5th Investec Ashes Test: England denied 4-0 series win after bad light has last laugh

Image courtesy of: The Mirror

England registered a crushing 3-0 series win over Australia

England were denied the opportunity of humiliating their rivals even further after bad light stopped play on the final day at The Oval with the home team needing just 21 more runs to register a 4-0 thrashing of Australia.

Australia took a gamble in their second innings by declaring on such a low total and with England steamrolling to victory, the baggy greens should have been thanking their lucky stars that the bad light ended up having the last laugh.

Australia captain Michael Clarke won the toss and elected to bat first since the pitch and conditions were perfect for batting.

However, the Australians did not get off to a good start as opening batsman David Warner was caught behind off the bowling of James Anderson for just six runs.

With England having the upper hand early on, Chris Rogers and Shane Watson turned that around with a 107-run partnership, during which Watson brought up his half-century, before Rogers was dismissed for 23.

Clarke was on his way back to the pavilion shortly after as he was clean bowled by Anderson for only seven runs.

With Australia losing wickets at regular intervals, Watson and Steven Smith put a stop to that by registering a 145-run partnership, during which Watson brought up his first Test century since October 2010 and Smith recorded a half-century, before Watson was caught out off the bowling of Stuart Broad for an outstanding 176 off 247 balls, which included 25 boundaries and a six.

Smith also went on to record a maiden Test century as he and the lower order batsmen helped carry Australia to a brilliant 492/9 before Clarke decided to declare.

Smith finished unbeaten on 138 off 241 deliveries, which included 16 boundaries and two sixes.

Anderson was the pick of England’s bowlers with four wickets, while Graeme Swann took two and Broad, Chris Woakes and Jonathan Trott all snapped up one wicket apiece.

Trailing by 492 runs, England got off to a solid start as their opening pair of Alastair Cook and Joe Root put together a 68-run partnership before Cook was caught behind off the bowling of Ryan Harris for 25.

Root and Jonathan Trott kept up England’s strong start with another 50-run partnership, which which Root brought up his own half-century, before he was dismissed by spinner Nathan Lyon for 68 off 184 balls, which included 11 boundaries.

Trott and Kevin Pietersen kept the runs flowing with yet another 58-run partnership until Trott was on his way back to the pavilion for 40.

Pietersen ended up scoring 50 runs off 133 deliveries, which included four boundaries, before his wicket was claimed by Mitchell Starc.

Woakes and Ian Bell registered another 52-run partnership for England as they continued to claw away at the mammoth first innings total Australia had made.

Woakes was the first to depart for 25 and Bell followed soon after, scoring 45.

Wicketkeeper Matt Prior and off-spinner Swann provided some late entertainment as Prior smashed 47 off 57 deliveries, which included eight boundaries, while Swann hammered 34 runs off 24 balls, which included five boundaries and a six.

England were eventually bowled out for 377, giving Australia a lead of 115 heading into their second innings.

Debutant James Faulkner claimed four victims, while Starc picked up three wickets, Harris snapped up two and Lyon chipped in with one.

With a lead of 115 in hand, Australia decided to take the attack to England throughout their second innings.

However, their plan failed to work as they could only muster up 111 runs for the loss of six wickets before Clarke decided to gamble and declared, leaving England a target of 227 to win.

Clarke was the top-scorer for Australia in the second innings with 28, while Watson made 26 and Faulkner added 22.

Broad inflicted the most damage with four wickets, while Anderson and Swann chipped in with one wicket each.

With 227 runs separating them and a 4-0 series win, England got off to horrid start as Root was caught behind for 11.

Cook and Trott stabilised the innings with a 64-run partnership before Cook was given out lbw for 34.

Trott and Pietersen kept England’s hopes alive with a 77-run partnership, during which both batsmen brought up their half-centuries, until Pietersen departed for 62 off 55 balls, which included 10 boundaries.

Trott followed in the very next over as he was given out lbw on 59 off 87 deliveries, which included six boundaries.

With England drawing ever closer to securing a 4-0 thrashing of their long-time rival, bad light stopped play and the umpires decided to send the players off.

The crowd started to grow frustrated as England only needed 21 runs to win the match, but in the end the umpires brought play to an end and the match finished as a draw.

Harris and Faulkner both picked up two wickets in Australia’s desperate effort to restrict England from reaching 227.

When the match was officially over, the England players swarmed the pitch and popped open a bottle of champagne to announce that they had completed a dominating 3-0 series win over Australia in cricket’s most historic series.

Clarke was obviously disappointed as he walked to the podium, but he put on a brave face and congratulated England for their impressive performance throughout the series.

“At the end of the day we are here to try and win,” he said. “Credit to England, they played really well today. We are outplayed throughout the series, we thought we were a chance. Our bowlers have been exceptional. I certainly can’t complain about the whole squad.”

Cook was annoyed that England did not get a chance to score the last 21 runs they needed to win the match, but otherwise he was all smiles as he lifted the coveted urn.

“It would have been nice to finish the game off, rules are there for a reason,” he said. “It was pretty dark. Umpires have strict guidelines. Fair play to Australia for pushing the game on. Our job was to make Australia’s task as tough as possible. I thought the way we controlled that run chase was fantastic. A word on the crowd, we’ve had amazing support. I’m also very privileged to captain these guys.”

Watson received the Man of the Match award for his first Test century in nearly three years.

“It was an exciting finish,” he said. “The light came to rescue us in some sort of way. We wanted to set something they had a chance of chasing. It didn’t work out for us, but the crowd got something to see.”

Ian Bell was named England’s Player of the Series for his three centuries and two half-centuries.

“On a personal note it was nice to contribute,” Bell said. “Going into the series I was probably low on a few runs. [Looking back to 2005] I don’t think I was very good back then.”

Meanwhile, Australia’s Player of the Series went to Ryan Harris, who took 24 wickets at an outstanding average of 19.58.

“I wanted to play five Tests, I ended up playing four,” he said. “My aim was to not go home early. The result didn’t go our way, we’ll see what happens at home.”

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