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England v Australia, 5th Investec Test, The Oval, 2nd day

An odd series in so many ways

For the most part, the tension of a contest has been lacking, and listlessness has been a recurring feature

Sambit Bal at The Oval

August 22, 2013

Comments: 51 | Text size: A | A

Chris Rogers acknowledges the crowd after he was dismissed for 110, England v Australia, 4th Investec Ashes Test, 3rd day, Chester-le-Street, August 11, 2013
Australia, despite being 3-0 down, have provided the compelling stories of the Ashes such as Chris Rogers' belated Test success © Getty Images

To be at a cricket ground on the first morning of a Test match has always brought to me a sense of renewal. And in London, I enjoy the familiarity of the routine. The rush out of the parting doors on the tube, the springy walk up the escalators, station attendants urging fans not to forget to touch out with their Oyster cards while passing through turnstiles that have been left open, the gaggle of ticket touts brazenly soliciting customers, policemen gently ordering fans off the main street, the smell of early-morning beer, a few ties and lots of hats; and inside the ground, the spectacular sight of a packed stadium in the morning light.

The walk up to The Oval this time lived up in every sense but one. Drawing near the steps that lead up to the press box, there was a strange and unfamiliar feeling of emptiness. And then it occurred to me that this was a whole new experience: I have been to a few before, but never has my first live experience of a series been a dead-rubber Test.

Of course, every Test means something. England have never beaten Australia 4-0 (though they have beaten them 5-1). And Australia haven't left England without winning a Test since 1977. When Australia worked themselves into a winning position at Old Trafford, I had wildly fantasised about the Oval Test being the decider. Failing that, 5-0 was a far more appealing prospect than 4-0.

But there is something more. I have watched almost every ball of it, and this has not been a series to stir the senses. It has been a struggle to find a defining theme, one that will linger on in memory after this summer is done.

Ian Bell, our columnist, comes close. It has been a slaying-of-the-demons kind of series for him, but only the future will be the judge of whether his three centuries - and there could be more - became the stepping stone to a level that he has always promised. Bell is a picture-perfect batsman who has always looked destined for deeds greater than he has managed to achieve. But somehow, despite the most delightful late cuts and cover drives, his batting does not quite leave an indelible mark. That none of his three hundreds has led to a Man-of-the Match award - he was unlucky to lose out to Joe Root at Lord's - perhaps says something.

England owe no apology for being dull. They have acquired what a team requires most: the knowhow to win. After decades of misery, their fans will cherish that much more than showy brilliance that ends in tears

But there is perhaps a theme. It has come up in most of conversations I have had with writers and journalists in London in the last few days. Weird. Strange. Bizarre. These are words that have come up often. Three-nil would point to an overwhelming dominance of one team over the other, but with a bit more luck for Australia, the series could have been 2-2.

Here are some numbers. If you discount the Lord's Test, which was embarrassingly one-sided, and the ongoing match, Australia have scored more runs than England (1769 against 1563) at more runs per wicket (32.8 against 29.5) and have taken only one wicket fewer (53 against 54), but rain robbed them of the opportunity to improve this by a significant margin at Old Trafford.

Several assumptions, some of them contrasting, could be drawn from these numbers. The series has been incredibly close. Australia have fluffed the moments that have really mattered. And England have seized theirs. Or perhaps it has been a battle between the woeful and the average.

It would have been simple to say that the series has been much closer than the scoreline suggests, but even that would be a half truth. For the most part, the tension of a contest has been lacking, and listlessness has been a recurring feature. More wickets have been lost than earned, and for large swathes of play, bowlers have chosen to bore batsmen out rather than hunt for wickets.

There are balls and spells that stand out. Stuart Broad in both innings at Chester-le-Street, and his dismissal of Michael Clarke in the second innings there; a similar delivery from James Anderson to bowl Clarke at Trent Bridge. Ryan Harris has produced intelligent and manful spells, Peter Siddle has carried Australian bowling in a manner that could be termed heroic. But the series has lacked what fans cherish most: a little magic every now and then.

