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So, what did exactly did the 2019 Ashes series tell us? Steve Smith can definitely bat, Jofra Archer is seriously quick and no cause is ever seemingly lost when Ben Stokes is still at the crease.

Delving a little deeper, the five Tests made clear the obvious flaws in both teams, but also demonstrated their strengths. Now, though, they can draw breath, recharge their batteries and start thinking about the future.

Australia, who retained the Ashes courtesy of a 2-2 series draw, return to the Test arena against Pakistan in late November and with spots up for grabs, all eyes will be on the start of the Sheffield Shield season. England, meanwhile, have tours to New Zealand and South Africa to look forward to before the year is out.

Having examined the state of both squads at different stages during the year, we now offer one final assessment while also looking ahead to the future.

 

BATTING

Not even retaining the urn has been enough to silence the questions that were already there before the Ashes about Australia's batting.

Smith's heroics were enough on this occasion, but coach Justin Langer has work to do going forward.

David Warner, who should be Australia's second-best batsman, became Stuart Broad's bunny, making just 95 runs at an average of 9.50 during the series and falling to the England paceman seven times.

Between Warner, Cameron Bancroft and Marcus Harris, Australia's opening stands during the Ashes were an average of 8.50 runs, immediately putting themselves under early pressure.

Marnus Labuschagne was a revelation after getting his chance, scoring 353 runs at an average of 50.42 to cement his place in Australia's top-order. But, going forward, places are up for grabs.

Matthew Wade combined two centuries with eight scores of 34 or less, while Travis Head (who averaged 27.28) and Usman Khawaja (20.33) were both dropped during the series.

Harris and Wade top-scored in the Shield last season, but the likes of Kurtis Patterson, 26, Will Pucovski, 21, and Jake Lehmann, 27, should all be sensing an opportunity.

Given the others have failed to take their chances, albeit in tough conditions, perhaps the time has come to build around Smith and Labuschagne while preparing for the future.

Like their opponents, England have gaps to fill in the top six.

Rory Burns (390 runs at 39) had success at the top of the order, but the gamble on Jason Roy failed to pay off. Joe Denly may have received a stay of execution with his 94 at The Oval, but it is hard to see how a 33-year-old who has spent recent domestic seasons further down the batting list is the long-term answer.

Joe Root had made clear in the past that three is not his favoured role, so it will be interesting to see if Trevor Bayliss' replacement is happy to drop him one position lower.

The team's success in the longest format has often come courtesy of rearguard actions in difficult situations, but the time has come to start batting big.

Stokes (441 runs at 55.12) showed the way with two second-innings hundreds, but Jonny Bairstow has reached 50 only once in his last 14 Test innings and Jos Buttler is in the strange position of being picked as a frontline batsman that comes in at seven.

A busy winter schedule offers an opportunity to blood some fresh faces. Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley are the two openers regularly talked about as possible candidates to have a go alongside Burns. 

Ollie Pope is waiting for another crack at international cricket, while Ben Foakes could return behind the stumps for the struggling Bairstow, who should perhaps consider giving up the gloves to focus completely on his batting. 


BOWLING

Unlike their batting, Australia's bowling is far more settled and with good reason.

Pat Cummins won the Allan Border Medal in February and the paceman showed he can lead his nation for years to come. The 26-year-old played all five Tests – a fine feat for a player with his injury history – and was comfortably the leading wicket-taker in the Ashes with 29.

Cummins took his 29 wickets at an average of 19.62 and economy rate of 2.69.

Such is the depth and talent in Australia's attack, Mitchell Starc played just one Test, selectors perhaps looking elsewhere to capitalise on the English conditions.

Josh Hazlewood has long been expected to be the man in such situations and he grabbed 20 wickets at 21.85 in four Tests.

Peter Siddle and James Pattinson played three and two Tests respectively and while their spots are far from certain, the ability of the attack to deliver as a unit would have pleased Langer.

They were helped by Nathan Lyon, who bowled more overs than anyone else on his way to 20 wickets at 33.40.

