Mayank Agarwal's double-century helped India build up a huge lead before spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja tightened their grip on the first Test against South Africa.

Batting in only his eighth Test innings - and his first in India - Agarwal (215) became the 23rd Indian batsman to post a double century in the longest format, having shared a 317-run opening stand with Rohit Sharma (176).

Virat Kohli eventually called his men in when they were 502-7 in the day's final session, and Ashwin and Jadeja took three wickets between them in the 20 overs South Africa's batsmen faced to leave them firmly up against it.

Aiden Markram, Theunis de Bruyn and Dane Piedt all fell as the Proteas closed on 39-3, still 463 runs adrift.

Rohit resumed on 115 and Agarwal, 84 overnight, soon joined him in reaching three figures - the openers then going on to become only the third Indian pair to have a first-wicket partnership worth 300.

South Africa finally made a breakthrough when Rohit, one shy of his best Test score, was stumped off Keshav Maharaj (3-189) in his first innings as an opener.

Cheteshwar Pujara fell from the first ball after lunch and captain Kohli (20) meekly chipped back to bowler Senuran Muthusamy to give him his first Test dismissal before Agarwal reached his double century off 358 balls.

After Ajinkya Rahane became the fourth man out, Agarwal's knock was finally ended when Piedt took a diving catch at deep midwicket from Dean Elgar's only over, with Kohli declaring after Jadeja (30 not out) helped take India past 500.

South Africa then lost Markram at the start of their eighth over, a delivery from Ashwin (2-9) that snuck between bat and pad, and the same bowler found De Bruyn's edge to leave the Proteas two down.

Nightwatchman Piedt was bowled by Jadeja (1-21) six balls later, meaning Elgar (27 not out) and Temba Bavuma (7no) will start day three needing to drag their team out of the mire.

Rohit Sharma justified his promotion to opening batsman with a classy century as India dominated a shortened day one of the first Test against South Africa in Visakhapatnam.

Captain Virat Kohli said this week the decision to bump Rohit – who has been in and out of India's team in the five-day format – up the order had been discussed "for a long time".

It was a move that paid immediate dividends as Rohit, six years on from a debut Test century, scored a classy unbeaten 115 off 174 balls, his knock including 12 fours and five sixes.

Mayank Agarwal (84 not out) was just 16 runs shy of a maiden Test hundred before rain brought an early end to proceedings just after 15:30pm local time.

Rohit and Agarwal put on India's 13th 200-run stand and South Africa's attack lacked the cutting edge to trouble India's openers, save for a tricky opening half-hour, and the hosts will resume day two on 202-0.

South Africa's three-pronged spin attack of Keshav Maharaj, Dane Piedt and Senuran Muthusamy toiled against the brilliance of Rohit, who was unbeaten on 52 by the time India were 91-0 at lunch.

Comfortable on the back foot and not afraid to play down the track, Rohit saw out a difficult opening spell to bed himself in, with Agarwal also making South Africa's bowlers pay whenever they over-pitched.

There was little respite in the afternoon session, Rohit accelerating with back-to-back sixes off Piedt in the 50th over and even his most ardent critics were celebrating when he raised his bat to salute a century shortly after.

An early tea for rain brought some relief for South Africa and the adverse weather meant no more play was possible on a day where India dominated.

Virat Kohli has given his backing to returning wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha after India opted to leave out Rishabh Pant for the first Test against South Africa.

Saha has not played Test cricket since January 2018 due to a series of injuries - notably a serious shoulder problem - and Pant earned a regular role in his place, starting with the tour of England last year.

But, on the eve of the series with South Africa, India have recalled the 34-year-old, meaning Pant - to the surprise of many – is dropped from the XI.

Captain Kohli appeared to suggest it was a straightforward call, though, describing Saha as "the best keeper in the world".

"Saha is fit and fine to go," Kohli told a news conference. "He's going to start for us in this series and his keeping credentials are there for everyone to see.

"He's played well for us whenever he's got a chance, with the bat also, and it was unfortunate that he was out for such a long period because of an injury.

"For me, he's the best keeper in the world, so in these conditions, with what he's done in the past, he starts for us."

Kohli revealed Saha had almost come into the side for the previous Test series against West Indies, but India decided to stay patient and stick with Pant in the short term.

"Saha was almost going to start [that series in the Caribbean], but we felt it was better to let him ease back into things, rather than forcing him again into starting immediately," Kohli said.

"We all felt that he'd just come back and, although he was keeping well and batting well, it was fair to give Rishabh a few more opportunities because of what he's done in the past season for us.

"But Saha was always going to be someone who we would back as a pure keeper in Test cricket. He has done well under pressure situation also in the past for us.

"It was just about finding the right opportunity and moment to bring him back in."

India had already confirmed Rohit Sharma will open the batting against the Proteas, while Ravichandran Ashwin comes back into the team for the game in Visakhapatnam.

Afghanistan have appointed Lance Klusener as their new head coach.

The former South Africa all-rounder takes over following the departure of Phil Simmons, who left the post after the Cricket World Cup, with Andy Moles having served as interim coach for the recent tour of Bangladesh.

