackle charm and an un-self-conscious character in contrast to its more formal cousin, Lord's. At times the organisation within the ground can be found wanting. In particular, the congested areas around the bars and food stalls can make exiting the ground during the intervals a challenge.

Crowd meter
I read reports about day one of the Test lacking a certain intensity. The second day saw periods of engrossing play which the crowd were clearly absorbed in and as more Australian wickets tumbled, the volume got louder. Most of the stands enjoyed the unusually warm September sunshine but by mid-afternoon my friends and I were craving for shade away from the claustrophobia-inducing OCS stand. A very kind steward at the pavilion entrance allowed us entry to the building, where we were able to spot various former England players and the odd minor celebrity. More importantly we were able to find an excellent vantage point surrounded by TV screens and knowledgeable fans, and we watched on contentedly as the sun slowly disappeared behind the Vauxhall End.

Marks out of 10
A thrilling 8. The rare sight of Smith losing his wicket, albeit after scoring 80, was almost worth the admission fee alone. The day also offered a glimpse into England's bright future as Archer and Curran worked hard with the ball in hand and gained just rewards. it's conceivable that both players will be central to England's efforts in regaining the Ashes in a couple of years' time.

More runs added to the overnight score would have made the day even more pleasing, but the catch dropped off Joe Denly late in the evening session, as well as the lbw reversal from the last ball of the day, meant that most England fans heading home did so with a smile on their face.


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