The Ashes Return
Just a short note, for posterity more than anything else. England have won back The Ashes from Australia!!
The final test match at the Oval ended this evening, with England finally knocking over the last Australian wicket, the gallant Mike Hussey who scored a defiant 121 today. Set to make a total of 546 to win in the second innings, Australia got to a creditable 348 all out but it was always going to be too stiff a target on a pitch that has been visibly deteriorating since the first day.
I’ve actually been struggling since last Friday with a nasty stomach bug, otherwise I might have had time to blog a bit more about this match. I have to say the tension as England’s fortunes have ebbed and flowed hasn’t done much for my convalescence either! Earlier this afternoon Australia looked very comfortable, in fact. Two run outs set them back a bit , but even so England were making heavy work of bowling them out. Cue Steve Harmison (who had a mediocre match until that point) and Graham Swann (who had an excellent game) , both of them weighing in with wickets, as Australia finally keeled over, from 327-5 to 348 all out. Indeed Harmison took two wickets with consecutive balls and could have finished the match and won the Ashes with a hat-trick.
Although the game finished (just) inside four days instead of carrying on into the fifth, I was struck by how much the pattern of this match followed that of the Lord’s Test that I was lucky enough to see a part of. In particular, both games turned on poor first innings with the bat for the Australians.
As for the series, we now all know just how important that last day at Cardiff was! With England winning at Lord’s, a draw at Edgbaston and Australia trouncing England at Headingley, it was only still 1-1 because of that staunch rearguard with the bat by England’s bowlers, Anderson and Panesar. Without them the series would have been 2-1 to Australia. If the series is tied the Ashes stay with whoever held them before the series started, so a draw in this match would have meant Australia retaining them, but England won and took the series 2-1. Although Monty Panesar didn’t play at the Oval, let’s not forget how important his contribution was.
I don’t think this series produced as much quality cricket as the epic struggle of 2005. In that series the games were closer and on most occasions the game went into the final day with any result possible, which is actually quite a rare occurence in Test cricket. But the result is the same and the celebrations will be similar.
If England can sort out their batting problems (especially at No. 3) then they could become a really good side. They’ll need to be when they travel to South Africa later this year. How about bringing Monty in at No. 3?
The football season is also under way and that’s the last Test cricket of the summer. Time passes. I enjoy football , especially when Newcastle United are winning – an all too rare experience but one which is happening these days – but I have to say that nothing can match Test cricket for drama and entertainment. If football is like a rock concert, then cricket is grand opera.