This Ashes will be remembered for lots of things you would rather not remember. The fall-out of David Warner punching Root (although that began in the Champions Trophy), poor umpiring, the malfunctioning of the DRS, the controversy over Broad's not walking, and Australia's bizarre selections. But oddly, or perhaps inevitably, the more compelling stories have come from the losers. Ashton Agar's unlikely and dramatic debut; the twisting narrative of Shane Watson; Chris Rogers' maiden hundred at 35; and, who would have thought it, a hundred from Steven Smith, brought up with a six for effect.

England owe no apology for being dull. They have acquired what a team requires most: the knowhow to win. After decades of misery, their fans will cherish that much more than showy brilliance that ends in tears. The English establishment has made sure to deny Australia any advantage by preparing, Test after Test, the most un-English pitches seen here in decades. No one could recall the last instance of two England spinners bowling in the first session of a Test match in England.

The worry for England will be that they haven't managed to win as comprehensively as the scoreline suggests. That is an odd thing to say by itself, for history remembers sport ultimately by scorecards, but that the flimsiest Australian batting line-up to tour England since 1985 has put up the two highest totals in the series can either be explained as yet another bizarre factoid of the series or as a pointer to a larger truth: the Ashes haven't caught fire this summer. Not every year can be 2005, but even during the wretchedly one-sided '90s, there was Shane Warne.

Sambit Bal is editor-in-chief of ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by android_user on (August 27, 2013, 2:00 GMT)

@britop yet on these batting pitches England still failed to pass 400 and their top order batted woefully, what does this tell you?

Posted by brittop on (August 25, 2013, 0:54 GMT)

@TheBigBoodha on (August 23, 2013, 1:07 GMT): I shall deny that Australia have done "most of the attacking". When? Their bowling tactic has been much the same as much of England's - bowl "dry" and wait for mistakes. If they had wanted to be attacking at Manchester, they could have batted faster or declared earlier (they knew the likelihood of rain). As you've said, they won the toss and batted first on two pitches made for batting first. Lucky or what? Also, don't think it's lucky breaks for England that have lost Australia's winning positions - it's them crumbling at the first sign of pressure.

Posted by cricketeria on (August 24, 2013, 23:42 GMT)

It's been a gripping series full of old fashioned test cricket. You want to know why Australia lost sambit? IPL. You know why India lost 4-0 to both Australia and England? IPL. THIS series is test cricket. This is cricket. Good players like Bell and Clarke make fine hundreds. IPL players like Shane Watson keep getting lbw. India preparing sand pits just to get "rewenge" on Australia is not cricket. And England beat them despite that because they play cricket, not IPL.

Posted by Sir_Ivor on (August 24, 2013, 16:56 GMT)

The title of Sambit's latest piece cannot be agreed with more.In this Ashes we had a memorable First test which Australia lost by just 14 runs batting last against all odds and despite Stuart Broad's epic performance as a batsman. The second Test was England's all the way. Australia was hammered pointless and the English media were truly chuffed up offering everything graceful for the vanquished. Quietly they wondered if the hype of the Ashes was indeed justified considering the one-sidedness of the contest. It was Old Trafford that Australia won the toss for the first time and England bowled first. On the last day England was on the ropes black eyed and ready to give up their 2-0 lead. Then the rains came and Australia was pulled back from their final punch. The match was a draw. In the 4th Test once again England won the toss and they won well. Then we have the last game at the Oval. Australia won the toss again and looked like winning till the rains came. Truly an odd Ashes series.

Posted by king78787 on (August 24, 2013, 13:42 GMT)

Odd but not listless. Trent Bridge was thrilling and no one could predict what would happen next. Old Trafford was a incredibly even Test and rain robbed the Test of a proper conclusion. Australia have played as good as England but we are 3-0 up. So odd but not listless.

