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Winning captain Alastair Cook, who has been on the receiving end of criticism over his perceived conservatism, came in for praise but some of Fleet Street expressed disappointment that the series had not been more exciting.
England only required 21 more runs to complete an improbable victory at the Oval when the umpires hauled the teams off for bad light after an adventurous declaration by Australia captain Michael Clarke.
“England’s fearless attempt to catch up with Australia was cut short with the game minutes away from a thrilling climax,” said the Daily Mail‘s match report.
“They rose to the challenge in the most spectacular way to thrillingly march towards that unprecedented English 4-0 Ashes success.
“Amid the frustration, it should not be overlooked that a draw leaves Australia without a win in an Ashes series for the first time since 1977,” it added.
The Daily Telegraph called England’s attempt “one of the most fearless chases in living memory”.
Clarke’s decision to set England only 227 to win won him many friends, but counterpart Cook’s pragmatism was key to winning the series, argued the Guardian‘s Vic Marks.
“He (Clarke) had to shame England into chasing the runs,” he wrote. “He managed that all right and he had the vast majority of onlookers purring with delight.
“But the art of captaincy is not a popularity contest.”
He called Clarke “manifestly innovative in the field by the placement of his fielders” but said Cook still held “a significant edge” over his Ashes rival.
The 3-0 scoreline and decision to chase down a win at the Oval vindicated Cook’s leadership and proved his critics wrong, Marks said, singling out Australian spin great Shane Warne, who had “been on Cook’s case throughout the series.”
The Daily Telegraph‘s Scyld Berry thought that it had been “one of the less entertaining Ashes” due to the slow nature of the pitches, which are thought to have been prepared to favour England spinner Graeme Swann.
“England have won, and won well, but not in a way that will attract millions from 20-over cricket and the Indian Premier League (IPL),” he said.
“Cricket has lost out thanks to a dull contest played out on lifeless pitches,” he added. “Playing every match on the same sort of pitch — as if England had carted one drop-in pitch to every venue — has resulted in a Pyrrhic victory.”
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