Siddle (34) is the oldest of the group, but Cummins, Hazlewood (28), Starc (29) and Pattinson (29) look to have several years ahead of them in an excellent sign for Australia. Even Mitchell Marsh took his chance with the ball in the fifth Test, grabbing seven wickets, although the all-rounder is often criticised for his performances.

The bowling was expected to be Australia's strength during the series and it proved just that, with few signs of it being an area of concern going forward.

Similarly, for England, there are reasons to be cheerful over the attack. Broad benefited from the chance to hone his skills in county cricket prior to the Ashes - and went on to torture Warner and the rest of the left-handers.

While his regular new-ball partner prospered, James Anderson endured a wretched campaign. Forced off after four overs of the opening Test with a calf injury, the Lancastrian failed to reappear in the rest of the series. He remains committed to playing at the highest level again, but England should not need to rush their leading wicket-taker back.

That is mainly because of the emergence of the blistering Archer. He claimed 22 wickets in four Tests, knocked down the seemingly immovable Smith at Lord's and provided an added dimension to an attack otherwise lacking variety.

Sam Curran's patience was finally rewarded with an outing in the fifth Test, where he again demonstrated his knack of making things happen, but Chris Woakes flattered to deceive, both with bat and ball.

Craig Overton's selection at Old Trafford was an unexpected call and maybe brother Jamie, as well as another Somerset bowler in Lewis Gregory, may get a go ahead of him in future.

As for the spin department, Jack Leach became a cult hero among fans and an easy fancy dress costume for a day at the Test.

The captain-coach axis must also work out what they see as the future role for Moeen Ali, a player far too talented to be left languishing outside of the national set-up.


CURRENT OUTLOOK

Smith's form tilted the balance enough in Australia's favour to secure a 2-2 result, but now it will be fascinating to see how both nations develop as they go their separate ways.

For England, the preparations for the tour Down Under in 2021-22 should begin immediately, or else they may be waiting a little longer to get the urn back.

Australia coach Justin Langer believes opener David Warner will benefit from playing cricket away from Stuart Broad in the coming months after the England bowler got "into his head".

Warner endured a miserable Ashes series despite Australia retaining the urn in a 2-2 draw, making double figures only twice across 10 innings.

He had three consecutive ducks at one stage and was dismissed by Broad seven times, making him the batsman dismissed most often (12 times) by the Nottinghamshire star in his Test career.

Langer still believes Warner is a "champion player", though, and hopes he can now recover following the series, with the next Ashes not until 2021-22.

"I think, talking frankly, he let Stuart Broad get into his head and he thought way too much about it," said Langer.

"I've seen it before, even with the great players, every now and then they have a series [like this] – and I'm talking about the all-time great players. I remember Gilly [Adam Gilchrist] with Andrew Flintoff.

"I remember seeing Steve Waugh sit on the team bus in South Africa and the guy had been a run machine for so long, he got out just before stumps and I, in a sick sort of way, thought it was the best thing I'd ever seen.

"I didn't think great players had lean runs. I used to have lean runs all the time but even great players have lean runs and David – we know he's a very good player, there's no question about that – had it tough, particularly against Stuart Broad.

"I used to have it against Murali [Muttiah Muralitharan] and I couldn't solve the issue and it's so hard when you try to problem solve and then you're in the middle of a big series trying to solve the puzzle.

"In this instance, I don't think David solved the puzzle, and he'll be first to admit that.

"He'll probably be very relieved he gets on the Qantas flight in a day's time and doesn't have to face Stuart Broad for a while, I reckon. But there's plenty of upside still to his batting.

"I've learned over a long period you never write off champion players – it doesn't matter what sport, you never write off champion players. They tend to come good, don't they?

"So he's had a tough series, no doubt about that, but he's also a champion player, so usually with champion players, they get a bit more time to come good."

The Ashes battle is over for this year - England fought hard and made sure they avoided a series defeat on home soil, but a 2-2 result sees Australia retain the urn.