Posted by   on (August 24, 2013, 9:18 GMT)

I think the series has highlighted one more fact about tests. That is: Batting first is a huge bonus in a test match, especially if you have good bowling attack. All five tests have been dominated/won by a team batting first. No wonder why Ponting was a win-the-toss-bat-first kind of captain.

Posted by   on (August 24, 2013, 6:44 GMT)

why dont you bring down the details of the players playing in IPL.. if you see australian team have almost 6 players play in T20 kinda leagues and that has discarded the skill of tests.... IPL and similar kinda leagues destroyed the skills of test cricket...

Posted by almacdnl on (August 24, 2013, 4:37 GMT)

Anderson lacks pce for Australian pitches and can't reverse the Kookaburra ball. Broad lacks consistency and Swan has niggles. Take away these three and what is left in the bowling dept? Bar Tremlett and/or Finn bowlingcupboard looks bare for downunder.

Posted by RohanMarkJay on (August 24, 2013, 1:32 GMT)

Australia played poorly, in the first two tests. That said this would have been a very different ashes series had Australia managed to win the first test against the odds with an outrageous partnership between Ashton Agar, Phil Hughes and Haddin. After Lord's this series became a boring damp squib. Had Oz won I believe this would have been a close, exciting test series. Lets see what happens when they play the second leg in Oz. Hoping for a better contest down there. Because Australia will really look back and think they have played some really brainless cricket and really didn't deserve to win the ashes in the UK especially after the first two tests.

Posted by scarab666 on (August 24, 2013, 1:09 GMT)

Had Stuart Broad done the honourable thing and walked we would be viewing this 5th test as possibly the decider to the english leg of the ashes series instead we are watching one of the most lacklustre tests of all time ( I'm not because I've now lost interest ). This does more harm to Test match cricket than T20 ever did and just plays into the hands of those wanting to kill of Test cricket.

Posted by   on (August 23, 2013, 23:00 GMT)

England have been far too defensive in the Ashes this time around. We have knocked Australia down time and again only to pick them up ourselves. It is a joke that Cook and Flower have pressed an advantage home, win Test matches and series may look good but winning by constantly relying the same bowlers, Anderson Broad and Swann aint going to do us and long term favours. South Africa will be laughing at both teams thinking that they won't have a major challenge from us for a longer time.

Posted by landl47 on (August 23, 2013, 21:20 GMT)

This series has had a couple of major highlights: Australia's 10th wicket heroics in both innings which got them close in the first test, and England's 9 wickets after tea on the 4th day of the 4th test, when Australia looked to be in with a very good chance of winning. The Lord's test was very one-sided after Australia collapsed in the first innings and the rain-out at Old Trafford was extremely disappointing, so those tests weren't exciting. I also have to say, after day 3 of the 5th test, that England really could have made more of an effort to entertain the spectators now that the series is decided.

However, I remember 1964, when Australia won 1-0 and in the 4th test Bob Simpson made 311 and Ken Barrington 256. If you think this series was dull......

Posted by   on (August 23, 2013, 21:02 GMT)

It has been a strange series. England seem very defensive when in trouble: don't know whether that comes from the captain or coach. Certainly nothing like the excitement of 2005 (England have been scoring much slower than 2005 too). England have certainly not dominated in the way a 3-0 scoreline would suggest, but Australia seem to have forgotten how to win, and their batting is prone to collapse (the fast bowling is probably better than England's, and Harris has been the best bowler in the series). All feels a bit of an anticlimax, and I hope things improve in Australia.

Posted by   on (August 23, 2013, 20:42 GMT)

Agree with much of this article; the quality of the cricket has been disappointing. Nevertheless the first test was high drama, with some stand out performances on both sides, from Agar's brilliant first innings to some great bowling under pressure by Anderson.

