LONDON: Australia openers David Warner and Usman Khawaja hit unbeaten fifties as the tourists reached 135-0 on a rain-shortened Sunday in pursuit of a mammoth target of 384 runs to win the fifth Ashes Test at The Oval.
They kept Stuart Broad waiting for a farewell wicket after the England fast-bowling great made a shock announcement on Saturday that he was retiring after the match.
Warner was 58 not out and fellow left-hander Khawaja unbeaten on 69 when rain at 2:41 pm (1341 GMT) ended play on the fourth day.
Australia need 249 more runs to complete a 3-1 series win and a first Ashes campaign triumph in England since 2001.
If Australia do manage to reach that target, it will be the eighth-highest fourth-innings total to win any Test and the second-highest in England, behind Australia’s 404-3 at Headingley in 1948 when Arthur Morris made 182 and batting great Don Bradman an unbeaten 173.
It would also be a new ground record — the highest successful fourth-innings chase in a Test at The Oval is England’s 263-9 against their arch-rivals in 1902.
Fast-medium bowler Broad has dismissed Warner 17 times in Test cricket.
Neither he, nor the rest of England’s pace attack were able to break through, however, before rain sent the players hurrying from the field, with a persistent downpour then ruling out any hope of a resumption later Sunday.
Warner, 30 not out at lunch, lofted England veteran James Anderson, who turned 41 on Sunday, straight back over the paceman’s head for a resounding boundary.
Two balls later Anderson, struggling to produce swing, shook Warner up with an accidental head high full-toss, or beamer, the bowler immediately apologising as the ball sped away to the boundary for four.
Khawaja, the leading run scorer in the series, went to fifty with his fifth four in 110 balls when he edged express quick Mark Wood.
Warner, who by contrast has been struggling for runs, then followed him with a 90-ball fifty featuring seven fours.
The openers played England’s quicks comfortably, although off-spinner Moeen Ali did turn a couple of deliveries sharply on a ground where he ended a 2017 Test against South Africa with a hat-trick.
There was also some turn for occasional spinner Joe Root, but that was small comfort for England.
Australia, as the holders, have already retained the Ashes after arriving in London 2-1 up in the five-match series.
Earlier, Broad was given a guard of honour as he made his way to the wicket for the final time, but England added just six runs to their overnight total of 389-9.
The 37-year-old seamer is the fifth most successful bowler in Test history, with 602 wickets so far.
“I’ve had a love affair with the Ashes my whole life and the thought of being able to bowl my last ball and face my last ball against Australia fills me with joy,” he said.
Broad, whose highest Test score is 169, was batting with his long-time bowling partner Anderson.
He faced the first over delivered by fellow paceman Mitchell Starc, with Broad pulling the sixth delivery for a towering six.
But Anderson was lbw to off-spinner Todd Murphy off the fifth ball of the second over as England were dismissed for 395.