The Ashes 2023: England v Australia, fourth Test, day five – live - 16 minutes read

Key eventsShow key events onlyPlease turn on JavaScript to use this featureOur match report from a sodden Old Trafford.And that is that. We are left with the if-onlys – mainly the scenario in which the rain allowed, say, half a day’s play today. Whether England would have wrapped it up or Australia would have continued their dogged resistance, we haven’t the soggiest. It just would have been good to know.As it is, they go to the Oval with Australia 2-1 up and plenty for both sides to play for. The Aussies are eyeing their first Ashes series victory in this country since 2001. England need a win, not just to draw the series but to confirm that they’ve been the better team since Lord’s. For what it’s worth, their record against Australia at the Oval is good.Thanks for your company and correspondence, and we’ll see you on Thursday for the final act in this gripping drama.Updated at 18.08 BSTSo, Pat Cummins – job done? “Yeah,” he says with just the right hint of a sigh. “Our preference is to come over here and win the Ashes, but it’s nice to retain them, something the group can be proud of.”Any lingering regrets over that first game at Edgbaston? “No.” I suspect Mike Atherton knew that one was coming.And here’s Ben Stokes, speaking from underneath his bucket hat. “It’s a tough one to take,” he says, “but it’s all part of the journey. We’ve got a lot of pride to play for in the last game.”A colleague writes.“Pretty flat up there,” says Crawley when Mike Atherton asks about the mood in the dressing room. “We gave ourselves a chance to win it on day three, and then maybe had a chance to win it yesterday, and the rain cost us on both occasions.”The 189 – his best innings for England? “I think so. Because of the importance of the match, it has to be my favourite one.”Time for the presentations. The player of the match is … Zak Crawley! Mentions in dispatches for Woakes, Labuschagne, Bairstow and Hazlewood – who may be a touch sheepish after three of his five wickets were tailenders.After four Tests, the leading run-scorer is … Zak Crawley. Full list here. Crawley is just ahead of Usman Khawaja, who has had one more innings, made eight fewer runs, and faced 533 more deliveries.“Who decided this rule,” asks Jonathan Myles, “that if you draw a series, whoever won last in some sense no one has ever properly decided ‘wins’. A draw is a draw. If England win at the Oval and go from where they were in March last year to drawing 2-2 with the world Test champions, I’d regard that as pretty creditable.”“If/when they call it a day,” wrote John Starbuck five minutes ago, “they don’t necessarily need to have awards, unless someone somehow has an enormous marquee. We all know Marnus Labuschagne is MOTM and the rest can be done either privately (since there are few people left to see it) or before the Oval match starts.” Hang on! What about Zak Crawley?“They’ve completely bossed this game.” says Nasser Hussain, about England. I’m not sure that’s quite right. Australia bossed yesterday, when they lost only one wicket in 30 overs and Marnus Labuschagne completed a battling hundred. But yes, England won this game on points. It’s been a clear case of a series of two halves: 2-0 to Australia in the first two Tests, 1-0 to England in the last two. It’ll be fascinating to see if England still have the momentum at the Oval on Thursday.Updated at 17.31 BSTMATCH ABANDONED! Australia retain the AshesAfter 18 Tests as captain of England, Ben Stokes finally has to concede defeat to his real enemy: the draw.The big screen displays the bad news. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PAEngland’s Ben Stokes after the abandonment of day five. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PAAustralia captain Pat Cummins looks at cheering Aussie fans after the game was abandoned. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The GuardianUpdated at 18.08 BSTGood plan. Pat Cummins to declare now, take the series to a fifth test and definitively prove what a nice guy he is?— Tom Taylor () July 23, 2023
