Sunday 15 September 2019 8:58 pm

England 2-2 Australia: Joe Root leads hosts to victory at The Oval to draw the Ashes

England have produced two draws this summer, and while the first might ultimately be looked back on more fondly as it brought a trophy, the second carries plenty of meaning too. 

In July England won the World Cup without winning the final in normal time. Today they lost the Ashes despite not losing the series.

Read more: England’s horror show batting scuppers best-laid plans

And yet, as was repeated in every interview at The Oval, 2-2 does indeed sound better than 3-1. 

The first drawn Ashes series since 1972 meant it was Australia popping the champagne corks and lifting the famous urn, but England’s 135-run win in the fifth Test did, in the words of visiting captain Tim Paine, put a “dampener” on proceedings. 

Sublime to ridiculous

After losing the fourth Test at Old Trafford to surrender any hope of reclaiming the Ashes, a dampener was the best England could hope for.

Yet when Joe Root clung onto a brilliant one-handed catch at midwicket to dismiss Josh Hazlewood and seal the win with a day to spare, it felt like more.

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 15: Joe Root of England and Tim Paine of Australia pose with the series trophy during day four of the 5th Specsavers Ashes Test between England and Australia at The Kia Oval on September 15, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
The series was drawn 2-2, leading to an awkward post-match presentation (Getty Images)

Throughout a topsy-turvy series there have been many legitimate questions asked of England, who have so frequently veered from the sublime to the ridiculous.

They left it until the final Test, and undoubtedly received some assistance from their opponents, but a convincing win went a long way to reassuring themselves and their doubters.

Root’s moment

Root himself is the biggest beneficiary of England finishing an unforgettable summer on a high note. 

With a second unsuccessful Ashes series guaranteed following the 185-run mauling in Manchester, the wolves were beginning to circle around England’s captain.

His tactical decisions on the field, declining record with the bat and failure to convert starts into centuries had begun to develop from whispers into fully-voiced concerns. 

Although scores of 57 and 21 at The Oval failed to silence his critics, the closing stages had his name front and centre.

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 15: Joe Root of England celebrates with his teammates after dismissing Mitchell Marsh of Australia during day four of the 5th Specsavers Ashes Test between England and Australia at The Kia Oval on September 15, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images for Surrey CCC)
The win was a big one for Root (Getty Images)

His off-spin had Mitchell Marsh grabbed at short leg by Jos Buttler before he stepped up to finish off the innings. Matthew Wade was stumped for 117 to break the final resistance and low catches in the legside did for Nathan Lyon and Hazlewood as Jack Leach returned 4-49.

Root’s bowling and catching may not be his most important assets to England, but they provided a fitting conclusion to a vital win for team and captain. 

England’s positives

The positives don’t stop there either. Leach’s efforts were exactly what was required from a spinner in the fourth innings.

Stuart Broad’s brilliance, especially against left-handers, saw him lead the attack in the absence of Jimmy Anderson and finish with 23 wickets at an average of 26.65.

Australia's Matthew Wade (L) and England's Jofra Archer face off during play on the fourth day of the fifth Ashes cricket Test match between England and Australia at The Oval in London on September 15, 2019. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. NO ASSOCIATION WITH DIRECT COMPETITOR OF SPONSOR, PARTNER, OR SUPPLIER OF THE ECB        (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Jofra Archer has provided England with an aggressive angle of attack (Getty Images)

Jofra Archer’s emergence as a world-class Test pace bowler was assumed yet shouldn’t be downplayed; 22 wickets at an average of 20.27 is an exceptional return.

Throw in Rory Burns’s 390 runs in 10 innings at opener and Joe Denly’s battling 94, and England have ticked more boxes. 

With Trevor Bayliss leaving, England need a new head coach. Thankfully they don’t need many other replacements.

Main image credit: Getty Images