Ashes 2013: Downpours dilute home triumph at Old Trafford but urn stays on these shores

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

The weather made an unlikely victory for Australia impossible, despite three early wickets on the final day

At 4.39pm, England officially retained the Ashes.

There was not an open-topped bus in sight, partly because it would have been ruinous for the seats given the rain that was teeming over Manchester, partly because it would have been vastly inappropriate.

To see more images of England celebrating, CLICK HERE

The celebrations were necessarily muted because the holders escaped with a draw after being thoroughly outplayed by Australia during most of four and a bit days. Had four and a bit been allowed to become five, the tourists may well still be in with a chance of getting their hands on the terracotta urn itself.

The earliest date on which Australia can now recapture the greatest prize is sometime in December, were they to go 3-0 ahead at Perth in the return series later in the year.

But that is to leap much too far into the future.

For the moment Australia will be aware – painfully aware perhaps – that they can still draw this series and that such an aspiration is suddenly entwined with reality rather than embedded deep in the realms of fantasy. Had the weather not interfered when Australia were slicing through England on the final morning of the third Investec Test, they would still be in with a chance of winning this series.

Still 2-0 up with two to play, England have a few days to regroup before the fourth match starting in Durham on Friday. They have added Chris Tremlett and Graham Onions to the team that played at Old Trafford. At least one of them may play.

One poor match – and as in the first two, losing the toss was probably a hindrance – does not a poor team make but it does show that there is less between these sides than was generally estimated after the second Test at Lord’s.

England were set 332 to win after their opponents declared their second innings at the overnight total of 172 for seven. It was soon to prove academic. England were not planning to go for the runs, Australia had not the slightest intention of allowing them to get within 100.

Play was delayed until 11.30am because of heavy overnight rain and the tourists emerged from their dressing room, as if unleashed from a cage, ready to maul England. Within the space of 16.2 overs three wickets had fallen. Limbs were being torn off.

For Australia to compete this summer, it was always certain that their fast bowlers would be the key. In the third over, Ryan Harris, again doing his impression of Ben Grimm from the Fantastic Four, beat Alastair Cook coming forward. Cook reviewed the decision and cannot have been entirely surprised to see that the ball was hitting middle and off stumps about half way up.

The decision review system has understandably been questioned in this series but it is often human error at both ends, interpreting the available information before and after, which is at fault. It was introduced to eliminate the howler. Cook’s decision to review was certainly that.

There was time for yet more controversy when Jonathan Trott played round a ball from Harris which seared in at him. It looked lbw but umpire Tony Hill ruled in favour of the batsman. The review showed the ball was hitting leg stump but Trott survived on grounds of insufficient contact.

It mattered not on this occasion because he was snaffled in the next over glancing one down the leg side. That and DRS dismissals is becoming a feature of this series.

DRS was in action again before long when Kevin Pietersen drove at Siddle away from his body. Whatever the virtues of the stroke – either it is the way he plays or it was utterly unwarranted – what mattered was whether he hit it. The umpire said he had, Pietersen after discussion asked for the third umpire to have another look.

There was insufficient evidence for the decision to be overturned and Pietersen, initially perplexed and then angry, had to depart. The snicko gizmo soon showed contact registering about four on the Richter scale but on another day Pietersen would have remained.

The contest could hardly be more dramatic by now. Australia were so dominant that they will have sensed victory. It could have come in as few as 30 overs the way things were developing.

Joe Root, shelled by Michael Clarke at second slip, dropped anchor but had his bat passed. England needed a break and they got it. During lunch it rained for the first time.

It stopped in time for the teams to come back. The third ball after the resumption leapt at Ian Bell, hit him on the thumb and winged its way over the slips. He needed treatment and by the time he was all right to continue there was no need for him to continue.

The rain returned and it never stopped. England escaped. They had what they came for. Of course, it was all anti-climactic because we have come to expect the Ashes to be won, as they have on the last two occasions at home with matches that shred the nerves and tingle the spine. This one might have done but it was cut off in its prime.

 



It should be clear that England have retained the Ashes not because of their performance in the third Test but because they outplayed Australia in large segments of the first two games and won them both. The record shows that not since 1928-29 when Wally Hammond and Percy Chapman were young gods have England secured the Ashes as early as the third Test in a series.

That is an achievement worth mentioning. As Alastair Cook, England’s captain, observed had he been asked if he would take this position 15 playing days ago he would have taken it. “The dressing room is a pretty happy place,” he said.

So it should have been. But there is a series still to be won and it will take some doing now.

To see how the day unfolded, click here.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map