Rage against the dying of the light

So today the Ashes cricket series ended.

For the uninitiated, the Ashes is a tournament contested between the two of the bitter rivals of international cricket England and Australia. For much of my early life the Aussies routinely thumped England and retained the tournament’s tiny trophy.

The trophy is small, but the occasion is massive, as captains Alastair Cook and Michael Clarke pose at the start of the series.
The trophy is small, but the occasion is massive, as captains Alastair Cook and Michael Clarke pose at the start of the series.

However, in recent years the power has swung back in England’s favour, which I like. There’s no Welsh test team and so England, which actually represents the England and Wales Cricket Board, are technically my home team. This is pretty much the only sport where I’ll cheer on England.

This year England have been the dominant force and of the first four test matches (it’s a best of five contest) had won three, drawing the other, meaning they had retained the Ashes and the last test was a formality. However, England have never won a 4-0 home series before and so they were keen to do so.

Australia, playing for pride, put on a brave showing, and I for one thought they’d done enough to secure a draw. England had one last innings to go, and 227 runs to score from 44 overs. This was an achievable 5.2 runs an over (an over is six bowls at the wickets), but Australia had the momentum and were in the powerful position.

England could either play conservatively and hope for a draw, giving Australia a chance to pick away at them and maybe get the wickets they needed to win the day. Or England could come out, throwing the bat in the chase and give Australia a chance to capitalize on any mistakes and the reckless style.

England did neither, and slowly but surely closed the gap. They only lost a couple of wickets, but were helped by Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen putting in solid performances (59 and 62 respectively). This strong performance and good batting from Ian Bell and Chris Woakes meant that with four overs to go (24 balls) England had racked up 206 runs, meaning that they were 21 runs away from winning.

Now, with the games being on Sky Sports, my dad and I listened to the conclusion on the radio, via Test Match Special on the BBC website. TMS is a delight, with funny, charming commentators who seem genuinely enthusiastic about the sport and are given great freedom to go off topic. Most sports move at a frantic pace, but test cricket, unfolding over 5 days is rather more sedate and rather than providing the adrenalin and thrills of other sports, I always find listening to TMS to be oddly soothing and reassuring. That’s not to say it’s not dramatic, as today’s was.

There was a palpable buzz as Woakes and Bell edged to victory before Bell was run out. England still had 5 wickets left and a win looked all but secured. Then Bell was run out, and maybe Australia could blaze through the remaining English batsmen. However, the Aussies were talking to the umpire about the light.

Test cricket is played over five days, but is frequently stopped by rain or bad light. As evening was drawing in, it had got slightly gloomier but the lights were on and it was clear the home fans felt the game should continue. Unfortunately, the umpires followed the ICC (International Cricket Council) rules and the game was called off, leaving the result a draw.

This was a rather disappointing finish to the game. One could understand why the visitors wanted the game called off. A draw was preferable to a loss which seemed the likely outcome, but it all felt rather disappointing. 

24 balls is nothing and as this picture of the post win celebration shows, the light wasn’t that bad:

You could play in that!
You could play in that!

It deprived the game of a dramatic conclusion, and showed that the Australians had lost a bit of confidence and didn’t feel they could take 5 wickets in time or just pin England down and stop them getting the runs. It made sense, but it didn’t seem that sporting. The crowd were vocal in their disapproval and while the stats will show a 3-0 win for England and Australia can claim two draws, I doubt they’ll be that confident going into the next series.

The umpires were kind of caught out by the ICC rules, which is foolish, because at the end of the day the officials should be able to make a judgement call, light meters be damned.

Annoyance here in the UK is probably in stark contrast to the relief of those Down Under, who probably feel that the conditions were unforgivably murky and that safety dictated that the game be called off. Ah, well, that’s sports for you. For some it’s a grave injustice, for others a lifeline gratefully gripped.

Still, congratulations to England for the win, they did extremely well and always looked the stronger team.

England celebrate
England celebrate

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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