Klusener, who played 49 Tests and 171 ODI games for the Proteas, has filled a number of different roles since ending his playing career, including serving as batting coach for Zimbabwe in 2016.

He has also worked with Mumbai Indians' bowlers in the Indian Premier League, as well as being part of interim team director Enoch Nkwe's staff for the Twenty20 series during South Africa's ongoing tour of India.

"I am extremely excited and honoured to be given the opportunity to work with some of the best talent in world cricket," Klusener said.

"Everyone knows the fearless brand of cricket Afghanistan play. I am very confident that with some hard work we can become one of the best sides in the world.

"I am really looking forward to working with the Afghanistan team and helping them take their cricket to the next level."

India's star paceman Jasprit Bumrah will miss the upcoming Tests against South Africa with a back issue.

The sides drew 1-1 in their rain-affected three-match Twenty20 series but India have been dealt a blow ahead of the opening Test against the Proteas next week as Bumrah has been ruled out.

The 25-year-old has suffered a minor stress fracture in his lower back, the Board of Control for Cricket in India said in a short statement on Twitter, and he has been replaced by Umesh Yadav.

Bumrah has enjoyed an outstanding start to life in Test cricket since his January 2018 debut.

He has played 12 Tests and collected 62 wickets, including an impressive five five-wicket hauls, taking a hat-trick in his last match against West Indies in August.

Jonny Bairstow has been left out of England's Test squad for the tour of New Zealand in November.

The Yorkshire batsman is in the 15-man Twenty20 group but misses out on the two-match series against the Black Caps, having failed to impress during the 2-2 Ashes draw with Australia on home soil.

Dominic Sibley has won a first call-up after an exceptional County Championship with Warwickshire, alongside Matt Parkinson, Zak Crawley and Saqib Mahmood.

Lancashire's Parkinson and Worcestershire seamer Pat Brown are included in the T20 squad for the first time, as is Tom Banton, who hit 549 runs for Somerset in the Vitality Blast.

Injured trio James Anderson, Mark Wood and Olly Stone are left out, the former now working on being fit for the tour of South Africa, which starts in December.

The two Tests against New Zealand, due to start on November 21 and 29, do not form part of the ICC World Test Championship.

The five-match T20I series gets underway in Christchurch on November 1.

England Test squad:

Joe Root (captain), Jofra Archer, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Jack Leach, Saqib Mahmood, Matt Parkinson, Ollie Pope, Dominic Sibley, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes.

England T20 squad:

Eoin Morgan (captain), Jonny Bairstow, Tom Banton, Sam Billings, Pat Brown, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Joe Denly, Lewis Gregory, Chris Jordan, Saqib Mahmood, Dawid Malan, Matt Parkinson, Adil Rashid, James Vince.

Moeen Ali has requested a break from Test cricket after being dropped from the England team and losing his all-format central contract.

The all-rounder had been contracted by England for all formats since 2014-15 but it was confirmed on Friday he had only received a white-ball deal for 2019-20.

Th news came after Moeen was left out of the squad for the second Ashes Test in August, having taken 3-172 and scored four with the bat across both innings of a humbling opening defeat to Australia.

It was revealed at the time Moeen would look to spend some time "recharging" before making his county return for Worcestershire.

But having starred in guiding reigning T20 Blast champions Worcestershire to a second successive Finals Day, he plans to prolong his Test absence.

"It's just to get away from it a little bit. I feel like I want to enjoy my batting and this will give me a bit of a break," Moeen told ESPNcricinfo.

"I want to spend some time with the family. I've been playing for England for five years and it's been quite tough.

"The intensity is obviously higher in Test cricket so this is just to give me a break and then we will see what happens after that.

"I'm not ruling out playing Test cricket in the future. I've had long chats and thought about it quite a lot. I just want to give myself a bit of time to refresh my batteries and see where it goes after that."

England captain Joe Root stated in August that the first Ashes Test was "certainly not the last we'll see of [Moeen]".

Moeen has taken 181 wickets across 60 Tests, but Ashley Giles, the managing director of England men's cricket, has no issue with his period of indefinite leave.

"For all the guys, not just Moeen, it's been a really challenging summer," Giles said.

"A World Cup and an Ashes back-to-back has had a massive effect on many of these guys psychologically, as much as physically.

"Some of those guys are still carrying [these issues] - one of them being Moeen.

"His experience in the first Test wasn't a great one, but that's cricket. He's has been a great servant for his team. That's why I encouraged him to leave that option open to come back.

"He might just need to go away and freshen up. But he's been a really good servant for this team and he's still relatively young."

Joe Root will captain England's Test side regardless of their new head coach, Ashley Giles has confirmed.

Test skipper Root came under pressure in the recent Ashes series as England were held to a 2-2 draw, seeing Australia retain the urn as tourists for the first time since 2001.

The uncertainty around the coaching position added to speculation regarding the Yorkshireman's future, with Trevor Bayliss leaving his role following the series.

