Steven Smith remained unbeaten on 78 © Getty Images
Steven Smith remained unbeaten on 78 © Getty Images

After being asked to bat on yet another green-top wicket, which had earlier spurred Michael Clarke to predict that the fifth and final Test at The Oval will be over in three days, Australian batsmen played out of their skins and took their side to a commanding 287 for 3 at stumps. Barring Clarke, every single Australian batsman got runs, and even though they are playing an inconsequential match, they gave a glimpse of how this series should ideally have transpired. Devarchit Varma throws light on the fact that Australia’s batsmen finally turned up, albeit to save a lot than just their face. ALSO READ: David Warner, Steven Smith lead Australia to 287 for 3 at stumps on first day of 5th Ashes Test at The Oval

The fifth and final Ashes 2015 Test garnered little attraction from the fans. The series was sealed by England almost 10 days ago at Trent Bridge, and the world had moved on after the joys as well as the agony. Between the end of the fourth Test and the start of the fifth, Alastair Cook decided to hang on to his captaincy, and Australian batsmen received some serious thrashing from fans and media and a second-string Northamptonshire side.

As the Test approached, the world realised that two fine batsmen in Clarke and Chris Rogers will be leaving the game; the Test had a lot in it for Australia despite them having lost the series. Australians were determined to give their heroes a fitting farewell — indeed the ideal one would have been the retention of the Ashes — but nevertheless a victory at The Oval would help them sign off a painful tour on a slightly happy note.

The task wasn’t easy. Cook won the toss again, and Australians were once again exposed on a fresh green-top wicket against a new ball in the hands of Stuart Broad, who had butchered them a few days ago. As Rogers and David Warner began padding up in the dressing room, the social media began flooding with jokes on how soon this Australian innings will be over. CRICKET SCORECARD: England vs Australia, 5th Test, The Oval, Day 1

But the Australians shocked, yes, that would be the right word to use in present circumstances and all that has happened in the past, everyone with their grit, discipline, determination and attitude. The explosive Warner turned into a monk, and the resolute Rogers put himself inside a shell so strong the English found no way to break it. Throughout Ashes 2015 Rogers has been quicker than Warner in getting the runs, but today, the story was different. While Rogers was happy to see the ball go, Warner got his eye in first and then opened up in characteristic style.

Both openers deserved big knocks, but their dismissals brought Clarke and Steven Smith at the crease. It will not be exaggerating to say that Clarke was a tad unlucky when a faint edge — not picked up by Hot Spot but Snickometer showing a marginal spike — carried to the wicketkeeper. It was a sad end to Clarke’s innings, but then, he was not expecting a fairytale ending either.

Smith proved why he is good when on song and why he is vulnerable. He did well to survive the initial few minutes — not because England were bowling well — but because he was way too fidgety. He has been fidgety in the past as well. Smith has been fidgety every time has walked out to bat. When he has got the better of the inner demons, Smith has scored runs. When he has lost the battle inside, Smith has flopped. And the world keeps rambling over his unorthodox technique.

Unfortunately for Australia, Smith has lost far too many of these inside battles this Ashes.

Adam Voges did not look like he would score runs on this tour, but he stepped up and showed why he was persisted with in the fourth Test. The second innings half-century was in a losing cause, but at least the world got to see what Australians saw in Voges. The fifth Test was inconsequential — another opportunity for the ‘Dad’s Army’ to enjoy the battles as long as their legs were not aching and hearts were strong. Voges came out to bat and remained unbeaten on 47 at stumps. That was not surprising.

What was surprising to see was Voges — a lower middle-order batsman adding more than 100 runs with a middle-order chum. If you would have told an Australian cricket fan that their middle-order will score runs at the fag end of the series, he would still have beaten you up.

Here come the “what ifs”: what if Australia had sneaked in one or two battles earlier in this Ashes with a partnership like this?

(Devarchit Varma is a reporter with CricketCountry. He can be followed on Twitter @Devarchit)