Steve Smith was the catalyst for triumphs at Edgbaston and Old Trafford but, in the main, ball dominated bat.

Pitches offered some assistance to the two high-quality seam attacks and with the English weather occasionally getting involved, there was rarely a dull moment across the five matches between the old rivals.

After the first drawn series since 1972, we have picked some of the notable numbers from Opta...

 

2 - In making scores of 144 and 142 in the opening Test in Birmingham, Smith became the fifth player to record two centuries in the same Ashes Test.

4 - Nathan Lyon is just the fourth Australian bowler to reach 350 Test wickets. He moved above Dennis Lillee into third place on the all-time list for his country, with just Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne now above him.

5 - With victory at The Oval, England are still unbeaten in a Test series on home soil since June 2014. Sri Lanka were the last visiting team to prevail, recording a 1-0 triumph under Angelo Mathews.

7 - Stuart Broad dominated his personal duel with David Warner, dismissing the Australia opener seven times while conceding just 35 runs against him.

8 - England's eight-match unbeaten streak in Tests at Edgbaston came to an end; the last time they had previously tasted defeat at the venue was in 2008 (against South Africa).

10 - An impressive run of successive half-centuries in Ashes games for Smith came to an end in his final knock of the series. The right-hander was caught at leg slip off the bowling of Broad for 23 in the fifth Test.

16 - Broad got more left-handers out than anyone else (16); he averaged just 13.7 against them, compared to 56.3 against right-handed batsmen. 

20 - England had played 20 successive Tests without a draw before the game at Lord's, where rain wiped out the entire first day's play of the second Test.

29 - Pat Cummins set an unusual record - his tally of wickets is the most in a Test series by a bowler without claiming a five-for in any innings.

135 - Ben Stokes posted his highest Test score against Australia with an unforgettable match-winning knock at Headingley that included eight sixes.

390 - Left-hander Rory Burns was easily the top-scoring opener for either team. Australia's trio of David Warner (95 runs), Marcus Harris (58 runs) and Cameron Bancroft (44 runs) all struggled for the visitors.

Steve Smith certainly produced some eye-catching performances for Australia during the 2019 Ashes.

The world's top-ranked batsman in the longest format excelled in the five-match series, contributing 774 runs at an average of 110.57, including a double century in the fourth Test.

His fabulous knock of 211 laid the foundations for an Australia victory at Old Trafford – a result that put them 2-1 up in the series and, with just one game left to play, made sure they were certain to retain the urn.

Smith donned a pair of spectacles in the celebrations in Manchester, though the choice of eyewear was not mocking England's glasses-wearing spinner Jack Leach, as was initially thought.

Photographer Ryan Pierse, who captured the moment during Australia's post-match party, tweeted that, rather than poking fun at Leach – a cult hero with England fans after making one not out in the dramatic conclusion to the third Test – the ex-Australia captain was actually referencing former team-mate Chris Rogers.

And there was certainly no ill-feeling between Smith and Leach as they shared a drink after the series finale at The Oval on Sunday, with a picture on Twitter capturing the pair arm in arm while both wearing glasses.

"An all-time great – and Steve Smith," England's official account tweeted, along with a winking face emoji.

"Congratulations on an incredible #Ashes series @stevesmith49. Leachy loves the glasses."

After keeping Ben Stokes company to steer England to an unlikely one-wicket win at Headingley, Leach returned to the pitch after proceedings to recreate the single that had levelled the scores.

So, will Leach and Smith get to see each other again in the next Ashes? We will have to wait until 2021 to find out...
 

The 2019 Ashes certainly lived up to the pre-series hype.

England and Australia had no shortage of talent on display but also glaring holes in both sides were exposed over the course of five intriguing battles that provided plenty of twists and turns.

There were brilliant exhibitions of fast bowling. There were centuries (thanks largely to Steve Smith!). There was a fairy-tale finish for the ages, too, but in the end no outright winner.

Australia retained the Ashes but England's victory at The Oval in the fifth and final chapter means a 2-2 result, the first series draw between the rivals since 1972.

