England v Australia, 5th Investec Test, The Oval, 5th day August 25, 2013

Bad light denies England as Ashes ignite


England 377 (Root 68, Pietersen 50, Faulkner 4-51) and 206 for 5 (Pietersen 62, Trott 59) drew with Australia 492 for 9 dec (Watson 176, Smith 138, Anderson 4-95) and 111 for 6 dec (Broad 4-43)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Let's have a game of cricket, said Michael Clarke. And so, as the Ashes series moved to an enthralling climax that few imagined possible, England and Australia did just that. Then, with England needing 21 runs from four overs with six wickets in hand, a capacity crowd in a state of high excitement and Clarke no longer fancying a game of cricket quite as much anymore, the umpires took out their light meters and they all walked off.

Others can debate the whys and wherefores of ICC regulations. After the torpor of Friday and the washout of Saturday, the final day of the fifth Investec Test threw up a memorable day's cricket. The umpires had no choice but to walk off under those regulations and Clarke, having manufactured a wonderful day's cricket, had a right to expect that the regulations were respected. They were booed all the same.

Jonathan Trott gave the immediate reaction to Clarke's attempts to get off the field. "We'd be doing the same thing," he said. "Australia declared to set up a game and all credit to them."

Kevin Pietersen, registering England's fastest Ashes fifty along the way to 62 from 55 balls, will rightly gain the plaudits as England took on a chase of 227 in 44 overs on what for a fifth day remained a decent-enough surface. He swept them to within 64 runs of victory, with eight wickets and 10 overs remaining: a match to be won. In the end, England only faced six of them, but judging by the jubilation of England's players at completing a victorious series they did not seem to care.

Pietersen received a miniature silver bat on the third day to mark his achievement of becoming England's highest run-scorer in all formats. But this was the sort of cricket he lives for. His shots were falling into gaps and the crowd was rapt with attention on a beautiful sunlit evening. Then he swung Ryan Harris to David Warner at long-on, perhaps his first, fatal slog.

Trott fell in the next over but England's chase continued in composed fashion in the hands of the Warwickshire pair Ian Bell and Chris Woakes. But it was not to be.

With the series already decided, Clarke, an Australia captain who doubtless had his coach egging him on in the background, deserved immense credit for fashioning such an engrossing climax. No Australia captain had ever lost an Ashes series 4-0. Clarke risked just that. Statisticians be damned, was Clarke's response: 3-0 or 4-0, who cares? Australia, who now have no victory in nine, need to learn how to win again.

Only two captains had ever declared twice in a game and lost a Test - Garry Sobers for West Indies and Graeme Smith for South Africa. Hansie Cronje once declared and forfeited to lose against England but that one was corrupt.

There were deeper reasons, of course, for Clarke's declaration. Australia's sense of feelgood after a 3-0 Ashes defeat is based upon their conviction that they are playing a more enterprising brand of cricket that will fully explore their potential and ultimately turn the tide in their favour, preferably in the return Ashes series this winter.

Presented with a first-innings lead of 115 in early afternoon, and only 67 overs left in the game, they had only one option: attack. By tea, they had declared with a lead of 226. They made 111 at nearly five an over with six batsmen perishing. Clarke delivered news of the declaration to the England dressing room at a jaunty trot.

Alastair Cook, his opposite number, approached the run chase as dutifully as he approach a trip to a maiden aunt. It was an obligation he knew he must fulfil, whether deep down he wanted to or not, and he did so uncomfortably until he edged across his crease to James Faulkner and was lbw.

It was a timely departure. Pietersen came out to throaty cheers - the One Who Could. England still needed less than run a ball. Pietersen imposed himself against Faulkner. Recognising that the mood had changed, Australia switched into one-day mode.

Trott also progressed nonchalantly, keeping the target within range. On 41, he survived the most idiotic review of the series - it was quite a feat, so credit where it is due - when Nathan Lyon turned one out of the footholds and Steve Smith held a short leg catch off the thigh. He fell for 59, lbw to Faulkner, the sort of player who makes a match attacking by his very presence.

Those arriving at The Oval ahead of time on the final day had discovered groundstaff staring morbidly at covers and suggesting the match would not start much ahead of lunchtime. Read the experts and the emphasis was on England's unremittingly conservative approach and a debate, in the context of a seemingly dead Test, about how they had won respect rather than admiration.

What happened was a remarkable transformation. Faulkner's jibe that refunds had been in order after England's defensive approach on an interminable Friday had been well aimed, judging by the outcry it caused among England supporters on social media sites. The final throes of the Ashes series were suddenly so full of jollity that even Faulkner would not have demanded his money back. He took four of the last five wickets to fall to finish with slightly flattering figures of 4 for 51.

Haddin, Australia's wicketkeeper, also broke the world record for dismissals in a Test series when he claimed three more victims on the final day, the best of them a sparkling leg-side catch to dismiss Bell, England's man of the series. Harris picked up the Australia award.

Haddin's 29 dismissals took him past Rod Marsh, who set the standard against England in 1982-83 and was on hand at The Oval to watch in his guise as an Australia selector.

England passed the follow-on figure, and must have assumed in the process that they had removed Australia's last, faint chance of victory, in the process, within 12 overs. Then Graeme Swann took 18 off an over of offspin from Lyon and the crowd began to sense that Sunday might turn out to be rather different from the two days that had passed before.

Australia batted for 23 overs to reach 111 for 6. Their batting order - likened to a snow globe on ESPNcricinfo's ball-by-ball service - was shaken once more: Warner and Shane Watson opening, the debutant Faulkner at No. 3, Chris Rogers held in reserve.

Warner was brilliantly caught in his follow-through by James Anderson; Watson, who briefly laid into Anderson, succumbed at long-on and there was a first-baller for Haddin, courtesy of a waft at Stuart Broad.

