By Rob Smyth
Hello and welcome to live coverage of the penultimate day of this wonderful Ashes series. I use the word ‘penultimate’ with dispiriting confidence, because the forecast after lunch at the Oval is minging. Tomorrow looks okay, though, so there should be enough time for England to force a victory they richly deserve.
England closed yesterday on 389/9, a lead of 377, after one last festival of Bazball. It might have been even more: they were 332/4 when Joe Root was bowled by Todd Murphy.
The forecast means England need to get bowling as soon as possible, so it worked out okay in the end. I think we can probably say the same about Stuart Broad’s Test career. Broad caught everyone on the hop by announcing his retirement last night, his face a picture of pride and peace.
It was clear from day one that, whatever it is, Broad had it. But it took a while for the numbers to reflect that. After 20 Tests his average was in excess of 40; but the 22nd Test, at the Oval in 2009, brought the first of his Ashes-winning rampages, and he never really looked back.
Broad’s career has been defined the green and gold. Nobody has taken more Test wickets against Australia. Nobody, not even Sir Ian Botham, can match Broad’s record of three man of the match awards in Ashes-winning victories. Throughout the 1990s, he was the kind of hard-nosed brawler we dreamed of calling our own. The word ‘competitor’ has been used more than any other to describe Broad. Some Australians might prefer a different C-word, but deep down they respect a Cobber in Pom’s clothing.
This isn’t quite the fairytale ending to Broad’s career – imagine if the score was 2-2 and he announced that last night – but it’s perfect in every other way. Or at least it will be, provided he and his mates can attend to one last bit of business.