Posted by Leggie on (August 23, 2013, 19:47 GMT)

In many ways, the first two test matches were indeed one-sided with England dominating all the way. Ashton Agar's 90s and Haddin's last day onslaught always looked only as a rearguard action, and was never a dominating one. Whereas Anderson's spell in the first Test, Bell's three hundreds and Broad's carnage in Durham all seemed to be with a purpose. England were clearly the leaders and deserves being up 3-0. The statistics here is clearly mis-leading - especially so if matches are excluded. Yes, its a boring series - for one team is not even ready to fight. I hope the return series turns a lot livlier. For one, the pitches would certainly be more lively and that should even up the contest.

Posted by Westmorlandia on (August 23, 2013, 19:05 GMT)

I don't think the series has been blessed with particularly good pitches. This one at the Oval is a shocker. I know the Aussies scored a bit more freely, but they struggled to drive it yesterday too, and it seems the malaise is setting in. I think it would have been better cricket - and still a thumping England series win - if the grounds had prepared quicker, bouncier pitches. More runs scored, and more there for the bowlers too.

England have to take the blame for this unfortunately. As well as for seemingly deciding 4 sessions into this game that they were going to go for the draw, which shows a pathetic lack of confidence in their players given their records and the scoreline.

Posted by   on (August 23, 2013, 16:00 GMT)

Blame lies somewhat with DRS as it has taken the romance from the game. The moment that the umpire raises a finger and gives a out decision has all but gone from the game, simply because his decision is no longer final.

Posted by MJ1234 on (August 23, 2013, 14:41 GMT)

The only reason the Aussies are playing so badly is to increase the anticipation for their home Ashes series which is being showcased as a revenge series.

Things would have been different had Australia won at Nottingham and Chester Le Street and the weather not interfered in Manchester. Hope the Aussies turn the table in the return series.

Posted by   on (August 23, 2013, 14:00 GMT)

I don't think Australia have been woeful, I don't even think you (Sambit) think they have been woeful as you finish by talking about their highlights. Neither side is great, but it has been a keenly contested series, I just think England have won the key moments. These key moments tend to have been clusters of Australian wickets, so although for long periods Australia have matched or exceeded England, they have not had what it takes to win a match. But it's been a good series, far superior to that awful Eng v India series a few years ago, when India just didn't turn up.

Posted by Oam85 on (August 23, 2013, 13:51 GMT)

Whilst I agree with a lot of the article, I find the "if we disregard the Lords test" and quote a load of stats quite bemusing. What if you disregard the Old Trafford test (the only test so far with no result either way and just speculative predictions) and compare the stats then?

For what it's worth, I think England will perform better with bat in Australia than they have done here. England have scored more runs consistently away from home over the past 18 months - 2 years. I believe some of the England batsmen such as Cook, Trott and KP are more suited to quick, bouncy and ultimately true wickets, such as in Australia, as proved in the 2010/11 series.

I hope the Australian team and public are confident of winning the Ashes back in their own yard due to England's form on this showing. I think the Aussies will be in for a surprise... England under Flower are very thorough in their preparation for overseas tours.

Posted by anton1234 on (August 23, 2013, 13:22 GMT)

I think a fair scoreline going into the Oval test would have been 2-1 to England or 2-2.

Posted by Jaybird67 on (August 23, 2013, 13:06 GMT)

" If you discount the Lord's Test, which was embarrassingly one-sided, and the ongoing match, Australia have scored more runs than England (1769 against 1563) at more runs per wicket (32.8 against 29.5) and have taken only one wicket fewer (53 against 54), but rain robbed them of the opportunity to improve this by a significant margin at Old Trafford."

Why, exactly, should the Lord's match be discounted in an assessment of the series? In effect, all you're saying is that if you forget about the bits where one team was miles better than the other, the series was quite even.

Also, did not the Old Trafford rain rob England of the chance to score the 206 runs that would even up the runs scored (even though, of course, you'd still be discounting the Lord's massacre) in exactly the same way that it robbed Australia of the opportunity to take more wickets? Or do you think England would have been all out for about 40?

