27 July 2023
With the watery end to the fourth Ashes test match, I feel ever so slightly sad that its outcome makes the fifth test slightly less compelling. Sure, with a win (or draw), Australia can secure an outright Ashes series win in England for the first time since 2001. With this hanging over the match, England still need to win to avoid a series defeat, something I’m sure they’ll be keen to avoid. However, had we seen a result in Manchester, the fifth test at the Oval could have been for all the marbles. Whilst that does assume that England turned their strong position into a win, it would have left the series tied at 2-2 with the possibility of the first ever comeback from 2-0 down in an Ashes series. Australia would still have the upper hand, as they would only needing a draw to retain the urn but, equally, still able to secure an outright series win.
Later today the fifth and final test match will start. I wonder if Stokes will opt to bowl should he win the toss again, it feels as though this England side much prefer chasing than setting the pace. I’ve not seen any news yet on the the weather but if rain is forecasted we probably need to be more agressive than at Manchester. There was plenty of criticism thrown at Stokes for batting too long. Whilst I think that holds some water I don’t actually think it would have changed the outcome of the test match. Sure the ball was moving a lot by the end of the third day but Australia were batting for the weather and could bat deep in their order too.
Hindsight is pretty clear and it’s easy to criticse. I would have liked to have seen England have a bowl at Australia on Day 3 but I can understand what Stokes was going for. Had we declared early we might have gained a few extra wickets but I feel like Australia were always going to surpass any lead England had. With that in mind, I’m not so sure we would have bowled them all out in time and, if we did, whether we would have had enough time to get those runs.
Whilst the fifth test is yet to get underway it leaves me excited for the next Ashes series here in Australia. I read this morning that Stokes may use the break between the Ashes and the winter series against India, to address his niggling knee issue. If we can get Stokes fully fit and keep Archer from hurting himself then we could be coming Down Under with two 90+mph pace bowlers and a captain who’s not too shabby with the ball either. I’d imagine Anderson and Broad might be retired by then but I’m less concerned than I was about how or who would come in to replace them though it won’t feel the same without them there.
What this Ashes series has done, though, is give test cricket a boost. It’s been amazing cricket between two, very talented teams, with almost nothing between them. There’s been controversy and talking points that will keep fans on both sides talking until the next series and has shown that whilst it takes five days, if competitive, those days will fly by. I’m hopeful that other test cricket nations will see how the game can be played and we might start seeing other teams being more positive and inventive in their play.
At the end of the day though, this has been a fantastic series and though England were guilty of not turning some strong positions into wins, this series was much closer than you would have thought after watching how England performed against Australia in the last series. You could say England very much lost this series themselves but that would be disrespectful to Australia. I do think England could and should have won the Ashes but made it difficult for themselves by losing the first test match at Edgebaston the way they did and then losing again at Lords. Ultimately though it’s been an enthralling series and whilst I’m disappointed that we won’t regain the Ashes I’ve enjoyed it all the same.