Australia openers start strongly in pursuit of Ashes glory

Australia need 384 runs to win Ashes after Broad’s final innings

London (AFP) – Australia openers David Warner and Usman Khawaja hit unbeaten fifties as the tourists reached 135-0 on Sunday in pursuit of a mammoth target of 384 runs to win the fifth Ashes Test at The Oval.

They kept Stuart Broad waiting for a farewell wicket after the England fast-bowling great made a shock announcement on Saturday that he was retiring after the match.

Warner was 58 not out and fellow left-hander Khawaja unbeaten on 69 when rain stopped play at 2:41 pm (1341 GMT) on the fourth day.

Australia need 249 more runs to complete a 3-1 series win and a first Ashes campaign triumph in England since 2001.

If they do manage to reach that target, it will be the sixth-highest fourth-innings total to win any Test.

It would also be a new ground record — the highest successful fourth-innings chase at The Oval is England’s 263-9 against their arch-rivals in 1902.

Fast-medium bowler Broad has dismissed Warner 17 times in Test cricket.

Neither he, nor the rest of England’s pace attack were able to break through before rain sent the players hurrying from the field an hour after lunch.

Warner, 30 not out at the interval, lofted England veteran James Anderson, who turned 41 on Sunday, straight back over the paceman’s head for a resounding four.

Two balls later Anderson, struggling to produce swing, shook Warner up with an accidental head high full-toss, or beamer, the bowler immediately apologising as the ball sped away to the boundary for four.

Khawaja, the leading run scorer in the series, went to fifty with his fifth four in 110 balls when he edged express quick Mark Wood.

Warner, who by contrast has been struggling for runs, then followed him with a 90-ball fifty featuring seven fours.

The openers played England’s quicks comfortably, although off-spinner Moeen Ali did turn a couple of deliveries sharply on a ground where he ended a 2017 Test against South Africa with a hat-trick.

There was also some turn for occasional spinner Joe Root, but that was small comfort for England.

Australia, as the holders, have already retained the Ashes after arriving in London 2-1 up in the five-match series.

Broad farewell

Earlier, Broad was given a guard of honour as he made his way to the wicket for the final time, but England added just six runs to their overnight total of 389-9.

The 37-year-old seamer is the fifth most successful bowler in Test history, with 602 wickets so far.

“I’ve had a love affair with the Ashes my whole life and the thought of being able to bowl my last ball and face my last ball against Australia fills me with joy,” he said.

Broad, whose highest Test score is 169, was batting with his long-time bowling partner Anderson.

He faced the first over delivered by fellow paceman Mitchell Starc, pulling the sixth delivery for a towering six.

But Anderson was lbw to off-spinner Todd Murphy off the fifth ball of the second over as England were dismissed for 395.