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.

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
News
people
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
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

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

Any direct connection with the conflict has gone but we’re not ready to consign it to history, says John Lichfield
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star