Ashes 2005: Fifth Test The Oval

England v Australia, Fifth Test, The Oval, 8-12 September 2005
England 373 and 335, Australia 367 and 4 for 0.
Match drawn. England win the series 2-1.

Scorecard

“England must stick their necks out and go for the jugular”
(Peter Roebuck/Sydney Morning Herald, 8.9.05)

Those five days in September

Has there been a bigger buzz about a five-day Test match than the one starting at The Oval in just under an hour? It’s a bit like Grand Final Fever. Some of the British media are comparing this to Wembley 1966. Maybe I could modestly offer a mention of Upton Park 2003

The cricket will have my undivided attention from about half an hour after the start of play. Two points for now:

  1. I predicted a 2-2 draw before the series began and I’m sticking with it. Australia to win, not with a bang but with a whimper.
  2. Depending on your allegiances, here are the lyrics to (a) Jerusalem; (b) Khe Sanh.

Day one: England/Australia on top (delete whichever applicable)

Ton-up star Andy: you can shut it now Warne
– Headline, The Sun, London, 9.9.05

Warned: Shane turns on his magic
– Headline, The Advertiser, Adelaide, 9.9.05

It’s a sign of the times that 319 runs in a day can be considered a disappointing effort from England. Despite a great knock from Andrew Strauss and a pretty darn good one from Andrew Flintoff, I think Australia have their noses in front right now, although this is almost singularly due to the genius of Shane Warne.

Australia’s problem from here, however, is that it is going to be difficult to get a result inside five days. Australia’s other problem is with a selection team that doesn’t know when to let go – but any chance of assessing the fringe players has been stifled by an absurd tour schedule. Whatever made them agree to have just a single two-day game in the nine days between the final two Tests is beyond me. And this on a flat track fittingly named these days for a car manufacturer (ie, the Ford County Ground at Chelmsford) – presumably because of the highway of a pitch they have created.

Australia’s third problem is that the management culture of John Howard (admit nothing, blame everyone, be relaxed and comfortable) is permeating the management team of the touring party. If Ricky Ponting seriously believes that it is OK to tell the world on the eve of a big game “I would hate to think if we lost this series it is only my fault,” then history can get ready to look back on his captaincy, not in the same breath as Mark Taylor and Steve Waugh, but in the same breath as Kim Hughes and Graeme Yallop.

It’s a pity Michael Clarke’s not quite ready for the captaincy yet.

Squillions of reports and analysis of Day One at The Oval at The GuardianThe TelegraphThe TimesThe Independent, and CricInfo, plus excess bloggage from The Corridor of Uncertainty and Sightscreen, and the usual superb action photography at theashes.typepad.com.

Midwinter-Midwinter points for Day One: 3 pts – Shane Warne; 2 pts – Andrew Strauss; 1 pt – Andrew Flintoff.

Non-spectator of the day

From the front page of the Sun, 9.9.05

Sven-Goran Eriksson was supposed to be a guest at The Oval yesterday. After his England team lost to Northern Ireland 0-1 on Wednesday night, he failed to turn up.

Day two: Oh my Tavare and Boycott long ago!

With Australia squandering anywhere up to 37 overs of playing time in the gloom of Friday afternoon in Kennington, it is becoming more and more likely that England are three days away from reclaiming the Ashes. If only Geoff Boycott and Chris Tavare were about thirty years younger, then we call this Test a draw and declare England home and hosed right now.

Langer was playing splendidly until the somewhat cautious decision to accept the light at the end of the tea break. Maybe he and Matty were waiting for the floodlights at The Oval to kick in. They’d probably need to lodge a DA with Lambeth Council first…

Have a listen to Jim Maxwell’s post-stumps interview with Langer (MP3, 1031K, 4:23). Langer clearly believes there is time enough over the next three days for Australia to wipe off their 261-run deficit, beat England and retain the Ashes. But surely he was getting tongue-tied when he told Maxwell that a “500 lead” would be good. Does he expect to personally be at the crease when Ponting declares at 873?

Yet again, that Durham Dynamo Gary Pratt made an appearance as substitute fielder (if there is a valid cricketing context for that ghastly term “supersub”, here is it). It’s perfectly legal, of course, and indeed constructive, for England to send their excess twelfth player back to the counties and bring someone in who doesn’t have a game on at the time.