Here, Omnisport picks out the key moments as we recap each Test.

 

AUSTRALIA EIGHT DOWN, ANDERSON OUT

Tim Paine’s decision to bat first in the series opener appeared foolish when his side slipped to 122-8 on the opening day Edgbaston. Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes did the damage, but James Anderson was only able to bowl four overs before leaving the field.

His absence was keenly felt as, with Smith beginning his one-man crusade against the England attack, Australia’s last two wickets added 166 runs. Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyon showed the supposed batsmen how it should be done in bowler-friendly conditions, supporting their former captain, who finished up with 144 as a potentially disastrous first innings was transformed into a competitive total.

Anderson, meanwhile, only appeared again in the game to bat due to a calf problem. He attempted a comeback in time to play at his home ground of Old Trafford later in the series, but a setback on second XI duty for Lancashire scuppered that plan, meaning England's all-time leading wicket-taker in the longest format sent down just 24 deliveries against Australia.

 

ARCHER MAKES AN INSTANT IMPACT 

With Anderson out, England handed a debut to Jofra Archer for the second Test at Lord's. The pace bowler had been a key component of the one-day squad that won the Cricket World Cup on home soil earlier in the year but warned the public not to expect "miracles" in his Test bow.

There was no miracle – Archer was not quite able to bowl England to victory in the final session of a game that had seen the entire first day wiped out by rain – but his performance caused quite a stir.

He claimed five wickets in the match, struck down Smith with a seriously quick bouncer when the batsman was seemingly on course for a third successive triple-figure knock and, subsequently, played his part in Test history as the first concussion substitute was used. Marnus Labuschagne was laid low by a delivery from Archer too, yet beat the count to carry on batting and make a crucial half-century to secure a draw.

 

HEADINGLEY MIRACLE - VOL II

At a venue where Ian Botham famously salvaged a seemingly lost cause to secure an unlikely Ashes victory in the 1981 series, Ben Stokes produced a performance at Headingley that will see him forever remembered in crick folklore.

Bowled out for just 67 in their first innings, England's valiant bid to reach a tough victory target of 359 appeared set to fall short when they slipped from 245-4 to 286-9 on the fourth afternoon. Yet Stokes refused to give in, choosing to go on the attack with a display of hitting that, with each boundary, raised the possibility of a stunning result.

The left-hander made 135 not out with eight sixes to drag his team over the line, aided by last-man Jack Leach surviving 17 balls and contributing a quick single that turned him into a cult hero. Australia failed to remain composed amid the carnage, wasting their final review and butchering a run-out chance when Lyon somehow fumbled a tame throw to the bowler's end.

 

SMITH AT THE DOUBLE

Having missed the defeat in Leeds due to concussion, Smith returned as the series shifted across the Pennines to Manchester – and made up for lost time with another telling contribution with the bat.  England's plans to rough him up with the short ball failed to pay off as the right-hander made his third Ashes double hundred, in the process taking his tally past 500 runs for a third successive series.

Given a life when dismissed off a no ball from spinner Leach, the former skipper finished up with 211 out of Australia's 497-8 declared. England avoided having to follow-on in reply but 82 from Smith second time around left Root's side needing another Herculean fourth-innings performance to keep the series alive.

While Stokes failed to fire again, it appeared the great escape could be on when Leach combined with Somerset colleague Craig Overton to push the game into the final hour. Fearing another opportunity was set to go begging, Paine turned to Labuschagne's leg spin. The move paid off as he dismissed Leach, opening the door just wide enough for the excellent Josh Hazlewood to wrap up victory in fading light as the tourists moved 2-1 ahead.

 

A PAINE-FUL DECISION & JOE 90

Perhaps it was the fact the urn was already retained, almost akin to a last-day-of-school situation, that led to captain Paine opting to bowl first after winning the toss. England failed to fully capitalise on the opportunity, posting 294, but Smith only (only!) made 82 as Archer's second six-wicket haul in the series secured a useful first-innings lead.