Posted by   on (August 23, 2013, 12:40 GMT)

Nitin - when England beat Australia 5-1 in 1978-79, they did not pass 400 in any of their innings in that series. Highest score was 360 and they only passed 300 on 4 occasions.

Posted by   on (August 23, 2013, 12:20 GMT)

How can you POSSIBLY judge Bell's success and current form on the lack of Man-Of-The-Match awards he's received. Bell should be awarded the Man Of The Series award at the end of this game and it'll be justly done. Bowlers win you games and his performances in individual games have been eclipsed by other individual performances. Over the whole series though his consistency has been a wet dream and he is to be congratulated!

Posted by Chaffers on (August 23, 2013, 11:18 GMT)

The only point I agree on is the pitches, watching the highlights you could almost think this was an away ashes series.

So we've thumped Australia on very good pitches with a top order which is more likely to read 30-3 than 200-1. Shows the gulf in class quite clearly.

Personally I think most of the English commentators have over egged the pudding in feeling sorry for Australia. Old Trafford looked very much like a draw to me, the vast majority of umpires would have given Khawaja out and rain in an English summer is not uncommon.They had their chances due to England's lack of top order runs and have choked every time. When England turn up the heat the australian goose is well and truly Cooked.

I suspect they'll be under the pump again at the end of this test, my prediction is 4-0.

Posted by Applejack on (August 23, 2013, 10:59 GMT)

You can't just ignore Lords.

England won 1 very tight test and one fairly tight test. In the other game Australia scored a lot more runs than England and were looking good, but by no means certain, of the win.

Of course if you look at those 3 games the Aussies will look better on paper.

Thats why you cant just ignore the test that they failed to turn up for.

With some more street savvy and luck, it no great stretch to say that Trent Bridge could have gone the other way, and no rain in Manchester would have meant that it was 2-2 now. Thats why the stats are fairly even, even if the scoreline isnt.

But for the third time... you cant pick and choose stats, and ignore the game where England dominated Australia becasue it renders any conclusions meaningless. You just cant.

Posted by   on (August 23, 2013, 10:48 GMT)

A genuine cricket fan, albeit neutral, enjoys watching a series like Ashes. Why? Purely because of the thrills the longest form of the game provides. That too over a 5-test series. We do not get to see a 5 or 6 test series now except for the Ashes. So if Ashes were to produce what could be termed as mediocre contests, its a big let-down for fans. Lets hope that down under Aussies produce spicier pitches with pace and bounce, and do not play on drop-in pitches!

Posted by disco_bob on (August 23, 2013, 10:47 GMT)

England could and would probably still have won had they gone with traditional English wickets, it's sad that so many non partisan cricket lovers who rate the Ashes highly as a spectacle, have had to witness such soulless wickets prepared test after test.

Posted by   on (August 23, 2013, 10:32 GMT)

It is very easy to be critical about England and it seems to be many people past time of choice, however their record over the last 10 years speaks for itself. It is not them that claim them to be the best or laud praises upon themselves, it is the media. They know they have not performed as well as they should and I have no doubt the preparation for the away leg will be meticulous. What I do believe is the Australian bowlers, will not be as dangerous in Oz. Harris and Siddle are very good bowlers and have enjoyed the English conditions probably more than England's own. Tremlett and Broad will like the harder surfaces and Anderson will have had the decent rest that he needs. Whilst Bell has had an excellent series the stand out performer for me has been Ryan Harris and that backs up what an odd series it has been.

Posted by   on (August 23, 2013, 9:22 GMT)

Great article - exactly sums up the mood of this strange series.

