Scorecard / As it happenedUmpire altercation a touch subject for ClarkeClarke takes leaf out of England’s book
The fifth Test has ended in a dramatic draw with umpires taking players off the field for bad light just as England looked set to complete a thrilling win that would have given them a first-ever 4-0 Ashes series victory.
After two yawn-inducing days in the series finale – England’s slow batting on Friday, and rain all of Saturday – the match was given life and made compulsive viewing on Sunday by a brave declaration by Australian captain Michael Clarke at tea that set the hosts a Sunday league-style chase of 227 in 44 overs.
At 5-206 the hosts required only 21 runs from the final four overs and looked to be coasting thanks to a blazing 62 from 55 balls from Kevin Pietersen.
However, they were stopped in their tracks by the fading light at the Oval, with umpires Aleem Dar and Kumar Dharmasena calling the players from the ground at 7.36pm to a chorus of booing from a capacity crowd.
Clarke had remonstrated with the umpires after the light meter had been brought on by fourth umpire Richard Kettleborough, knowing that if the reading matched the one when play was abandoned last Thursday at 7.26pm no more play would be allowed.
There was drama in the over in the lead-up to the umpires’ decision as well. On the ball before the match was called off the captain had spoken with paceman Mitchell Starc at the bowler’s end and the left-armer then ran in and stopped short of the crease, walking back again to the top of his run-up for an extra ball he had to bowl due to a no-ball in the over.
“Same old Aussies … always cheating,” the crowd beamed, complaining of time wasting.
When Starc did charge in again Bell hit him straight but the fast bowler trapped it with his foot, and threw down the stumps to run out England’s leading scorer of the series for 17. There was some consolation for Bell when he was later named man of the series after scoring 562 runs including three centuries.
An edge-of-the-seat finish was ahead but England’s next batsman, Matt Prior, did not get to face a ball. Chris Woakes was the other not out batsman on 17 from just 13 balls.
The umpires continued to be booed at the presentation as was Clarke, but England’s frustration was eased by their receiving of the replica urn on the ground afterwards for their 3-0 series win.
It was unclear how England would attack the extended last session – would they push for an historic 4-0 win, or be content to simply enjoy the afternoon in front of a jubilant home crowd singing “Stand up, if you’re 3-0 up, stand up…”?
The answer came immediately when openers Alastair Cook and Joe Root, generally dour and workmanlike, struck three fours in the first two overs to race ahead of the required run rate.
The carrot dangled by Clarke was swallowed by the England captain Cook and the brakes did not go on when Root was caught behind by Brad Haddin off the bowling of Ryan Harris for 11. That dismissal gave the veteran wicketkeeper 29 catches for the Ashes, overtaking Rod Marsh’s 20-year-old world record for most dismissals in a Test series.
There was no time to reflect on that milestone, though, as the tension mounted at the Oval, with Cook and Jonathan Trott diligently staying on track to challenge the target.
Only two teams in the history of the game had lost a Test after declaring twice – Garry Sobers’ West Indies in 1968 against England and Graeme Smith’s South Africa in 2006 against Australia – but that was the risk Clarke was prepared to give his own side a slim chance of winning themselves.
For only the second time in the series – he sent down a solitary over at Old Trafford – the captain brought himself into the attack and was able to tie down the scoring with some tight left-arm spin.
But at the other end Trott and Cook picked on Nathan Lyon, who conceded 10 runs in an over.
Lyon responded well in his next two overs, holding England to only a run in each, as the sting momentarily went out of the chase when Cook was trapped lbw for 34 by debutant left-armer James Faulkner, the Tasmanian’s fifth wicket of the match.
That, however, only brought the cavalier Pietersen to the middle and the chants soon turned to “We’re gonna win 4-0, we’re gonna…” when he stroked nine boundaries with the first 29 balls he faced including a jaw-dropping straight drive off Starc.
The surge left England needing 89 runs from 16 overs, and Australia requiring a further eight wickets, with Starc going for 15 runs in one over.
Clarke turned to Shane Watson, who had not bowled in the match, and assembled a scattered one-day field with as many as six men on the rope as Pietersen brought up his half-century in 36 balls.
Trott, meanwhile registered his fifty from a more restrained 79 balls but just as Pietersen looked set to bludgeon England to victory he came unstuck, heaving Ryan Harris – brought on in a smart change by Clarke – to long-on, where David Warner did very well to make ground and hold the catch.
It was a desperately needed breakthrough and Faulkner, not unaccustomed to the demands of the situation having played limited-overs cricket for Australia despite being on Test debut, then followed some great ‘death bowling’ by removing Trott lbw soon after for 59.
At 4-163, England were then left needing 57 runs from 50 balls to win.
A dramatic finale was promised and but ruined by bad light.
Earlier, England’s Matt Prior (47) and Graeme Swann (34) had thrown the bat around to career the hosts to a first-innings total of 377, 115 behind Australia, with Faulkner (4-51) picking up Bell for 45 and cleaning up the tail.
Australia then threw out the textbook with another reconfigured batting line-up in pursuit of quick top-up to their lead. Watson (26) returned to where he started the series, at opener, alongside Warner (12), and while the all-rounder belted Swann deep into the Vauxhall End for six their second innings was not quite the Twenty20-like bash fest they might have envisaged.
In 23 overs, they scrapped and slapped their way to 6-111 before declaring again, with Clarke knocking on the door of the England dressing room in the tea break to let Cook and Root know to put on their pads.
Australia sent out their most aggressive players first, with Faulkner in at No.3, Haddin at No.5 before Clarke himself entered with an unbeaten 28.
Opener Chris Rogers was transferred to the tail in the reshuffle and did not get a bat.
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