Fifth Ashes Test: England left dancing in the dark after controversial draw at Oval
Rain threatened to ruin the final episode of the series, but in the end bad light had the last word.
Last Updated: 26/08/13 10:01am
Australia were the side on top for the first three days, Shane Watson finally reaching three figures while Steve Smith registered his maiden Test ton in a big first-innings total.
England's reply was slow going, too slow for some, but once day four was washed out, it seemed all they had to do was avoid being asked to follow-on during Sunday to secure a draw.
They achieved that, though Michael Clarke's desire to try and finish a difficult series on a high meant the drama was only just beginning. Australia thrashed 111 runs quickly, declared at tea and left England a target of 227 that they so nearly reached under dark skies at the Kia Oval.
Here we take a look back at the Test and pick out some of the highlights...
Day one close - Australia 307/4
In a summer that has been marked by a series of surprise selections from Australia, it was England who revealed a shock line-up on the opening morning. With seamer Tim Bresnan ruled out through injury, it was expected that Chris Tremlett would come into the side as a straight swap. But the hosts instead opted to hand slow left-armer Simon Kerrigan an international debut, the Lancashire man playing alongside Graeme Swann in a dual-pronged spin attack. Jonny Bairstow paid the price for his failure to register a big score in the previous four Tests as he dropped out of the side to be replaced by another Test debutant in Chris Woakes, who bolstered the pace bowling options. Australia also made two changes, with James Faulkner, another debutant in the series finale, and Mitchell Starc replacing Usman Khawaja and Jackson Bird respectively. But in the midst of the selection shocks, the biggest talking point of the morning was actually an incredible and controversial outburst from Australia coach Darren Lehmann, who branded Stuart Broad's actions in the first Test as "blatant cheating".
Attentions eventually turned to on-field matters, with Australia captain Clarke winning the toss and electing to bat on an Oval track which looked typically favourable to the batsmen. The tourists again shuffled their batting order around by sending Watson in at No 3 and the all-rounder repaid the faith with a brilliant performance. The powerful right-hander smashed England to all parts to record his first Test century in 25 matches, going on to rack up 176 off 247 balls before being caught on the boundary by Pietersen. It was not such a good day for England's two new boys, Woakes toiling away without claiming a wicket and Kerrigan's bowling being bullied away at more than a run a ball. They combined for figures of 0-105. Even though Watson fell before the close, Smith remained unbeaten at the crease on 66, with nightwatchman Peter Siddle on 18 not out.
Day two close - Australia 492/9 dec, England 32/0
Thursday at the Kia Oval brought a batch of heavy rain and the precipitation continued to fall in the morning, leading to a delayed start. With no prospect of any play before lunch, the interval was brought forward to 12.30pm, with a planned start at 1.10pm. The dreary weather meant the highlight of the morning for Sky Sports viewers was Nasser Hussain and Andrew Strauss' demonstration of how - or perhaps how not - to deal with the short ball. Unfortunately, the rain did not relent in the early afternoon and it was not until 2.30pm that play was able to commence. The conditions were still overcast, meaning England pacemen Stuart Broad and James Anderson enjoyed plenty of movement as they tried to put the pressure on Australia's middle order. Anderson accounted for nightwatchman Siddle, but Smith and Brad Haddin weathered the early storm in composed fashion.
Smith edged ever closer to his first Test century but showed no signs of falling victim to the nervous nineties as he smashed Jonathan Trott down the ground and into the stands for six to bring up three figures. Haddin chopped onto his stumps later in the same over but Smith found plenty of support from the lower order as Australia looked to make up for the lost time by scoring quick runs. Ryan Harris belted two sixes in a rapid-fire 33, while Smith eventually finished unbeaten on 138 as Australia reached 492-9 before deciding to declare. They would have hoped to have knocked over a couple of members of the England top order in the 17.3 overs of play which were possible before stumps, but Alastair Cook and Joe Root stood firm to hold onto their wickets.
Day three close - Australia 492/9 dec, England 247/4
Friday was a day for the Test match purists - England batted for 98.3 overs and added 215 runs at a cost of four wickets. It meant some spectators left wondering if they'd got full value for money, but Nasser Hussain felt the hosts did exactly what they needed to do, saying: "It didn't make for great entertainment for the guys paying 100 quid for their tickets but it was a day that will please the coach." Root top-scored with 68 before top-edging a sweep off Nathan Lyon to short fine leg, proving Clarke had his field set perfectly. That topic had been discussed in the Ashes Zone before play got underway, with Shane Warne being particularly scathing on Cook's plans as Australia pushed on in their first innings. Cook made just 25 with the bat in his hand, while Jonathan Trott dug in for 40 before falling to the second new ball. Even the usually fluent Pietersen was somewhat becalmed in an even 50 before being caught at first slip. His innings had included some verbal jousting with some of the Australians, particularly visiting captain Clarke. Now now boys, can't we all just get along?
While perhaps the players weren't always united on the field, the sport was off it. The Oval dedicated day three to 'Cricket United', the combination of three charities - The Lord's Taverners, Chance to Shine and the PCA Benevolent Fund - to help raise both awareness and funds for the trio. All spectators were encouraged to wear blue to the ground and Sky Sports' commentary team did their bit by sporting Cricket United ties for the day.
Day four close - Australia 492/9 dec, England 247/4 - no play, rain
On Saturday at the Oval it rained. And rained. Then rained a little more. It was only fitting that when play was finally called off for the day shortly after 4pm, the heavens opened to such an extent that the outfield was left covered in puddles. Sky Sports' coverage opened up with Ian Ward in the Ashes Zone discussing the evolution of cricket bats with Strauss and Michael Atherton. There was also an interview with Warne and Pietersen, who was honoured during the match for becoming England's leading run scorer in all forms of the game. And even though there was a distinct lack of action out on the pitch, that didn't mean nothing happened off it. The big screen was put to good use in the afternoon to perform a marriage proposal... and apparently she said yes. Who says romance is dead? Nothing says I love you more than a day watching it hose down at the cricket...
Day five close - Australia 492/9 dec & 111/6 dec, England 377 & 206/4
There was light at the end of the tunnel on the final day of the series, though not quite enough for either team to come up with a victory. Anyone with a ticket for the final day of the series might have thought they were just turning up to see England bat on before the trophy presentation. They thought wrong. Sunday's service saw no fewer than 447 runs - a record on the last day of a Test - with England firstly avoiding the follow-on, Australia then hurrying through to a useful lead before their brave declaration left the hosts needing 227 after tea. Some considered batting from Trott and some sheer entertainment from Pietersen got England within sight, but with 21 still required and four overs left in proceedings, the umpires deemed conditions unfit for play to continue. Perhaps, after a series dogged by controversy with the officiating and the DRS system in particular, it was only right that the umpires had the last word. Aleem Dar and Kumar Dharmasena were booed at the ceremony, though the former seemed to revel in the attention, waving to the crowd before collecting his medal.
Despite just missing out on a first-ever 4-0 series triumph over their old rivals, England still had plenty to celebrate. Alastair Cook duly lifted the urn against a back drop of fireworks and whilst being showered in champagne by his team-mates. The team remained at the ground late into the night, sitting out on the field as they basked in their success over a long summer. Now they get a couple of months off before both sides do it all again.