Posted by Rufus_Fuddleduck on (August 23, 2013, 9:20 GMT)

@humdrum - how dare you? England currently have two of the most charismatic players to grace the Test ground. Kevin Pietersen can bat in pitch darkness - just that he has to realise that - because his incandescence lights up a ground without the sun or lights. Graeme Swann is obviously England cricket's gain at the expense of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Even yesterday when he got Starc (13 runs in 8 balls) his reaction was much more box-office than Mohinder Amarnath (dismissed Holding to win Wolrd Cup 1983) or MS Dhoni (sealing the deal in 2011). Grow up man. Other lots of things can be said about the current England team but not that they are dull as ditchwater

Posted by Romanticstud on (August 23, 2013, 8:35 GMT)

Very Odd Series indeed ... Starting with a bizarre partnership to save Australia from embarrassment ... England looking like champions ... Then Australia putting up a fight just for the weather to rob them ... Oh wait ... Did they choke or panic in the pursuit of victory ... And now the resurrection of Watson the batsman ... Stuart Broad has been a good bowler for England and Siddle for Australia ... But surprising more than not is the fact that England's top three wickets have not been hard for Australia to rake in ... It sounds like the three test series last year of Sri-Lanka in South Africa ... South Africa were dominant ... but then Durban, South Africa crumbled ... And then another victory for South Africa ... I see Durban is back on the calendar ... watch this space ...

Posted by Amit_13 on (August 23, 2013, 8:19 GMT)

Excellent observations! Its been analogous to the second or third book of a best selling author. You see flashes of brilliance and magic. The language and the plot that gripped you the first time is seen only in a few chapters.

It has lacked the magic of Warne or the wrath of McGrath. Or the flashing blade of KP (please please please sort out your knee KP, you're the last of your kind in test cricket) It really really has lacked the fireworks of KP. Since his emergence, there has been mastery or dominance of other players in test cricket... but there hasn't been the audacity of Kevin Pietersen.

Anyone remember the 'wet fireworks' box from Diwali used around Christmas? They go off but not quite as loud!

Posted by WAKE_UP_CALL on (August 23, 2013, 6:39 GMT)

Ashes = perhaps it has been a battle between the woeful and the average.Still my take for this series Agar's saying Hello with 99 to the cricket world,Anderson The sultan of swing in 1st test,Bell finding salvation, Harris super man effort,Pieterson being true to his one series changing innings for every series,Smithy proves his mettle, rogers eliminating age barrier,Swann with fork against left handers and also Broad not walking after edging,Broad not walking a new life to media ,Broad tying shoe laces, Broad rattling clarke's stumps ,Broad the hero,Cook's general mind freeze,warner bringing crowd alive,nathan lyon fielding at short leg,Mitchell starc playing hide and seek this test series,dharamsena new to electronic gadgets,tony hill (embarassed by england,embarassed by DRS,embarassed by ICC).Warne's inabaility to resist sledging(media articles),Lehmann carrying on warne's forte to next level (radio interview),cricket aus buisy (sacking,suspending,fining) its staff.

Posted by   on (August 23, 2013, 6:07 GMT)

Australia lost the series at home to south africa but they were winners over more sessions.They were vanquished in India but England and Australia will serve a very closely fought Ashes in 2013-14.

Posted by humdrum on (August 23, 2013, 6:04 GMT)

@PFEL:Hope you saw the Mohali test in India--pace and bounce,aussies batted first,got 400 plus,rain washed out a day,India batted last and won with about 2 overs remaining. Just a polite reminder.

Posted by dunger.bob on (August 23, 2013, 5:15 GMT)

I've enjoyed this series a lot despite being on the losing end. .. there's no doubt England deserved to win and I don't buy any excuses about the pitches and the weather or the Umps etc. .. Good teams get over all that stuff and find a way to win anyhow. .. No, we simply got outplayed at the crucial times and showed the lack of experience and confidence our team has in spades.

Just the same, I'm pretty happy with the way they've played. It's not all doom and gloom. We obviously need more out of the batting when the pressure is really on. Egg shell brittle on a second innings spinning pitch isn't good enough. .. We seem to be getting a few more right handers into the line-up so that should help against off-spinners like Swann.

