After a heavy defeat at Lords and finding themselves 2 – 0 down in the series, Australia needed to bounce back in the 3rd test at Old Trafford and bounce back they did.
Winning the toss and electing to bat first, their batsmen dug deep and fully applied themselves. Chris Rogers proved himself for the first time in the series, making a well constructed 84, falling agonisingly short of what would have been his maiden test century.
Steve Smith also applied himself well, and like Rogers, his dismissal came before he reached his hundred. Although these two innings were good they were dwarfed by a certain Michael Clarke.
Struggling early on, Clarke got off to a slow start but only grew in confidence. He gave a lesson on how to play Graeme Swann during a fascinating battle between the two. Down the pitch and over mid off, then on the back foot cutting through backward point – true class.
The Australian captain made 187 before chopping the ball onto his stumps from a short ball by Stuart Broad to give him his 200th wicket.
Australa decided to declare on 527 for 7, their highest score of the series so far but what was the key to their success?
Was it just a flat pitch or was there more too it. The Australan top order certainly applied themselves and this being a must win match for them, this was vital.
The England bowling attack, with the exception of Swann looked dull, easy paced and lacking something special. It’s always the same when the ball isn’t swinging on a flat pitch. I think Anderson, Broad and Bresnan bowled well but the attack needed something different. I think Alastair Cook would have wanted the height, pace and bounce of Finn or Tremlett to call upon.
The tactics weren’t anything special from England either. A spell of short bowling or sweet chin music could have been used but instead England insisted on line and length.
In their first innings, England had some work to do with the bat. Firstly they had to see out the last few overs of day two. which they failed to do, losing two wickets to some quality bowling from Peter Siddle.
Leading from the front however, Alastair Cook made a half century, but was then given out after clipping one down the leg side into the keepers gloves.
Trotts dreadful lack of form continued and soon Kevin Pieterson was striding to the crease with a job to do. With England in a precarious position they needed KP to fire. With his usual array of outrageous shots, he reached another test match hundred.
Pieterson took on the off spin of Nathan Lyon, hitting him out of the attack and against the seamers he restrained himself well. His innings, although eye-catching, was mature and was just what England needed.
He was supported by an in form Ian Bell looking for a third century in the series but it was not to be, reaching 60 and being served up a beauty by Siddle hitting the top of off.
The tail chipped in with some very useful runs, meaning that England had avoided the follow on. A crucial moment that potentially saved the test match. Eyes were on Clarke for Australia’s first innings declaration with only seven wickets down and during the easiest time to bat.
The Aussies were left in an awkward position. 159 runs ahead and two days left in the match but suspicions of rain and needing a victory, Australia needed quick runs.
They put David Warner up to open the innings in order to get the runs flowing quickly, but it never really happened. The run rate was around 5 for the whole innings and it was a half hearted attempt. Warner made 41 and Clarke reached 30. It should have been played almost as a T20 match. Australia finished on 172 after the darkness had stopped play.
The final day. England’s target was 331 runs. Australia’s target was 10 wickets. It looked like it would be a great finish and with the Aussies starting well, they had to be favourites. Ryan Harris bowled an in swinging peach to captain Cook to trap him lbw and made Trott edge one behind to Haddin.
Siddle couldn’t be kept out of the action and he found the edge of Kevin Peterson’s bat when he attempted a needless over-ambitious drive. Then the clouds gathered, and the umpires called for the covers.
Three words that Australia didn’t want to hear but hear them they did. Rain stopped play. The match was drawn and their ashes chances were over. England had retained the ashes.