Image courtesy of: The Guardian
Clarke was absolutely gutted to have lost the Ashes once again
Australia captain Michael Clarke was not a happy camper as the rain Gods helped England retain the Ashes after the third Test at Old Trafford ended as a draw thanks to the fifth day being constantly disrupted by the heavens parting.
Clarke won the toss and elected to bat first, which put everyone was on the edge of their seats, as they were eagerly awaiting to see the return of flamboyant batsman David Warner, who returned from Australia A’s tour of South Africa after scoring a dazzling 193.
However, to the crowd’s dismay, Warner did not open the batting for Australia as they chose to go ahead with their regular pair of Shane Watson and Chris Rogers instead.
Watson and Rogers got Australia off to a great start as the pair put together a partnership of 76 runs, during which Rogers, who was playing extremely aggressively, brought up his half century before Watson was dismissed for a painful 19 runs.
Usman Khawaja also found himself back in the pavilion soon after as he was robbed of his wicket by the Decision Review System (DRS).
Khawaja was initially given out after allegedly edging a ball to Matt Prior behind the stumps off the bowling of Graeme Swann, but upon further review, there was no evidence to suggest that he had even hit the ball, but despite all the technology and angles available, third umpire Kumar Dharmasena seemed convinced that he had hit it and sent Khawaja on his way.
Clarke joined Rogers at the crease and it wasn’t long before yet another controversial moment occurred, but only this time, it was Rogers who was the victim.
Rogers was cruising towards his maiden Test century, but upon reaching 84 runs, he tried to get some people behind the sightscreen to sit down, which took much longer than expected.
After a delay of approximately five minutes, play resumed and Rogers was out lbw to Swann the very next ball he faced.
Rogers’ 84 had come off 114 balls and included 14 boundaries.
However, Australia turned all their early misfortunes around as Steven Smith and Clarke registered a mammoth partnership worth 214 runs, during which Clarke brought up his century and Smith his half-century.
The partnership was finally broken after 68 overs when Smith was caught out off the bowling of Swann for 89.
Smith’s 89 had come off 196 deliveries and included eight boundaries.
Warner’s Test comeback did not go as planned as he only managed to score five runs before becoming Swann’s next victim.
A 62-run partnership between Clarke and vice-captain Brad Haddin put Australia back in the driver’s seat before Clarke was clean bowled by England pace bowler Stuart Broad for a spectacular 187.
Clarke scored his 187 off 314 balls, which included 23 boundaries.
However, Australian fans were still treated to more entertainment as Haddin and left-arm seamer Mitchell Starc put together an unbeaten 97-run partnership, during which both batsmen brought up their half-centuries.
Haddin finished unbeaten on 65 off 99 balls, which included six boundaries, and Starc remained undefeated on 66 off 71 deliveries, which included nine boundaries as Clarke declared with Australia finishing on 527/7.
Swann was the pick of the English bowlers with a five-wicket haul, while Broad and Tim Bresnan snapped up one wicket apiece.
Trailing by an immense total of 527 runs, England found themselves in trouble early as opening batsman Joe Root, Bresnan and Jonathan Trott were all dismissed for single-digit scores.
England skipper Alastair Cook made an excellent contribution, scoring 62 runs off 177 balls, which included seven boundaries, in an attempt to stabilise the innings.
His efforts were well supported by Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell, who put together a 115-run partnership, during which both batsmen registered their own half-centuries, before Bell was clean bowled by Australia pace bowler Ryan Harris for 60 off 112 deliveries, which included 10 boundaries and one maximum.
Pietersen kept the runs flowing and brought up his 23rd Test century as he and Jonny Bairstow recorded a 52-run partnership before Bairstow was removed for 22.
Pietersen was dismissed soon after as he was given out lbw off the bowling of Starc for an outstanding 113 off 206 balls, which included 12 boundaries and two sixes.
A 58-run partnership between Prior and Broad helped England reach 368 before they were bowled out, which gave Australia a lead of 159 runs.
Peter Siddle excelled with the ball for Australia as he claimed four wickets, while Starc picked up three and Harris added two and spinner Nathan Lyon chipped in with one wicket as well.
With a lead of 159, Australia went on the attack as they looked to amass as many runs as possible in order to leave them adequate time to bowl out England for a second time.
In a rather surprising move, Warner replaced Watson as an opener and played a much better innings this time around, scoring 41 runs off 57 balls, which included five boundaries.
With small, but useful, contributions from all the Australian batsmen, the baggy greens were able to add another 172 runs onto their 159-run lead, which left England needing 332 runs to win the match and series.
Bresnan and James Anderson both took two wickets apiece, while Broad and Swann snapped up one wicket each in an attempt to limit the amount of damage Australia inflicted.
Chasing 332 runs to win, England were in deep trouble early on into their second innings as captain Cook was out for a duck, while Trott and Pietersen were also back in the pavilion after having failed to keep the scoreboard moving.
England were struggling and looking down and out at 37/3 before the rain came and saved them from what could have been an extremely embarrassing and humiliating loss.
Harris picked up the wickets of Cook and Trott, while Siddle removed the dangerous Pietersen.
Clarke, who received the Man of the Match award, was extremely disappointed for having failed to regain the Ashes for Australia.
“I tried not the open the curtains this morning,” he said. “I certainly don’t won’t to take anything away from England, they deserve to be 2-0 up in this series but in the UK there’s always a chance of some rain. It’s important we concentrate on the next two Test and leave two-all. We’ve seen some great signs from the guys here.
“It’s nice to make runs but it’s irrelevant, I’d rather get a duck and win the Test. You can feel great and get no runs. Here I had a bit of luck along the way but it’s important I make runs in the next two Tests. It’s never really mattered to me where I bat. I’ll bat wherever I’m needed for the team.”
“I think the selectors have done a great job in this series, five Tests are a lot for fast bowlers. Today’s rain might help Ryan Harris. When he’s on the park he’s such an amazing bowler. We’ll try and get him back on the park for Friday. The atmosphere won’t affect David, if anything the stick will help him. He’s a strong character.”
Cook was ecstatic to have retained the Ashes, making it three in a row for England, and praised his team for a job well done.
“It’s a slightly strange feeling today but for the lads to retain the Ashes after 14 days is great,” he said. “We were behind the eight ball here, got a bit of luck with the weather but we fought well. Here it was a good toss to win but fair play Australia they put us under a lot of pressure. But we responded well with the bat. The weather hasn’t been ideal today. This hasn’t got the atmosphere of Melbourne or The Oval but it’s a great feeling in the dressing room.
“It was a really good Test wicket, there was a bit in there today. KP batted really well, it was a perfectly timed innings as well. It’s slightly stressful with back to back matches but its certainly a challenge. Your always under pressure as a captain.”