It must be a strange old series. Down 3-0 against the Pom's and yet I'm fairly happy. Never thought I'd say that.

Posted by grizzle on (August 23, 2013, 5:09 GMT)

Might not have been as good as Ashes gone by, but this series has been super interesting in parts. The end of the first test for example (in fact, I'd stick my neck out and say all of the first test) and parts of the fourth test at Durham (when Rogers made it through some terrific bowling spells from England) come to mind. It seems to me that both teams have been lucky at different points of time, but England have made their luck (in terms of umpiring decisions, the weather, etc.) count for more than the Aussies and hence this sorry scoreline. Nevertheless, this series has been well contested and not something ridiculous like the 2011 England-India series or the subsequent Australia-India series; that is something that I, a neutral, definitely care about.

Posted by CustomKid on (August 23, 2013, 4:24 GMT)

Sambit you sum it up perfectly - 'Or perhaps it has been a battle between the woeful and the average'. That nails it in one sentence.

You can say England have misfired but the AUS bowling has been disciplined and collected wickets consistently. In each test one bowler has been a stand out for England, 1st Test Anderson, 2nd Test Swan, Third Test they got belted, 4th Test Broad. They're inconsistent and bar Swann their averages clearly show that.

Australia can't bat, well at least consistently and that has cost them.

The only difference between these two sides is Bell. He might not have a MOM but he is clearly the MOTS.

I'd say AUS have the better bowlers, England the better bats and it's been a balancing act with Eng grabbing the key moments. It has been a dull series and my highlight was Chris Rogers dogged maiden ton against some really good bowling. Out of 5 tests that makes a pretty tame summer. Nice to see smith get a ton too but overall its a C- for this series.

Posted by humdrum on (August 23, 2013, 4:20 GMT)

Of course England need not apologise for being dull--they have been so for decades.One cannot think of an England team having charisma and chutzpah.Nine and a half times out of ten,you could predict their next course of action.That is why,despite the bombast of a 5-0 win,once they were behind,they preferred to waste time,have slow over rates and subs on the field.It's an average team,being shown up by the worst Aussie team ever,which,as has been pointed out,outbatted them(except at lords) and held their own in bowling.And yes,the aussies didn't seize the big moments and hence the scoreline.

Posted by skilebow on (August 23, 2013, 3:41 GMT)

'The English establishment has made sure to deny Australia any advantage by preparing, Test after Test, the most un-English pitches seen here in decades" Do u have any proof of this? You could be right or could it just be a reminant of one of the longest, hottest dry spells in recent history? England are becoming like the Leeds United of the 1970s, hated for having the audacity to go out and win. Every team has it moments we, as fans, would like to forget but only England's seem to be gone over again and again until the end of time.

Posted by PFEL on (August 23, 2013, 3:34 GMT)

This is a very good omen for Australia going forward. Hopefully their luck turns around, they've had a horror time of it over the last 9 months or so. They dominated South Africa and should have won that series if not for weather and luck. Then on to India which was barely even cricket due to doctored pitches. And now 3-0 down to England despite more than holding their own. Give them even luck and they could be no. 1 in the world right now lol. Funny, funny game. This series stats really show that all Australia need is equal luck to England this summer and they will dominate.

Posted by Viswasam on (August 23, 2013, 3:32 GMT)

Nice article. To be honest I think England should be utterly embarrassed by their performance and conversely Australia should take heart. England came into this contest as clear favourites and they have played not necessarily to win but rather not to lose. To lose to this Australian team would have been a wildly humiliating experience and as mentioned the scoreline really does no justice to either team. England have played poorly, they have been captained poorly and the Broad saga was truly an act of desperation - of a team clearly in the doldrums and willing to stoop to any means to make sure they were not humiliated. England are the sadder team for sure.

