What a finish! The big question before the Fifth Test was whether England would be able to hammer home a 4-0 victory over Australia, something that hasn’t been done in a while. In a series that featured an English team that played consistently decent cricket, and an Australian side lucky enough to not get fired mid-Test, England’s victory was never in doubt. Funny how perceptions change. Eight years ago, England made history; these days there’s criticism even when a 4-0 is decidedly possible.
Enter Shane Watson, “very broad of beam. He’s like a five-bedroom house” (Henry Blofeld, quoted here.). Out of nowhere, and way too late in the summer, he hit 176 runs in Australia’s first innings. How infuriating! And how amazing. Cricket is so. Much. Fun. Here’s Watson’s many, many minutes condensed into 3:32:
Come for the runs, stay for the Aussie accent and the shoulder bump.
After a very impressive 492 runs, Australia declared. And then it started raining. Most of Days Two and Three were washed out, and Australia’s patience was tested when England made very slow progress in their first innings, finishing at 377. In a series that didn’t offer an awful lot of nerve-shredding action, much was made of umpire’s and players’ decisions and the state of the review system, and when all else failed, it was time for personal attacks. As expected, Australia’s players grumbled at England’s delaying exercises. But when it was time to bat again, Australia’s spark seemed gone. Time was almost up anyway, so a declaration at 111 was only good enough in light of very few overs left. England making 227 runs in one last afternoon seemed unlikely.
And then that elusive cricket magic happened again. England were batting like a witty simile! Pietersen made 62 from 55 balls, which is just what you want in an almost hopeless situation (although I will never like the man)! They got to 206, with 24 balls left to play! Sooo. Clooose.
And bad light forces a draw.
“People seem in a right old rage about the finish. Am I alone in seeing it as part of the charm of the game? No other sport would do this. Not one. Nowhere. Cricket is utterly, brilliantly, thrillingly, maddeningly unique.” Wiser words have never been spoken. It’s completely bonkers to abandon a game that has lasted for two months four overs before the end simply because one of a million rules says that there is not enough light. But that’s how it is. There won’t be any petitions to review the rule, even if people are upset, because it’s a law, and no last-minute scramble in the dark for a few runs could justify abandoning those laws. It’s a game, after all, and one that would never survive without its peculiar rules.
The Ashes are over, and they weren’t the greatest, but fear not, they will return soon enough. England will travel to Australia this winter for the return series, and I for one hope the Aussies will manage to find the perfect team. They will all be looking like surfwear models, of course, and I’m not even ashamed to admit that I like looking at them. (Full-length trousers make good-looking men even more attractive! Fact.) I’ve dealt with comments about only supporting the team with the best-looking players ever since I started watching sports as a teenager, and I’m confident enough about my passions by now. I love cricket. If the team’s got heart, I like them (and if they’re ugly, helmets do the trick. Har.) My favourite Aussie player is by no means the best-looking, but what he does, he does with a passion I can only admire. So there. Let me watch those guys all I want. It’ll all cool off once the Ashes fever is over.
Until then, this: