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Warner, Khawaja set up thrilling finale to Ashes series

David Warner and Usman Khawaja have set up a fittingly thrilling final day to the Ashes series after batting Australia to within sight of a record-breaking victory at The Oval.

Chasing 384 to win the fifth Test and take the series 3-1, Australia moved to 0-135 on Sunday before rain washed out the final half of the fourth day.

Desperate to win their first Test series in England since 2001, the situation is now clear for Australia headed into last day with Warner unbeaten on 58 and Khawaja 69.

Pat Cummins’ men need 249 more runs for victory with all 10 wickets in hand to take the series 3-1.

A draw will also be enough to win the series 2-1, particularly if more rain intervenes and the day is shortened from the 98 overs currently available.

“We’re in a great position at the moment,” Australia’s batting coach Michael Di Venuto said.

“There are a lot of guys who have been on Ashes series over here in the past and haven’t managed to win. Twenty years is a long time.
“We’re in a great position for some of the boys to get that on their resume.”

Warner and Khawaja are among the men to have felt the most pain in England, having had five unsuccessful Ashes tours between them.

Khawaja has also been dropped twice in the country in 2013 and 2019, while Warner is still without a Test century in England from 37 innings.

But from an unlikely position, and needing to pull off the highest-ever successful fourth-innings chase at The Oval, the pair have given Australia genuine hope.

Crucially, Warner was able to get through two separate spells against the retiring Stuart Broad, in the last head-to-head battle between the veteran stars.

The left-hander drove Broad for four through the offside in the opening over, and later survived a chest-high beamer from James Anderson when he ran it down to the third-man rope.

After looking somewhat scratchy early, Warner upped the ante after lunch and slog-swept Joe Root for four as one of nine boundaries.

Warner’s form has been heavily scrutinised on this tour, after he made several starts without producing a statement score.

But if the 36-year-old is able to push Australia towards victory at The Oval, it will almost certainly lock him in for his dream farewell retirement at the SCG in January.

Khawaja had looked even more composed than Warner, with his only moment of concern a short ball from Mark Wood that hit him on the back of the helmet.

With England’s tiring attack appearing otherwise unthreatening on a wicket that has slowed down significantly, Khawaja barely offered a chance at The Oval in the opening two sessions.

He also passed 5000 Test runs just before the rain delay, a remarkable feat given Khawaja’s career looked over two years ago when he was yet to reach the 3000-run milestone.

“Outstanding start from our two openers,” Di Venuto said.

“They have put some starts together through the series. To get a 100-run start when we are chasing 380 was an outstanding effort.”

If Australia wins the match, it will mark the second-highest run-chase in its Test history and the eighth-best of all time.

Warner and Khawaja’s start came after an emotional morning, with the grandstands full to offer Broad a standing ovation following his retirement announcement on Saturday night.

After being given a guard of honour onto the field, Broad hooked Mitchell Starc (4-100) for six.

It would be the last ball he faced in Test cricket, with Todd Murphy (4-110) removing James Anderson lbw moments later to have England all out for 395.

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