Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Ashes: Third Test

by Sampad Sengupta

Rain dampens Australia's hopes
England retained the Ashes as the third Test ended in a draw with the home side now having an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series.  The third Test at a new look Old Trafford stadium was cut short by some typical British weather as it poured down on the final day causing the match to end in a draw.  After having won the first two games, the momentum was with England who were looking forward to a whitewash.  On the other hand, Australia had to improve their performance drastically if they had to give themselves any chance of coming back into the series and they did not disappoint, putting together a good performance with both bat and ball to put England under pressure but fell prey to the weather.

Amidst talks of playing two spinners or bringing in Chris Tremlett into the attack, England fielded an unchanged side whereas Australia made a few changes. Nathan Lyon replaced fellow spin bowler Ashton Agar, Ryan Harris came in for the injured James Pattinson, and David Warner made his comeback into the Australian side at the expense of Phil Hughes. The visitors won the toss and chose to bat and scored over 500 runs for the first time this series with captain Michael Clarke leading the way with a massive individual score of 187 runs and with some useful contributions from Rogers, Smith and Haddin.  Graeme Swann was once again on the money for England as he picked up 5 of the 7 Australian wickets that fell.  England came in to bat and struggled early on with wickets falling but then Kevin Pietersen, who was doubtful for this game with fitness issues, chose the perfect moment to regain his form and struck a century which took England to 368. His innings had the usual swagger of any Pietersen innings, aggression mixed with patience, which was exactly what England needed at that time. Useful knocks from the lower order meant that England avoided the follow-on and Australia would have to bat again.

Celebrations all round

Australia came out in the second innings and made their intentions clear early on, sending Warner out to open the batting, and they scored freely to extend their first innings lead. In the quest for quick runs, they lost wickets at regular intervals but that was a risk they were ready to take as they had no intention of batting for a long time and wanted to put England in as early as possible. On the final day of what had been an exciting Test match, all three results were possible with England needing 332 runs to win and Australia needing 10 wickets.  As the commentators said, Australia needed 10 good deliveries out of a possible 588 and England only needed to score at around 3.8 runs an over which in modern day cricket is not a very daunting task.  Australia started the day well, getting 3 early wickets in the first session, but to England’s relief, that was all they could manage as the rain came pouring down which meant that no more cricket was possible and the match was drawn.  There were mixed reactions all around, some were unhappy that an exciting day of cricket was cut short by the rain, but on the other hand, England had managed to retain the Ashes as they could no longer lose the series from here on.

Kevin Pietersen
The match once again witnessed several controversial decisions alongside the high quality cricket that was played, notably the dismissals of the Usman Khawaja in the 1st innings and that of Kevin Pietersen on the final day. This sparked another debate regarding the DRS (Decision Review System) and its reliability at this level of the game. There were several positives for Australia with the return to form of their captain and the entire team finally scoring some runs out in the middle. England were also overjoyed by the return to form of star batsman Kevin Pietersen, who played down any thoughts of him being unfit for the game with a well-played century in the first innings.  Graeme Swann tops the wicket-takers charts with 19 wickets from the three games, showing why he is considered one of the best spin bowlers in the world at the moment. With the fate of the Ashes already decided, Australia would be playing for pride in the next two games whereas England would be looking to continue with their good form and show why they are one of the top Test playing sides in world cricket.

Michael Clarke on his way to a century

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