The rain is still falling and the umpires are about to confer with the groundstaff. It’s about to be official: Australia have retained the Ashes.“Right,” says Michael Taylor. “Enough of this rubbish. I’m stepping outside my apartment in Paris (where it’s not raining) to watch a whole load of cyclists whoosh by.”“Should have stepped up in the first Test,” says Diana Luther Powell. “Awful display in the field particularly. No sympathy I’m afraid. My dog can catch a ball better than they did.” Harsh but fair.A helpful suggestion from Mohammed Y. “Can’t the players just don their wellies and ponchos,” he says, “to complement the bucket hats?. Festival and all.”An email comes in from Alingsås, Sweden. “Is it cruel,” asks Ben Bernards, “that it should rain on England’s 4th Test parade? Perhaps, but as a New Zealander I know full well that the lesser lights get the June-July slot in the English summer, and the heavyweights the August peak-summer-window-of-champions. That the ECB has decided that the Ashes is now the amuse bouche to the delectable main course known as The Hundred (absolute effing bilge, mate) brings a certain degree of ‘ha, serves you right’ to proceedings.”We can’t just blame the rain for England’s plight. They blew it in the first Test, allowing Pat Cummins to win the match with a cool-headed cameo. After Lord’s (where the Aussies always win) there was so little between the sides – just extras, essentially – that it really should have been 1-1.And they didn’t entirely help themselves here, fabulously though they batted. Ben Stokes went from making a declaration too early at Edgbaston to not making one at all at Old Trafford. With the forecast so bad, it surely made more sense to quit once they were 200 ahead and push for an innings win on Friday. Batting on wasn’t very Bazball.“Hi Tim.” Hi Colum Fordham. “I was happy in the haze of the first three days / But heaven knows I’m miserable now.” Ha.“Sorry to be boring,” says Michelle Brooks on Kangaroo Island, South Australia. Michelle, if you were being boring, your comment wouldn’t be making it onto the page. Much like Manchester, we’re inundated.“There were five scheduled Test matches ‘down under’ in 1970/71, but, there were six officially played. The Boxing Day Test at the MCG was almost totally washed out, which led to the first ever ODI played on New Year’s Eve (after it finally stopped raining in Melbourne), AND they added a sixth Test at the end of the series, which was played at the MCG. It can be done!” Very true. And isn’t it great that the one-day international was pretty much invented by the weather.“As for the schedule for the next U.K. Ashes series, there is nothing to stop them being played at any venue (TV rights allowing). All you need to do is get the old twits at Lord’s to put aside their gins and admit that the MCC never owned the sport.”“Why all this angst???” asks John Jones in sunny Cardiff. “After all, England are not a results focussed team, are they?”Quite agree!Just two years ago, England refused to chase 273 in 75 overs at Lord's vs New Zealand . To be honest, I'd rather watch it rain than watch that again.— Gary Naylor () July 23, 2023
“Surely,” says Claire Russell, “if we are going for the Smiths to soundtrack the day’s events, I Know It’s Over should get a shout?“And it never really beganBut in my heart it was so real.”If Jimmy does play at the Oval, he will turn 41 during the match and yet another record will be within his grasp. In the all-time list of wickets taken in an Ashes series by seamers the wrong side of 40, he currently stands second equal – behind Basil D’Oliveira, who took five wickets in the summer of 1972, when he was officially 40 but rumoured to be 44. Also on this rather short list: Graham Gooch, who turns 70 today. He, like Jimmy, was at his best in his late 30s.Not content with a thudding anticlimax and the nonsense with the north, the gods have a third bummer up their sleeves. This wash-out could be the last day of Test cricket for Jimmy Anderson.He should be running in from his own end, grabbing the final wicket in the gloaming as England lop off the Aussie tail, and leading them off the field with the series poised at 2-2. Instead he may be facing the chop for the Oval, where Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum could well decide that Josh Tongue, who has five wickets in one Test this series, is a better bet than poor old Jimmy, who has four wickets in three.It’s been such a strange series for him: he’s gone straight from an Indian summer to a bleak midwinter. He has suddenly become the man who makes nothing happen, more economical than any other bowler with a wicket in the series, but also less incisive. His strike rate is bafflingly bad – a wicket every 28 overs. And if this game does end in a draw, he will have maintained his melancholy record of not having won an Ashes Test since 2015. Maybe Stokes will keep him on board just to put that right.Updated at 16.07 BSTWeather latest: it’s getting worse, if anything. “Absolutely teeming down,” says Ian Ward, whose lugubrious tones are well suited to the mood of the moment. On the radio, Alison Mitchell reckons play will be called off in about an hour. You could hardly blame the umpires if they went a bit earlier than that.