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Monday, August 26, 2013

Test comes alive as both sides chase victory - and England nearly achieve it before bad light stops play: T5 D5

Australia 9/492d & 6/111d (23ov, Broad 4/43) drew with England 377 (144.4ov, Root 68, Pietersen 50, Prior 47, Bell 45, Trott 40, Faulkner 4/51, 3/92)  & 5/206 (40ov, Pietersen 62/55b/10x4, Trott 59/87b/6x4): T5/5 D5/5 at Kennington Oval, London. England win series 3-0 and retain Ashes.
Player of the match: Shane Watson. Players of the series: Ian Bell and Ryan Harris.

On the last day of the series The Fifth Test roused itself from an overcautious player-induced and weather-assisted torpor. An extraordinary day's play, the like of which has rarely been seen in Test cricket, saw Australia hazard much to pursue a slender chance of victory, only to be trumped by England who were closing in on a win when the umpires called off play on what to English supporters seemed like a pedantic technicality, to Australian a fair decision.

When England were, after some breezy lower order batting, eventually dismissed 115 behind Australia's first innings score a draw seemed, as it had for some time, the only possible outcome.
But Michael Clarke thought (or hoped, or wished) otherwise. So the batting order was recast and instructions to hit out issued. After 23 overs Australia had lost 6 wickets and added 111. Clarke declared, setting England 227 from a maximum 44 overs. The England batters responded feistily, rattling several  Australia bowlers in the process, and were galloping towards victory when the umpires intervened.

This was an exciting, yet ultimately disappointing day of Test cricket. Its later stages were redolent of a T20 match, albeit one played without any of the field restrictions of that format. The circumstances under which it concluded will be long and maybe even fiercely debated. I don't want to dwell on what might have beens except to say that a draw in this match was a fair result, as was England's 3-0 margin a fair reflection of their class and gritty ability to come back from shaky positions.

Not long to wait for a rematch. Bring it on!

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