A Fitting End

As the shadows lengthened over the Oval on Sunday evening, it became increasingly inevitable that this summer’s final Ashes Test would be decided not by a golden delivery or glorious batting stroke, but another piece of ill-thought out bureaucracy.

After a light-meter was hastily brought onto the increasingly gloomy field, umpires Kumar Dharmasena and Aleem Dar ended the game for bad light, with just four overs remaining and England just 21 away from victory.

It understandably brought boos from the beer soaked terraces, illuminated by four giants floodlights, and proved to be another embarrassing farce from a sport that often fails to sell itself to prospective new fans.

Betfair pundits gave Aussie captain, Michael Clarke, credit; his sporting declaration at tea set-up the thrilling finish. He did not deserve to lose after that so a draw was perhaps the fair result, even if it was achieved in bizarre circumstances. It was perhaps a fitting end to a series that has veered off from the straight and narrow on numerous occasions.

Before the series even began, we were dealing with the fall out following David Warner’s punch aimed at Joe Root during the Champions Trophy. We then had the DRS controversies, incorrect decisions, and conspiracy theories about special coatings on bats to try to evade hotspot. There was also Stuart Broad’s now infamous refusal to walk and a hotspot review sealing the first Test for England at Trent Bridge.

It was inevitable the weather would intervene at some stage and unfortunately for fans who bet on Australia, the rain arrived just as they looked set for a victory at old Trafford. The Ashes were retained on a soggy day in Manchester, not quite how Alastair Cook had dreamt it.

Coach, Darren Lehmann, who had been praised by Betfair punters for his handling of the side since his hasty appointment in June, blotted his copybook with some ill-advised comments about Stuart Broad to an Aussie radio station, costing him 20% of his match fee.

Meanwhile, the defining image of Sunday night’s finale will be Clarke reacting angrily to an outstretched arm into the chest by umpire Dar, moments before the players were ordered from the field.

There were some moments of memorable cricket, just not as many some Betfair pundits had hoped, and not enough to allow some of the more unsavoury moments to be swept under the carpet.

But with just three months to go until the return series Down Under, agitated tensions and rivalries will not have to simmer for long – as will the chance for both sets of players to write headlines for all the right reasons.