This was drama at its finest. And given the Test match he's had, it was no surprise to see Stuart Broad in the thick of it again. It had to be him, playing an ever-influential role in every little action that took place in the last 90 minutes in Durham.
A fiver in Australia's first innings to keeping out a hat-trick delivery earlier in the day to playing a starring role in England's march to victory, this was arguably one of Stuart Broad's finest hours in an England shirt.
England desperately needed a wicket after Australia's openers added 109, while later Usman Khawaja and David Warner brewed a little partnership of their own.
Michael Clarke came in and you'd think at 150-odd for two, with Australia breezing towards the target of 299 and Warner himself leading the charge, it was their match.
And thus, it began as a routine change in bowling, one where Alastair Cook pulled out his gambler's instinct, kept conviction on hold for a bit and threw the ball to Tim Bresnan. Bresnan delivered, getting the well-set Warner for 71 off his fourth delivery of the spell—it was a beauty, a ball that angled just a shade across him and drew a faint nick to Matt Prior behind the stumps.
Cook sensed an opening and got his best bowler of the game from the other end in the hope of striking once again, or maybe more.
It worked. The first ball after drinks proved to be the most seminal moment of the game, with Broad coming up with a near magical delivery to get Clarke—similar to his dismissal off Anderson at Trent Bridge.
The ball seamed just enough after angling in, forcing Clarke to play at it but eluded him by hitting top of stump. A beaut in every sense of the word.
Next up was an edgy Steve Smith, who earlier survived what could be termed as a desperate England review. He couldn't keep down a well-directed, perhaps chest-high short ball from Broad and tried to hook but the ball took the bottom edge of his bat and hit the stumps.
From 168/2 to 175/5—all in a matter of seven overs.
Enter Shane Watson, a batsman admittedly going through a patch where everything about his batting seems messed up—footwork, balance, technique and even the confidence to slug it out or survive and prosper.
England smelled blood and in the over prior to getting his wicket, hit him with a short mid-on that forced him to move across and worked him over. The game was up when Watson's left leg moved across, trying to glide a ball down to fine leg. The ball caught him in front. Review, upheld. Watson gone. Bresnan, the bowler.
What began as a collapse was turning into a procession of sorts.
Haddin fell almost immediately thereafter in a similar fashion to Watson, this time to Broad. Australia, 181/7. All this, in by far one of the better spells of fast bowling with both Broad and Bresnan excelling in their respective roles—keeping it simple, yet hostile and purposeful.
With each wicket, it was as if England's intensity soared up a few yards, Broad in particular upped his pace (up to 91 mph) and matched it with immaculate direction. As the tail came in, he dished out well-directed, short balls with searing regularity and inevitably got Ryan Harris plumb in front.
A few overs later, Broad was still running in hard into what was his ninth over of the spell and got Nathan Lyon with a full and straight delivery. It was a classic tail-ender's dismissal, the leg-stump flying around.
It had to be him again and deservedly so. Broad's last act in what was undoubtedly his Test match was bowling one full and forcing Peter Siddle into a loose shot to James Anderson at mid-off. Australia were all out 224.
Broad ended with epic figures of 6/50 off 19 and match-figures of 11/121 and England won the Ashes three-nil. Stuart Broad: Man of the match.
Easy-peasy, isn't it?
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