It all seemed an Ashes fantasy, as if we had died of boredom on Friday and gone to Ashes heaven. Still Australia drove forward. Faulkner produced a brief one-day melody until Matt Prior caught him down the leg side at full stretch off Broad; Smith toe-ended one to long-on and Broad, loving every minute of the challenge, spread-eagled Harris' stumps for his fourth wicket.

Of Simon Kerrigan, protected after his stage fright on the opening day, there was no sighting. But just to be there must have been something.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on August 27, 2013, 21:29 GMT

    @Shaggy076 on (August 27, 2013, 0:17 GMT) PS

    Jayzuz on (August 25, 2013, 23.45/23:51 GMT) Kind of implies that the target was fairly modest

  • John on August 27, 2013, 21:23 GMT

    @H_Z_O on (August 27, 2013, 13:00 GMT) You don't have to explain anything to me. There's nothing in the your posts on this thread (and little in general) I disagree with you on

  • Anupam on August 27, 2013, 14:13 GMT

    Special thanks to Jimmy, Bell & Swann. I really miss Tremlett, Taylor & Hales in 5th test. My suggestion to Poms that don't argue on the excuses given by Australian fans.

  • Anupam on August 27, 2013, 13:58 GMT

    CONGRATES POMS !, This result don't surprise anyone because it is expected or going to happen. We celebrate Ashes victory before July 10. Except of 3rd test nothing to discuss more about Australia's fight- Except Harris played a series without injury.Thanks to Lehmann that old guns retaining confidence. Rogers proved that Hodge can also bat in middle order, Australia is ruining its present for future. Johnson, Marsh, Klinger, Cosgrove Voges, Hauritz are great compare to young guns. Haddin- who was the replacement of Wade (earlier) proves that he is better than others. Some fans will now understand that khawja is not the carbon copy of Bradman. The class of Warner, Cowan, Hughes, Khawaja, Agar, Lyon, Starc are of club or school cricket. Clarke still don't know how to use DRS, when to declare, how much total is good to defend. The ethics says that Clarke must give up his captaincy and concentrate on his batting.

  • H on August 27, 2013, 13:00 GMT

    @JG2704 Hope I wasn't one who came across as one-eyed! I try my best to be fair, although like any "fan", I'm bound to be biased despite my best efforts. We see the game through "lenses" of bias, even when we try to be even-handed.

    I don't think Clarke was wrong to get defensive when things went against him, why would he do anything else? He declared to try and set up a win, when it didn't look like happening, he tried his best to make sure he didn't lose (because 4-0 would've been a very unfair scoreline, I think, given how close they came at Old Trafford).

    Nor do I feel "cheated" out of a win. We didn't deserve to win that game, Australia made all the running, and while I do think our slow batting forced Clarke's hand (if he wanted a win, he had to gamble), I don't think that was our intention.

    I just think those who were quick to criticise Cook's defensive tactics might want to see that even an attacking captain will use negative tactics when they're struggling to control a game.

  • John on August 27, 2013, 13:00 GMT

    @H_Z_O on (August 26, 2013, 10:36 GMT) Not at all bud. I get that you're just trying to unmask the one eyedness in others and we all know it'll fall on deaf ears

  • beverly on August 27, 2013, 12:09 GMT

    Kaushik.S., You've made an excellent point. Ian Bell is a much better player than the world gives him credit for. I see on various occasions, certain selectors allowing their guys to play out of form for a consecutive number of years, with averages all in the 20s, not ever thinking about droping them, yet they are still being accorded the mantle of 'greatness'! But, Ian Bell who is just as talented, in every way, just as any of them, but who operates in a different system, where players are dropped every time they play a bad match, is not seen in the same light! Example, I think if the English selectors had a similar selection policy to India's, where certain players are allowed to play for consecutive years, out of form, until they return to form, Bell's stature as a batsman could also have been a name touted with greatness, because based on pure talent, he's 'right up there' with them! So, some who're not nevessarily better than Bell got 3 times his OPPORTUNITY to be called great!

  • Dummy4 on August 27, 2013, 10:37 GMT

    landl47 you reckon that England 'held' Australia?? I would say that 5 runs an over (and 6 per over towards the end) is hardly being held. Especially considering that Australia declared and could have batted England out of the match. If they had been bowled out or kept to 3 or 4 an over I'd agree. Test matches conditions aren't the same as in limited overs matches, however the situation begged a comparison. Watson, Faulkner and Starc have very low ODI bowling averages - I was relishing the last four overs. It could have been very interesting - certainly not a foregone conclusion in England's favour, but they definitely had their noses in front.

  • John on August 27, 2013, 9:22 GMT

    @Shaggy076 on (August 27, 2013, 0:17 GMT) I can't be bothered to trawl through all the posts again but I'm pretty sure I saw someone imply it was a gimme and there have been loads of one eyed posts re what would have happened

    And no you weren't one I was accusing of being one eyed , even if I've disagreed with certain posts

  • Michael on August 27, 2013, 1:56 GMT

    Any Aussie declaring the Cook is negative or Clarke is a better captain than Cook needs their head read. The best thing we can do for Australia is to accept our failures and weaknesses so we can turn them around, quick smart.

    While I admire Clarkes gutsy declarations in the final test, albeit these needed to be backed up by playing with the same attitude however his tactics in the later part of the English 2nd innings demonstrated pure negativity. Bottom-line Clarke is not the right man to captain Australia and even more so lead us out of a slump.

    Don't know about other Aussies on here but I want to see Australia return to winning ways which will only be achieved if we elect a leader who can inspire and demonstrate faith in their team. We may face some of our biggest loses on the way but I'm convinced we will also see some of our greatest wins in the end.