England’s victorious Ashes campaign ended in farce and fury as the umpires took the players off for bad light with only 21 runs needed for victory from four overs. With the home side closing in on the win that would have given them an unprecedented 4-0 triumph in the series,
Australia captain Michael Clarke and umpires Aleem Dar and Kumar Dharmasena were booed by the crowd at the presentation ceremony. In truth, it was the fault of none of them. The umpires had already taken the sides off for bad light at 7.26pm on day two.
When they took a reading at 7.36pm that showed it was murkier than three days previously, the ICC regulations meant they had no option but to head for the pavilion. If ever cricket needed scope for common sense, it was here, and ECB chairman Giles Clarke called on ICC chief executive David Richardson to make a change as soon as possible.
“It’s totally unsatisfactory the way the game ended – the rules are clearly unacceptable and I expect David Richardson to change it at the next ICC meeting,” said Clarke. “But this is a great moment.
“The country should appreciate these players. I am so proud of our team and had the privilege of giving some of them Ashes medals for the second time.”
The sudden departure fed the anger of the spectators inside the ground, who expressed their contempt for Clarke as he prepared to be interviewed after the game. It was an unfair gesture, as Clarke’s decision to set England a target of 227 to win meant the game did not peter out into a draw.
Clarke offered a staunch defence of his position and also claimed the conditions had been far darker than during the Third Investec Test at Old Trafford, when the Australia captain was angry to be taken off for bad light as his team tried to set up a second-innings declaration.
“It doesn’t surprise me [that I was booed],” he said. “I won’t get into the numbers as it might get me into trouble, but there was no comparison between how the light was at Old Trafford with how it was towards the end yesterday. It was certainly darker but we have to go with the umpires’ call. I asked why they didn’t have a light meter out there and it certainly took a few overs to get it out. When you can see your own shadows, you know it’s getting towards the time when you’re usually taken off.
“The concern for our players was how late the reading was taken. We did our best to set up the game and hopefully we gave the fans something to enjoy.”
Clarke also admitted he had asked umpire Dar not to touch him as the pair argued about whether the light was good enough to allow the match to continue: “I remember asking Aleem politely not to touch me as I knew I’d be suspended for three games if I made contact with him.”
Even though there was initial disappointment at being denied the chance to make history, it could not ruin a moment Alastair Cook described as “the proudest of my life.”
England’s successes at Trent Bridge, Lord’s and Durham ensured what was a comfortable margin of victory, despite the tourists’ improvements as the series progressed.
Cook said: “It would have been nice to finish with a win but the rules and regulations are there for a reason. The umpires have strict guidelines and if it was day three, we would also have gone off. In the morning, our job was to try to make it as difficult as possible to stop Australia from pushing on for a win and to make our chances of victory easier.”
Kevin Pietersen’s sparkling 62 from only 55 deliveries made the home team believe they could make it 4-0, something never achieved by an England side in an Ashes series.
Unlike Ian Bell, who took the Compton-Miller award for player of the series, Pietersen has been unable to sustain top form but he was outstanding in his 67 minutes at the crease yesterday, demonstrating once again his value to this side.