Following a dash home after day one to see the birth of his daughter, England opener Joe Denly celebrated the new arrival with a Test-best score of 94, helping to set Australia plenty in the final innings on a worn surface.

Broad dismissed David Warner for a seventh time in 10 innings – the opener finished the series with 95 runs (only Hazlewood posted a lower average for the visitors than the left-hander's 9.50) – and when Smith fell into England’s leg-side trap, it was just a matter of when, not if, the hosts would triumph. Matthew Wade went down swinging with a hundred, but the topsy-turvy series ended level.

Steve Smith admitted he was "cooked" after helping Australia retain the Ashes with a 2-2 series draw against England.

Smith made his lowest score of the series – 23 – as the tourists slumped to a 135-run defeat in the fifth Test at The Oval on Sunday.

It gave England a 2-2 series draw, but that result was enough for Australia to retain the urn, with Smith awarded the Compton-Miller Medal as player of the series.

Smith, who made 774 runs at an average of 110.57 during the series, said he was exhausted.

"I guess it was a nice reception as I walked off. It would have been nice if I had a few more runs under my belt in this game as I walked off. It was a nice reception," he told a news conference.

"I've given it my all since I've been here, the last four and a half months and every Test match that we've played.

"I didn't have much left to give today, I'm pretty cooked to be honest, mentally and physically.

"I'm looking forward to a nice couple of weeks rest now before getting back into the Australian summer."

Smith carried Australia throughout the series despite missing the third Test due to concussion.

Australia captain Tim Paine said there was plenty of room for improvement from his team, acknowledging Smith's heroics.

"We've still got a way to go, Steve had an unbelievably good series and won us a couple of Tests by himself," he said.

"We've got some parts we need to improve but I think if we can click them into gear while we've got Steve at the height of his powers and the pace attack we've got then in the next few years we're going to be a very difficult team to beat."

Trevor Bayliss praised England's character and felt a drawn Ashes series against Australia was a "fair" result.

England secured a 135-run victory in the fifth Test at The Oval on Sunday to see the series drawn 2-2, although that was enough for Australia to retain the urn.

Bayliss, the outgoing England head coach, accepted his side were below their best during the series, but he lauded their response.

"It was a fantastic effort to draw the series, not being able to win the Ashes, but there was still pride on the line for the boys and Test Championship points," he told Sky Sports.

"To finish off well and level up the series I think we showed a lot of character.

"Two-two was a fair score. Both teams had their chances to win the series. We certainly did not play as well as we would have liked to."

It wrapped up a busy year at home for England, who went into the Ashes on the back of a remarkable success as Cricket World Cup hosts.

While prepared, Bayliss said hosting both the World Cup and Ashes was even harder than expected.

"For all the coaching staff it has been a long summer," he said.

"We knew it was going to be challenging but having now been through it I'm not sure we realised how hard it would be.

"It was tough and we were so close to both trophies but we will take one."

Ben Stokes suggested an Ashes series draw was a fair result and was not interested in entertaining "what ifs" for England after they beat Australia in the fifth Test.

England ran out 135-run winners at the Oval on Sunday to earn a stalemate, yet their hopes of claiming the urn had been ended a week earlier in defeat at Old Trafford.

The triumph in the last Test was the first time England had got the better of a full-strength Australia, with the outstanding Steve Smith limited to just 23 in his second innings.

But Stokes did not want to reflect on how the series might have panned out had they produced the same level of performance earlier in the series.

"I don't think you can ever look back and say, 'What if this happened', 'What if we'd done this differently'," he said, having been named England's player of the series by Australia coach Justin Langer.

"I think it's just been a great series of cricket, to be honest. It's ebbed and flowed in certain areas throughout every game. I think that's shown in the end result with it being 2-2.

"There's been two very evenly matched teams and two very competitive teams, as Ashes cricket always is. I think everyone's been treated to another great Ashes series."

Stokes handed England a historic one-wicket win in the third Test at Headingley with a remarkable unbeaten knock of 135.

 

But having earlier suggested it would mean little if England did not regain the Ashes, the all-rounder indicated he still felt that way.

