So England, aided by some patriotic weather, have retained the Ashes with two wins from the three Tests played so far. The champagne moment may have had a bitter-sweet taste to it going by the manner in which it arrived, but few England fans would dwell on that. From Australia’s view point, Michael Clarke’s men will have every reason to feel hard done by after dominating the third Test only for the clouds to open up at Old Trafford just when they were looking poised to pull one back in the series.
With the drawn encounter sparking celebrations for Alastair Cook and his men, we identify the key factors that saw the home team maintain their Ashes stranglehold.
1)England’s superior top-order batting
Heading into the series, most experts felt England’s batting lineup could well end up being the deciding factor. On the evidence from the first two Tests at least, that prediction has held true. England outscored Australia in three out of four innings at Trent Bridge and Lord’s with Ian Bell doing the bulk of the damage. There were also significant contributions from Joe Root and Kevin Pietersen. For the Aussies, unfortunately their top-order only got their act together at Old Trafford by which time they were already 2-0 down in the series.
2)Imperious form of Anderson and Swann
The 31-year-old Anderson (15 wickets) wasted little time in stamping his mark on the series as he bagged a five wicket haul in each innings of the opening Test. In Graeme Swann (19 wickets), who was all over the Aussies like a rash at Lord’s, England possessed a genuine trump card in the bowling department. Australia’s spinners, 18-year-old Ashton Agar (2 wickets) and Nathan Lyon who replaced Agar for the third Test were both no match for the crafty Swann. Peter Siddle (16 wickets) and Ryan Harris (11 wickets) have been Australia’s best bowlers so far.
3)Mickey Arthur’s leaked legal claims
Having fallen agonizingly short of an unexpected win in the first Test, the wounded Aussie camp were dealt a nasty blow off the field ahead of the Lord’s Test. Legal claims made by former coach Mickey Arthur to Cricket Australia were leaked to media and the documents spoke of a rift between skipper Michael Clarke and Shane Watson. Clarke boldly insisted the news would have no bearing on his team’s preparations for the game. Despite those reassurances, Aussie fans saw their worst fears come true. A dreadful first innings batting display from Clarke and company on a pitch suited for batting all but handed England the Test and a 2-0 cushion.
4)Cook trumps Clarke at DRS usage
In a series where DRS just couldn’t keep out of the spotlight, England skipper Cook showed his Australian counterpart just how the system ought to be used. Cook adopted a more cautious approach with his referrals while Clarke took the gambling route which was especially seen in the first Test with the Stuart Broad episode. And would later admit his careless approach had played a role in his team’s heartbreaking defeat at Trent Bridge. They proved to be slow learners though, as they exhausted both reviews very early in their first innings at Lord’s.
5)Weather shows its true colours
As brilliant as they were at Trent Bridge and Lord’s, were it not for the rain Gods, England may well have had to wait till the fourth Test to retain the Ashes. Set a daunting fifth day target of 332, the hosts were wobbling at 37 for 3 with two full sessions to play out when the heavens opened up leading to the match being drawn.
Picture courtesy: http://www.abc.net.au/ (Stu Forster, Getty Images)