Posted by Rufus_Fuddleduck on (August 23, 2013, 2:41 GMT)

Right on the ball Sambit. When this series started it looked like the battle of the upper basement (the lower basement being Bangladesh and Zimbabwe - no disrespect to their resource-starved teams). It has lived upto that promise. In many ways it is reminescent of the India tour of Australia 1991-92. The 4-0 scoreline then would also suggest a misplaced sense of superiority for Australia, as this series would for England. Reality was something else - at least three matches of the 1991-192 series were close, and in multiple sessions India held their own. Bowlers keeping us in the match, plus some crucial moments lost to weather, iffy umpiring and just lack of combative batting. Australia, as was their wont then, got all the crucial decisions in their favour and rolled on. Now, for them at least, the wheel has come full circle.

Posted by TheBigBoodha on (August 23, 2013, 2:07 GMT)

The issue is that it has been good fortune as much as good play that has pervaded England's performances. Fate has rewarded conservative, unimaginative & timid play, a continuation of what we saw in Cardiff in 2009. Aus has been doing most of the attacking, taking most of the risks. Anyone who denies this must be watching a different series. I have never seen a team get so many lucky breaks in a test series. It has just been relentless, & yesterday's rain - coming systematically both times Aus won the toss & batted first on pitches absolutely designed for batting first - was a continuation of the theme. Every time Aus has gotten into a winning position, yet another dodgy LBW decision or tiniest of thin edges has taken the momentum away from them. England deserve the series win, but not by anything like 3-0. If the results reflected performance this would be going right down to the wire in this final test. That it isn't is the true disappointment, for all cricket fans.

Posted by CapitalMarkets on (August 23, 2013, 0:11 GMT)

Firstly, the series has shown that DRS needs to be used as an umpire aid and that third and fourth umpires off the field (who could have belonged to England or Australia and therefore solved the "only four neutral umpires" issue), should be using the technology to help the on-field umpires from making poor decisions, rather than allowing a limited number of challenges from players. It should be possible to integrate DRS into the game by allowing an off-field umpire to override the on-field umpire if their decision is wrong and either dismiss the batsmen or recall them at any time between the first ball of the next over or the first ball a new batsmen faces, without changing their score. This keeps the game going, whilst getting the decisions right.

Secondly, the series has shown that it is possible for the fielding side to serve up eleven turgid overs an hour without incurring cash/run penalties.

Thirdly, the series has shown that batsmen should be offered the light when it is dark.

Posted by Mitty2 on (August 22, 2013, 23:23 GMT)

Very good article and I agree for the most part. But, I still think apart from Lord's it's all been intriguing to watch. Whether it be England's sheer determination to not lose at all costs, and I mean all costs - bowling 10 overs an hour, shoes being taken off, not walking after hitting it to slip (Broad's justification for that really was hilarious) and others - or Australia's session by session superiority contrasted with Australia's failing at the points where it matters most, and the pre-conceptions evoked from india about Australia's ineptness: it's always good to see when Aus live up to those terribly low conceptions and when Aus defy those.

The three-nil scoreline could be 2-2 yes, but it's been England's knowhow as you suggest and experience that has gotten them through. Only Bell has played to his potential and if they played SA right now they'd get hammered - which is obvious.

Disagree on the bowling: I think the bowling has been heavily planned and very well executed.

Posted by   on (August 22, 2013, 22:54 GMT)

Brilliant Sambit. An odd series indeed, though Trent Bridge was a top test match.

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Sambit Bal Editor-in-chief Sambit Bal took to journalism at the age of 19 after realising that he wasn't fit for anything else, and to cricket journalism 14 years later when it dawned on him that it provided the perfect excuse to watch cricket in the office. Among other things he has bowled legspin, occasionally landing the ball in front of the batsman; laid out the comics page of a newspaper; covered crime, urban development and politics; and edited Gentleman, a monthly features magazine. He joined Wisden in 2001 and edited Wisden Asia Cricket and Cricinfo Magazine. He still spends his spare time watching cricket.

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