“Oh Manchester,” says Michael Wilkinson. “So much to answer for.”“The problem,” says Phil Hilton, “is that it’s a daft game.”Go on … “It lasts too long and is absolutely dependent on the weather holding up for the whole five days. Too gloomy for fast bowlers: too slippy in the outfield: too rainy to even finish the game. Play as well as you like: dominate: bazball, buzzball, baseball, who cares. If it’s raining, it’s a draw. Daft.“Relaxing in France with a glass of wine, a good book and a clear sky.”If this Test does come to a watery end, it’s not just a bummer for anyone hoping for a shoot-out at the Oval. It’s a bummer for the whole north of England, as today is their last day of men’s Ashes cricket for eight years.In a truly abysmal decision, the ECB has awarded the Ashes Tests of 2027 to three grounds in the south (Lord’s, the Oval, and the Ageas Bowl on the outskirts of Southampton) and two in the Midlands (Edgbaston and Trent Bridge). The mayors of Manchester and Leeds have spoken out against this, and they’re surely right.It’s up to Richard Gould of the ECB to do the decent thing. If he can’t take a Test away from Hampshire, with suitable sweeteners in the form of one-day games, he could surely talk to the Australian board and add a sixth Test at Headingley or Old Trafford. (A six-match series may sound weird, but it can go rather well.) Or he could take one away from Lord’s, which gets more than its fair share anyway.Updated at 16.19 BSTIt is still raining, quite hard. The sky is a sheet of wet newsprint. “We don’t need a hover cover,” says Ian Ward. “We need an ark.”Steve Lovell from Uckfield, otherwise known as "Ashes Urnie", looks on dispairingly from the party stand. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The GuardianUpdated at 16.10 BSTA colleague writes. “Being an American,” says Beau Sure, “who learned cricket by reading The Guardian in college (and, full circle, now does live coverage for them in other sports), I’ve often wondered if there was any chance of having makeup dates, not just for Tests but also for county cricket. So I’d like to think I’m not just jumping on a bandwagon here, with no dog in the fight other than a desire to see England rewarded for their fine play in this Test, and I’ll simply ask: Is it simply unfeasible to enforce a minimum number of overs? Ideally 400 overs, but maybe at least 350?” It does feel as if this idea is just beginning to get some traction. But please can we make it at least 400?“Afternoon Tim.” Ah Mr Withington, we’ve been expecting you. “Good to see you aboard for the denouement, after a nostalgic wallow on TV last night. First up it was good to see you looking very young featuring on a Roxy Music retrospective, which included Brian Eno explaining politely how the band wasn’t big enough to host him and his homophone mate.“Then there was a wonderful old Arena special with Frankie Howerd. I fondly remember catching him on his student union tour circa 1979, when he was re-discovered by a new generation, which he confessed to being somewhat bemused by, but grateful for. The best bit though was a clip of him on That Was The Week That Was, where he inimitably punctured the painfully fashionable satire show and its oh so self-regarding host. Would have loved to have had him guest in the TMS commentary box during a rain delay.” Yes, he would have brought a certain je ne sais quoi that Rishi Sunak lacks.The view from Wales. England (being Welsh I'm not really supporting either side) are clearly the better team by far. However, they contrived to throw away the Ashes on the very 1st day of the series. Declaring with one of the world's best batters unbeaten on a century was always madness!— Kevin McGrath 💙 () July 23, 2023
