Batting coach Graham Gooch defended England‘s go-slow tactics in the fifth and final Test. England, who’ve already retained the Ashes, were all but assured of a 3-0 series win after Saturday’s fourth day of the fifth and final Test at The Oval was washed out without a ball bowled.
Friday saw England’s batting slow to a crawl as they scored 215 runs in a day’s play at a rate of barely more than two an over in a match where victory would see them win four Tests in a home Ashes for the first time.
England captain Alastair Cook, Gooch’s Essex protege, set the tone with 25 off 88 balls as his poor series with the bat — the left-handed opener has made just 243 runs in nine innings at an average of 27 — continued.
Saturday’s washout means England will resume Sunday on 247 for four, still 245 runs behind Australia‘s first innings 492 for nine declared but needing just 46 more runs to avoid the follow-on.
Ian Bell, looking to become only the fourth man after Australia’s Don Bradman and England’s Herbert Sutcliffe and Walter Hammond to score four hundreds in an Ashes series, is 29 not out and Test debutant Chris Woakes 15 not out.
Former England captain Gooch refused to apologise for the team’s approach at The Oval.
“You go out there and do the best you can every day and, at the end of the series, if you are in front then you have played some decent cricket obviously,” said Gooch.
“The Australian fast bowlers have bowled exceptionally in the last two or three Tests and have really put our top order under pressure so credit to them,” explained Gooch, whose own Test career started with a pair — two noughts — against Australia at Edgbaston in 1975.
“You can’t play the ideal game every day. We are the ones with three Test wins and they are the ones with nil Test wins,” added former opening batsman Gooch of an Australia side seeking a first victory in nine Tests.
However, Gooch accepted improvement was required if England were to win a fourth straight Ashes campaign when they faced their arch-rivals in a return series starting at Brisbane in November.
“We know that to beat Australia in their own back yard we are going to have to be a lot better both with the bat and the ball.”