However, there is no doubt that England has an unfair advantage over other Test countries, what with eighteen county teams all within a compact distance from which to draw some decent fieldsmen. No other team has such a pool of dead-eye dicks at their disposal when they’re playing at home.

Good to see that, according to Mal Speed, the ICC will take a look at the substitute fielder rules at their next captains’ meeting. There need to be some parameters placed on who can be used as a substitute fielder. Otherwise… well, The Bladder reported it last week:

Dr Waring said he was astonished to turn up at Trent Bridge on the fourth day with Australia batting, to find there was only Michael Vaughan, bowler Freddy Flintoff, keeper Gerry Jones and eight substitute fieldsmen on the park.

“It was strange really. Nobody in the crowd knew any of the substitutes but it turns out one is a crack outfielder for the Boston Red Sox baseball team, several of the outfielders were Olympic 400 metre hopefuls and the entire infield was made up of crack knife throwers from a visiting circus.

Getting back to the bad light, Justin Langer’s apologia appears in his diary for BBC Online. Alas, he doesn’t repeat his expectation of a 500 lead. Comment also from Andrew MillerLawrence BoothJon AgnewChristopher Martin-JenkinsGeoffrey BoycottSimon BriggsJim Maxwell, and the SBS Ashes Website forum (damn, there I go taunting Google again).

theashes.typepad.com has an action shot of Billy Bowden’s LBW decision against Wheelie bin Giles, however there is no better match report of Friday’s play than that compiled by Nick Whittock.

Gideon Haigh takes the award for making not one, but two, tasteless quips in his prolific scrawls – a reference to Stevie Wonder on CricInfo, and a joke involving the New Orleans Superdome in the Guardian.

A shortened day’s play Friday, so the Midwinter-Midwinter points go like this: 2 pts – Justin Langer, 1 pt – Matthew Hayden.

It raineth, it poureth, the old man… well you know the rest.

That’s a nifty little low pressure down in the Bay of Biscay

As Justin Langer’s aspirations of a 500 lead before winning the Fifth Test disappear beneath the covers, the Met Office have this alert issued at 8.03am:

Heavy Rain
Affecting Bracknell Forest, Gtr London, Kent, Medway, Oxfordshire, Reading, Slough, Surrey, W Berkshire, Windsor + Maidenhead & Wokingham

Outbreaks of heavy rain already affecting some areas, and thundery showers developing elsewhere, will produce some torrential downpours at times today, with a 40 percent chance of any one place seeing the heaviest downpours. Standing water and spray, with sudden reductions in visibility, will lead to dangerous driving conditions and a risk of localised flooding. The warning will be reviewed late morning and may be extended.

 

Day three: Australia’s new Love?

Matthew Hayden produced a big innings on Saturday when it really mattered. Pity about all those time when it really mattered and he didn’t.

Perhaps Hayden will emulate his Queensland team-mate Martin Love in scoring a century in his last Test match.

Justin Langer became the eighth Australian batsman to take his Test career aggregate (now 7001) past Bradman’s (6996). The others are Allan Border (11174), Steve Waugh (10927), Mark Waugh (8029), Mark Taylor (7525), David Boon (7422), Ricky Ponting (now 7309) and Greg Chappell (7110). Justin Langer. Regardless of the proliferation of Test matches these days, it just doesn’t seem right.

Let me harp yet again on Langer’s mental dexterity during cushy radio interviews. Recorded on Friday evening after stumps on the second day (source ABC):

JIM MAXWELL: And what position do Australia need to get in here? How many in front need you to get to have a hope of winning this game?

JUSTIN LANGER: Well 500 would be nice. Five hundred in front…

And you trust this guy to make rational decisions about the light?

With a maximum possible 196 overs remaining in the Fifth Test, Australia trail by 96 runs with seven first-innings wickets remaining. Let’s not even talk weather.

Listen to the CBBC report of the third day’s play.