But Giles, the managing director of England men's cricket, has confirmed Root will continue to lead the side going forward.

"There have been no questions asked [about Root's future] by me," Giles told Sky Sports News. "I would hope that is the most important thing for now.

"One of the most important things for Joe is that we now redress that balance between red and white-ball cricket and we have more focus on Test match cricket.

"And when the new coach arrives, Joe gets a choice to sit down with him and really plan and decide a way forward - with me as well - our DNA around Test cricket going forward.

"If I were Joe, and we've had these discussions, we need to start planning towards winning the Ashes back in Australia in just over two years."

England will have one coach across all formats when they replace Bayliss, with Giles adding: "It's an exciting process because it's my first big appointment and we need to get it right."

The team's central contracts for the 2019-20 season were confirmed on Friday, with Eoin Morgan, England's white-ball captain, also set to continue in his role after winning the Cricket World Cup.

He has been given a limited-overs contract again, with Jofra Archer awarded an all-format deal.

The paceman starred in his first international campaign, playing key roles as England won the Cricket World Cup and drew the Ashes.

Rory Burns has been handed a Test contract following his performances against Australia, although Joe Denly got a white-ball deal.

Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid, previously contracted across all three formats, received limited-overs agreements, while Alex Hales, Liam Plunkett and David Willey missed out completely.

Jack Leach and Sam Curran were granted incremental deals.

Sri Lanka spinner Akila Dananjaya has been banned from bowling in international cricket for 12 months after his action was ruled illegal.

An independent assessment determined his delivery method contained a technical flaw, the International Cricket Council confirmed.

Dananjaya was reported for a suspect bowling action during the first Test between Sri Lanka and New Zealand, which took place from August 14 to 18 in Galle, with Kane Williamson also flagged.

The Sri Lanka spinner had produced a first-innings five-wicket haul in his team's six-wicket win.

Dananjaya, who was suspended late last year after his bowling action was reported against England, subsequently faced an independent assessment on August 29.

This assessment revealed his illegal action and, given the prior suspension, he was automatically suspended from bowling in the international game for a year.

Dananjaya will be able to approach the ICC for re-assessment following this period, the world governing body said.

Joe Root remains the obvious candidate to serve as England Test captain, according to former skipper Andrew Strauss.

Root's side concluded a thrilling Ashes battle against Australia with a series-levelling win at The Oval last week, although a 2-2 draw in the five-match rubber was not enough to regain the famous urn.

Strauss presided over back-to-back Ashes triumphs in 2009 and 2010-11 and feels Root, who was beaten 4-0 in Australia in 2017-18, will be stronger for the experience.

However, the 42-year-old former opener warned the Yorkshireman must balance the burden of captaincy against his output with the bat.

Root failed to convert any of his four Ashes fifties into three-figure scores over the course of the English summer, with such efforts dwarfed by Australia run machine Steve Smith.

"I think he's learnt a lot on the job. He's had some tough circumstances to deal with," Strauss, who was appointed chair of the ECB's cricket committee last week, told Omnisport.

"Obviously, the Ashes away in Australia wasn't a happy time for us.

"But he would have been buoyed by the performance at The Oval and he's the obvious guy to keep going.

"He's learnt all the lessons there are to learn and now it's about him evolving and developing as a captain, but also making sure he looks after his own game at the same time.

"We need him to be putting in those sort of performances, maybe not Steve Smith level, but somewhere close. He's definitely capable of doing that."

Among the pluses from England's 135-run triumph at The Oval was a third half-century in as many matches for Joe Denly, whose battling displays have suggested an alliance with Rory Burns at the top of the order might yet be something more than makeshift.

Sam Curran impressed on his first outing of the series with some lively left-arm seam bowling and Strauss believes the all-rounder and his Surrey team-mate Ollie Pope are candidates to freshen up the Test side during the forthcoming tours of New Zealand and South Africa.

"I don't think you're going to get wholesale changes," Strauss told reporters at the BMW PGA Championship Pro-Am. "They might have a look at one or two, someone like Ollie Pope – hopefully Sam Curran will get a bit of a run in the side as well.

"I think it was great to see Denly and Burns earn themselves a bit more time and show that they're capable of opening the batting.

"You've got to start somewhere and they might end up being that partnership.

"We need a bit more consistency in our Test cricket, that's for sure. We've got the makings of a very good team but it's about learning how to win and how to make sure that you don't put yourself under real pressure, which maybe we've done too often."

England are yet to name a replacement for outgoing head coach Trevor Bayliss, with Chris Silverwood expected to take interim charge in New Zealand.

Strauss agrees with his successor as England's director of cricket, Ashley Giles, that one coach overseeing all three formats is preferable, although he feels increased specialisation below is likely.

"I think Ashley Giles has said he prefers one coach overseeing things and then maybe some specialist support staff or assistant coaches," Strauss added.

"The challenge is so much cricket coming up in all three formats. With the World Test Championship and a global event every year we've got to be very consistent and good in all formats.

"I think that leads to specialist support staff but it also probably leads to specialist players as well. We'll see how they go with that."

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.

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