“There won’t be huge celebrations,” he said, adding Australia won’t be content with just retaining the Ashes – they want to win them by claiming victory in London. “It wasn’t our greatest week.”
Park the jingoistic rhetoric for a moment. Stop getting riled by Piers Morgan’s silly tweets. Let’s consider how this series has turned.
After scraping home at Edgbaston, then winning in controversial circumstances at Lord’s, Cummins’ team has been outplayed at Headingley and now over three days at Old Trafford.
Perhaps England captain Ben Stokes should have declared earlier, putting greater pressure on Australia’s batters during the only session played on day four, but the weather was always going to kill the match.
We’ll happily retain the Ashes, if only to anger Morgan and the mere fact it’s how things have always been done, but it does feel hollow.
If I never read the term “Bazball” again, it won’t be soon enough, but there’s something undeniably revolutionary and enthralling about it.
We don’t pray for rain: we bludgeon our way with bat, deliver pure fire with ball, and field like Dobermanns. We don’t retain things. We grasp things. We hoist things. We grab a stump and dubiously thrust our hips, as Warnie did at Trent Bridge in 1997.
It’s also become something Australia have struggled to combat as the series plays out; a combination of England being rewarded for their derring-do and Cummins’ lack of creativity in the field, something Ricky Ponting has delighted in pointing out in commentary for Channel Seven.
Australia tried conservative slips cordons, bowling in the corridor, but it didn’t work. They shifted fielders to the boundaries, bowling ineffective bouncers, and that also didn’t work.
Much has been made about Australia’s fragility at the top of the order, with most fingers pointed at the sort-of-out-of-form David Warner, but the real deficiencies have been among the bowlers.
Mostly, they appear exhausted from months of relentless cricket following tours of India, IPL paydays, the World Test Championship and an Ashes series jammed into a six-week window to accommodate The Hundred. Few looked more tired in this Test than Cummins. He looks as pickled as a pickled egg.
Meanwhile, Nathan Lyon’s true value has been revealed through his absence. Part-time spinners are part-time for a reason. Come back soon, Garry, or whatever your name is.
This Ashes series has confirmed there is still considerable life in Test cricket, mostly because it means something cut against the wallpaper of meaningless Twenty20 shite.
But adapt or perish, as they say, and the International Cricket Council must do the same with five-day cricket.
For starters, how many days of Test cricket have been wasted by umpires ordering teams from the field because of a spit of rain, or apparently failing light despite having floodlights at their disposal? How many hours of sunlit play have been denied because of rigid start and finish times?
Unlike others, I can appreciate the value of a gritty, determined draw that feels as good as a victory. This is the unique beauty of Test cricket, and it shouldn’t be disturbed. Calls for four-day matches should be ignored. If we had four-day matches, we wouldn’t have had wonderful finishes in the first two Tests.
But if there is one anachronistic edict that must change, it’s retaining a series simply because you’ve won it before.
First, it gives the team that won the last series an unfair advantage, prompting the side to play defensive cricket.
Second, it can kill off the series before it’s over, like we’ve seen this weekend, making Tests later in the series dead rubbers when they should be rubbers full of vim and verve and a whole range of words starting with “v”.
Third, it will shut up Piers Morgan.
In the history of Ashes cricket, there have been 72 series. Australia have won 34, England 32, with six series drawn.
What’s wrong with calling it a drawn series when it is, indeed, a drawn series?
Watch every ball of the 2023 Ashes series live and exclusive on Channel 9 and 9Now.
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