"It'll probably be something to look back on in a few years' time," he said.

"You know the saying that you'd probably give it all back if it meant we ended up lifting the urn at the end. But I'll come to that innings in a few years' time."

Stokes said he and the team are "100 per cent" behind captain Joe Root, while he picked out Rory Burns and Joe Denly for praise at the top of the order.

"Everyone who has come into the Test team has put their hand up and shown they can compete at the highest level," he said.

As well as Burns and Denly, Jofra Archer was another breakout star, collecting the player of the match honours in the fifth Test after taking 6-62 in Australia's first innings.

Archer, who shone on his debut in the second Test but later lacked consistency, said: "I went wicketless in two innings as well, you know?

"It's Test cricket for you. One day, it might be there; the next innings, it might not be. You have to keep going.

"There will be good days and there will be bad days. It's not every day I'm going to get a wicket. I might go wicketless for a few innings. I have to keep going. The team will back me up regardless."

Captain Tim Paine acknowledged there were "mixed emotions" after Australia retained the Ashes but failed to win the series in England.

Paine's men became the first Australia team to retain the Ashes in England since 2001 after taking a 2-1 lead following the fourth Test at Old Trafford last week.

But the tourists were beaten by 135 runs in the fifth and final match at the Oval on Sunday, leaving the series level at 2-2.

While Australia will take the urn home again, Paine conceded the nature of the last Test was an undeniable frustration.

"There's no doubt today puts a bit of a dampener on it. There are some mixed emotions," he said. "There were some great learnings out of the whole Ashes series for us.

"But from where this group's come from, to come to England and retain the Ashes is still a huge deal.

"We've got a lot to be proud of - there's been some fantastic cricket throughout - but we've got some improvement, some learning to do, which is a great thing for us."

Paine only became skipper after Steve Smith was banned for 12 months due to his role in the ball-tampering scandal last year.

The 34-year-old was not interested in a discussion of his leadership in the immediate aftermath of this week's defeat.

"I wouldn't say [being captain in the Ashes] was an endgame. I didn't see it as a beginning, I didn't see it as an option not that long ago," he said.

"I'm loving the job I have at the moment. I feel there's a little bit of unfinished business with this team and where we're heading, and I've got a little bit of cricket left in this body. But I'm not looking too far down the track."

Paine's captaincy has been criticised at times, with his reviewing often considered particularly poor and his option to bowl first after winning the toss at the Oval costly.

He said: "I've got a couple [of regrets] - probably starting with the toss. But after that, you've got to give credit to England. They outplayed us.

"But we didn't take our chances on day one. I feel a bit sorry for our bowlers - they were fantastic all series and created plenty of chances on day one. We just didn't back them up.

"They got ahead in the game and took it away from us."

Paine admitted: "I can't read a pitch that well. We're trying to get to a point where the toss isn't that important to us. We've got to win games of cricket when you lose the toss.

"Whether you bat or bowl first is irrelevant - we've got to do it better than we did in this Test match."

Joe Root believes he is the man to lead England to Ashes glory in Australia despite failing to regain the urn for the second time as captain.

England were thrashed 4-0 away from home in 2017-18 and then saw Australia retain the Ashes on English soil for the first time since 2001 despite being held to a 2-2 series draw this year.

Skipper Root was in fine form as the hosts secured that stalemate on Sunday, bowling and fielding superbly in a 135-run success at the Oval.

Despite criticism of his role as skipper following England's defeats earlier in the series, Root is determined he can be at the forefront of the next Ashes in 2021-22.

"I'm very much driven towards that," he said. "We've got two and a half years to prepare well for it.

"It's going to be a real focus for English cricket to make sure we do everything we can to be in the best possible space for that.

"I want to be at the front of that, I want to be at the front of this team as, hopefully, the man to bring the Ashes back to England."

Sunday's victory over Australia was Trevor Bayliss' last match as England coach and Root paid tribute to the man who led the ODI team to their first Cricket World Cup triumph.

