Ashes 2013: Highlights of the 3rd Test at Old Trafford

England retained the Ashes after Old Trafford Test ended in a draw © Getty Images

It’s all over. Australia’s four-day long dominance to get the better of their superior opponents and arch nemesis was brought to a cruel end by incessant rains on the fifth and final day of the match. It brought an unfortunate end to Australia’s pursuit of a sensational comeback and helped England retain the coveted urn. Prakash Govindasreenivasan looks back at the highlights of the match.

Alastair Cook heaved a huge sigh of relief as heavens opened up enough for the umpires to call off the game after the first session on the final day. With 331 to get and the threat of heavy showers looming large, not many, including the Englishmen, would have thought that Australia could pull a rabbit out the hat. They, however, were in for a shocker early on. At 35 for three at the end of the session, Cook was probably hoping for rain to take over and do its business as Australia looked menacing and hungry for a win. Rain obliged and Australia suffered a heart break. England however were jubilant as they retained the Ashes albeit in a fortuitous way. Here are some of the highlights from the third Ashes Test at Old Trafford.

Australian domination

After Australia’s toothless performance at Lord’s in the second Test, many feared Ian Botham’s 10-0 prediction would come true and be a lot more devastating that it sounds. Yet, when the teams walked out on August 1, there was a gritty resolve within the Australian unit, something they have had a reputation for. They were aware of the fact that only a win could keep them afloat in the series and they looked to leave no stone unturned in a bid to outplay England. In the course of four days since taking the field on Day One, Australia were spot on with their performances. There was a sense of urgency among the batsmen, skipper Michael Clarke took the onus of playing a big knock and his bowlers did a good job to keep their side on top for four full days.

Michael Clarke’s superhero act

There have been voices that have echoed in every street in Australia that spoke of the need for Michael Clarke to promote himself up the order with the batting line-up looking weak and vulnerable at the helm. The moment he did that, a big knock came along as he revisited his glorious form from 2012. His knock of 187 consisted of 23 boundaries and helped Australia pile on a total in excess of 500. For the first time in the series, England were made to work hard in the field. For the first time, Cook was left pondering at the end of the day and even enduring a sleepless night as Clarke carried on from an unbeaten 125 at the end of Day One and finishing with 62 more runs.

With this knock, Clarke showed his ability to weather the storm and lead his team from the front. His fruitful partnership with Steven Smith helped Australia post a mammoth first innings total.

Decoding DRS

This series so far has been undermined by the number of dubious decision that have been given due to the DRS. Neither umpires nor players seem to have understood how exactly this technology works and how effectively it can be used. On the first day, Australia’s left-handed top-order batsman Usman Khawaja was at the receiving end when he was given out by the on-field umpire for an apparent edge. He reviewed and hotspot did not show any edge. There was a definite sound but there was no discernible evidence to suggest that Khawaja had edged the ball . However, TV umpire Kumar Dharmasena upheld the original decision and Khawaja had to walk back.  Day Two saw David Warner waste a review despite a clear edge from his bat. There have also been instances where either the fielding side or the batsmen have refrained from taking reviews on occasions where they should have, in the fear of wasting one. This has been one of the biggest drawbacks of the number of reviews per innings for both sides.

In all probability, the DRS will need to be re-worked upon. ICC will hope to make it a lot more player friendly by the time these two sides meet again towards the end of the year in Australia.

Kevin Pietersen’s match-saving century

The platform was laid beautifully for a Kevin Pietersen masterpiece. The Australians were dominating and the England top-order was failing when he came out to bat. A scratchy start was straightened out with time and in the end he scored 113 crucial runs. The visitors had a big lead in the first innings but given how the game ended, it is easy to infer that Pietersen’s knock probably went on to help England save the game.

Rain sinks Aussies hopes

It was cruel end for Australia’s comeback bid. After the shoddy performance at Lord’s, many thought this team will suffer further humiliation in the remainder of the series. But Australia, being true to their fighting spirit, rose to the occasion and put up a fight that put England in a spot. The home side were hardly pushed out of their comfort zone in the first two games and here they were fighting to avoid follow-on on the third day of the game. Having set a target of 331, the visitors began well on the gloomy fifth day with three quick wickets in the first session. But that was as far as they could get as rain came down and washed out the remaining two sessions.
It is indeed a heartbreak for Australia and they have just a couple of days to recover before action shifts to Chester-le- Street for the fourth Test. This loss would have broken them mentally but the urge to draw the series and take away psychological advantage into the Australian leg of the series should motivate them to push themselves. England can celebrate the fact that they have retained the Ashes and tighten a few screws before they take the field coming Friday.

(Prakash Govindasreenivasan is a reporter with CricketCountry. His Twitter handle is @PrakashG_89)