“Still raining?” ask Dean Kinsella. So I assume, as Sky are still showing some old Test match (does anyone else find them underwhelming?). If you’re reading this at the ground, and you ever dreamed of being a weathergirl or boy, now’s your chance.“I’m at Old Trafford,” says Ross Highfield, “and have been for all five days. Re Thomas at 2:20pm, the Australian I spoke to a few minutes ago expressed disappointment at retaining the Ashes due to rain. Other Aussies here also sitting in the ground looking glum. I think rather a lot of them would rather win on the field – and risk losing in the process – than this. It’s almost as if they travelled halfway around the world for a sporting contest.” Ha. If they’d rather risk losing than settle for the draw, does that mean they now believe in Bazball?The problem, IMHO, isn’t the rules. It’s this business of retaining the Ashes. Everything about the Ashes is great – the brand name, the origin story, the accumulated drama, the funny little doll’s-house trophy – except this constant mention of retention. Look at how it led Australia astray here, leading them to be even more defensive than they were already inclined to be. If the series is drawn, the Ashes should be shared!A draw is more creditable for the team that doesn’t hold the urn, because they’ve at least improved on their previous effort. And any sporting rules, if they can’t be immaculately balanced on the very mid-point of the see-saw, should surely lean a little towards the underdog.Here’s an email that came in 20 minutes ago. “Hi James,” says Mark Sputore. “Thanks for doing the Lord’s work on the OBO with precisely zero to commentate on. Just wanted to highlight that I don’t seem to remember quite so many English people being keen to re-write the rules of Test cricket in 2013…” And he adds a screenshot of this. Through gritted teeth, I’d have to say it’s a fair cop.Updated at 15.04 BSTAfternoon everyone and thanks Jim. (A) for keeping some bubbles in the glass of flat champagne that this match is fast becoming, and (b) for being the first person ever to mention me in the same breath as Gene Kelly, who may be rotating, very elegantly, in his grave.James WallaceWell, my time has come. I can debate/obviate/conjugate/deviate and stare at precipitation graphs and rain radars no longer. It is still raining at Old Trafford but Tim de Lisle has assured me he is doing a sun dance in his galoshes as he Gene Kelly’s his way – with parasol twirling – into the OBO armchair.Thanks for keeping us all going with your thoughts and comments, let’s catch up at the Oval next week? Goodbye!Updated at 14.43 BSTSome New York grit from Thomas Walker:“Thanks for the OBO coverage, following along from my couch in New York. Loving the English fans complaining about the weather and demanding a change to the rules… in between watching the rain fall, it’s been a very satisfying day so far.”We aim to please Thomas, even in trying conditions.“I think you’ll be hard pressed to find a single Aussie fan who cares one iota that rain will ‘decide’ the series. England has 30 overs yesterday and Marnus/Mitch made it look pretty easy. That was plenty of time to take 6 wickets; you had your chance and it didn’t happen.”Chilling stuff from James Turrell:“Dear James,be brutally honest. Are we getting any play, or should I just go watch Oppenheimer? Bear in mind if I get out the cinema and England have won, I will put a curse on you and your family. Hope you’re well!”This is the current scene, below, JimmyBoy. You could go and stare into Cillian Murphy’s beautiful big bovine eyes for the next three hours or you could get your poncho on and go and shout at the sky. I’m not going to lead the witness and frankly, I’m scared of you. Enjoy!“For the life of me, I can’t understand the trepidation and gloom among you Englishmen right now.” Writes Dan Hagan in Melbourne.“It’s blindingly obvious that Stokesy is just waiting until the afternoon has worn on and the Aussies have started to feel confident, then he’ll saunter out to the middle, wave that magic bat of his around, and blow all the rain clouds out over the Irish Sea just in time for a quick bit of Wood work. Job done.”Still raining at the minute Dan, how long is Stokes going to wait? “It’s a desolate scene” drawls Jim Maxwell on TMS – channelling his inner Smiths lyrics.

Source: The Guardian

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