"Trevor is brilliant. He's added so much, he's obviously added a huge amount to this Test team," Root said. "He's been involved in some fantastic series wins both home and away - and what he's done for white-ball English cricket is phenomenal.

"He's very much valued in the dressing room, he's got a great sense of humour, he'll never give you anything.

"We all played for him this week and we're really pleased to send him off in great fashion."

Root added of Bayliss' relationship with Ben Stokes, England's player of the series and World Cup hero: "Over a period of time, you get very strong relationships with players and coaches.

"I think those two have gelled very well. There's a good element of banter between the two of them, they enjoy taking the mick out of one another, and there's a huge amount of respect as well.

"That counts for a huge amount. Trevor's done wonderful things and allowed guys like Ben to go and play in their way, to not be afraid to go and express themselves.

"Look where he is now and at his development over a four, five-year period. He's now one of the world's best all-rounders. It's one of the small things Trevor has done for English cricket."

Steve Smith insists he will continue to work to get better despite an outstanding series for Australia as they retained the Ashes in England.

Former captain Smith, making his Test return after a 12-month ban for his role in the team's ball-tampering scandal, was named the player of the series on Sunday after producing a number of sensational displays.

England earned a 2-2 draw by winning the fifth match at The Oval as Smith made just 23 in the second innings – by far his lowest total of the tour – yet his performances to that point had almost singlehandedly ensured the urn would return to Australia.

He scored 144 and 142 as Australia won the first Test at Edgbaston and then again starred in their second win, making 211 and 82 at Old Trafford in the fourth match.

Smith is not content to rest on his laurels following these efforts, though, determined he will do whatever he can to keep winning matches for Australia.

"Of course you always want to get better as a player," he said. "I'll continue to try to get better as long as I play.

"That's the key, I think. You've got to keep working hard. Nothing's ever too much, you've just got to keep working hard and try to do whatever you can to win the game for your team. I'll continue to do that as long as I can."

The ball-tampering scandal meant Smith was jeered by England fans throughout the tour, yet he received a standing ovation after being bowled out for the final time on Sunday.

"It meant a lot. It's been an amazing couple of months in England, with the World Cup and the Ashes. The cricket has been absolutely spectacular," he said.

"The series has ebbed and flowed throughout and there's been some terrific cricket played. I've loved every minute. I'm really proud to be able to perform for Australia and help to bring the urn home."

Australia came up 135 runs short of England in the fifth match, though, unable to secure even a fifth day as Smith rued his and his team-mates' failure to help Matthew Wade, who smashed 117.

"We thought the middle of the wicket still played pretty well and Matthew Wade showed that if you applied yourself and had really good plans and keep taking the game on, you can score runs," he added.

"He batted beautifully. Unfortunately, he didn't have many of us stick around with him long enough to help the team out.

"But England played some terrific cricket throughout this Test match and throughout this series as well. It's been great fun to be involved in."

England clinched the fifth and final Ashes Test by 135 runs on Sunday to draw the series in a fine response to Australia retaining the urn.

Another Steve Smith masterclass saw the tourists move 2-1 in front at Old Trafford to ensure the Ashes would be heading back to Australia, yet they could not end an 18-year wait for a series win in England.

Joe Root's side dominated at the Oval this week and Australia scarcely looked like troubling the target of 399 they were set when the hosts were bowled out early on day four.

Stuart Broad was in excellent form and, as well as continuing to dominate against the openers, he got the crucial wicket of Smith for a relatively paltry 23.

That set Australia up for a long, hard chase and Matthew Wade did the heavy lifting with a knock of 117.

But Root joined Broad and Co. in the attack and got Wade himself, as well as seeing his calls in the field - questioned earlier in the series - rewarded with good use of the other bowlers at his disposal.

Australia were struggling simply to see out the day and Root made catches from consecutive balls, giving England victory in their final match under Cricket World Cup-winning coach Trevor Bayliss.

The first Twenty20 international between India and South Africa on Sunday was abandoned due to torrential rain.