There really is some entertaining journalism accompanying this Ashes series. Noteworthy in Sunday’s Observer are pieces by Kevin MitchellTim AdamsWill Buckley and Mike Brearley, who is harshly critical of the singing of “Jerusalem” before England Test matches these days:

Someone said that ever since seeing the film If…, for which it’s the theme tune, he’s wanted to pick up a machine gun and mow down anyone singing the song.

Forty-seven overs bowled on Saturday, so only the one Midwinter-Midwinter vote for the day: 1 pt – Matthew Hayden.

Day four: Those dark satanic mills

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!1
Relax, I’m a qualified cricket umpire.2

Unless I am sadly mistaken (or perhaps just mistakenly sad), this will be the first Test series decided by non-precipitative cloud cover since Zimbabwe beat Pakistan in 1998 when the final Test was fogged out.

It’s not a question of whether Australia can do something miraculous on Monday to snatch victory. England will not choke from here. Not this England eleven (plus sub[G.Pratt]).

Sunday night, there was only one way to start psyching myself up for the inevitable transfer of ownership of the Ashes – TV sound off, music on. In particular, that annual orgy of Upper-Class Twittery, Saturday’s Last Night of the Proms. And most particularly, the climactic sequence of “Rule Brittania”, “Jerusalem”, and “God Save The Queen”. Here’s the link to the audio-on-demand at BBC Online, cued up to the relevant spot.

Midwinter-Midwinter points for Sunday: 2 pts – Andrew Flintoff; 1 pt – Matthew Hoggard. Progress tally shortly.

1 from “Jerusalem” by William Blake
2 from “Relax I’m a qualified cricket umpire” by Cameron Bruce and Steve Abbott.

Midwinter-Midwinter leaderboard

Going into the final day of The Oval Test, the four main contenders for the 2005 Midwinter-Midwinter are as follows:

1st: Shane Warne (16)
2nd: Andrew Flintoff (13)
3rd: Daylight (not appearing in this Test)
4th: Marcus Trescothick (7)

Day five lunch: So who won the first session?

Two observations from the pre-lunch session on the last day of Les Ashes de 2005:
(a) England is close to having a match-winning lead, and the fact that they lost four wickets in the session enhances their position;
(b) Ian Bell will be a valuable participant in Warwickshire’s county championship campaign for many years to come.

Day five tea: End cruelty to raccoons now!

Will Kevin Pietersen go down in history as the first person to score a Test century with a dead raccoon under his helmet?

Question du moment: Which Australian will play out the final ball of the Test for the draw?

I’m picking Matthew Hayden.

How and where to follow The Final Session

I was born during the Adelaide Test match when Australia, under Richie Benaud, regained the Ashes. From six days old until my first week of high school, shortly after my twelfth birthday, Australia held the Ashes (and John Snow still hasn’t been forgiven). We got them back for a couple of brief periods: January 1975 to August 1977, and January 1983 to August 1985.

Australia picked up the Ashes once more on August 1, 1989. It’s sixteen years and eleven days later, and barring an English choke of Greg Normanesque proportions, they’re on their way back to England.

Meanwhile, I’ve just been mentioned on the all-new Ich Bien Eine Berliner Guardian’s all-old OBO for The Second Time Ever. Scroll down to Over 67. (The First Time Ever was Boxing Day, 2002 – I’m in the last three paragraphs at the bottom of the page.)

And now I’ve seen everything

I have just witnessed what can only be described as Test cricket’s equivalent of the lowering of the Olympic flag, folding it up and carrying it away. After players left the field for bad light with Australia requiring 337 to win from 18.2 overs, umpires Rudi Koertzen and Billy Bowden returned to the field, marched down the pitch, turned around, looked at the sky, looked at each other, marched down to each wicket and lifted the bails.

England have won the Ashes. Congratulations to a team that fully deserved it.

My Midwinter-Midwinter votes for Day Five were: 3 pts – Kevin Pietersen; 2 pts – Shane Warne; 1 pt – Ashley Giles. That makes Shane Warne my player of the series, and I expect to hear in the morning that he will have the inaugural Compton-Miller Award as well.

I love that impromptu finish to the game, a masterful achievement from the umpires in turning farce into slapstick. I bid you goodnight with the news that Phil Jaques has carried his bat for Australia A against Pakistan A.

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