A downpour in Dharamsala meant play was called off even before the toss took place for the opening game in the three-match series.

There was a brief reprieve in the weather, allowing ground staff to try to clear the deluge from the covers and the outer field, but the match was called off at around 19:48 local time.

The teams will reconvene in Mohali for the second contest on Wednesday.

The T20 series concludes in Bengaluru on September 22 before the three-match Test begins in Visakhapatnam on October 2.

Steve Smith finally fell cheaply to Stuart Broad and Joe Root struck to leave England needing five wickets to beat Australia and draw the series on day four of the final Ashes Test at The Oval.

Broad dismissed David Warner (11) for a record-equalling seventh time in the series and Marcus Harris (nine) after the tourists were set a mammoth 399 to win the series 3-1 on a glorious Sunday in London, with England all out for 329 early on.

Marnus Labuschagne fell to Jack Leach and Broad (3-40) ended the prolific Smith's run of 10 consecutive Ashes half-centuries, removing the former captain for 23 early in the afternoon session.

Root saw the back of Mitchell Marsh and although Matthew Wade was unbeaten on 60 at tea, Australia were 167-5 still needing another 232 to avoid failing to secure a first Ashes series win in England since 2001 a week after retaining the urn.

England added only 16 runs to their overnight total after resuming on 313-8, Jofra Archer gloving Pat Cummins (2-67) behind and Nathan Lyon (4-69) seeing the back of Leach to end the innings.

Broad smashed Cummins for two sixes into the leg side before Leach fell and the paceman did more damage with the ball to leave Australia in trouble on 29-2.

Australia's highest opening stand of 18 was ended when Harris – who needed seven stitches in his left hand after splitting the webbing when dropping Joe Denly on day two – lost his off stump to Broad.

Warner was unable to end a miserable series with the bat on a high note, edging a fired-up Broad to Rory Burns in the slips and departing to a chorus of boos.

Jonny Bairstow produced a sharp piece of work to stump Labuschagne (14) off Leach and Smith was given a standing ovation as he followed soon after lunch, Ben Stokes taking a fine diving catch at leg gully when the top-ranked batsman tried to steer Broad around the corner.

Marsh (24) failed to make Chris Woakes pay for overstepping when he edged to Burns, the all-rounder prodding Root to Jos Buttler at short-leg soon after that reprieve.

England wasted a view a review when they thought Tim Paine should have been given leg before facing Archer and Wade held them up with an attacking knock, striking nine boundaries in a fifth Test half-century.

Stuart Broad continued his dominance of David Warner as England took three wickets before lunch on day four at The Oval after Australia were set a mammoth 399 for a series victory.

England were bowled out for 329 early on a glorious Sunday in London, setting the tourists – already assured of retaining the urn – an unlikely target to secure a 3-1 triumph.

The wondrous Steve Smith was unbeaten 18 on at the end of the morning session, but Australia – seeking a first series win in England since 2001 – were up against it on 68-3 after losing Warner, Marcus Harris and Marnus Labuschagne.

Broad matched a Test record by dismissing Warner (11) for the seventh time in the series and also got rid of Harris (nine) before Jack Leach sent Labuschagne (14) on his way.

England added only 16 runs to their overnight total after resuming on 313-8, Jofra Archer gloving Pat Cummins (2-67) behind and Nathan Lyon (4-69) seeing the back of Leach to end the innings.

Broad smashed Cummins for two sixes into the leg side before Leach fell and the paceman did more damage with the ball to leave Australia in trouble on 29-2.

Australia's highest opening stand of 18 was ended when Harris – who needed seven stitches in his left hand after splitting the webbing when dropping Joe Denly on day two – lost his off stump to the paceman.

Warner was unable to end a miserable series with the bat on a high note, edging Broad to Rory Burns in the slips and departing to a chorus of boos.

The prolific Smith got off the mark with a glorious cover drive off Archer and was still there at lunch along with Matthew Wade (10no) after Labuschagne was smartly stumped by Jonny Bairstow when Leach got one to turn past his outside edge.

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