Ashes 2023: The Manchester rain gets the better of England- but the series wasn’t lost at Old Trafford
England were exciting and clinical in Manchester- but the rain ended hopes of a dramatic series comeback
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It’s the day after one of the wettest days of the cricketing summer, and the day on which England’s Ashes hopes were washed away in Manchester. England needed to win at Old Trafford, but heavy rain on the last two days meant that a draw was inevitable and the Ashes were retained by Australia.
A lot has been said in the last day or so about how the Ashes were lost in Manchester and that Australia have been lucky to have the weather on their side. The truth is this though- England have lost this series thanks to two defeats in the opening matches- and Australia had done enough to be in the driving seat even after England’s victory in the third Test.
The series has been one of the most exciting in recent memory, and will go down in history as an entertaining contest between the sport’s oldest rivals. England’s gung-ho approach to Test cricket has locked horns with Australia’s stern and stubborn style of play, and it is the tourists who have won out this summer.
England slipped to defeat in both of the opening matches, firstly by 2 wickets at Edgbaston and then by 43 runs at Lord’s. The games were exciting, and both went down to the wire, but key moments didn’t go in England’s favour.
The decision to declare at the end of the very first day of the opening Test has been flagged as a poor decision in hindsight by many, and being 188-1 and not getting closer to Australia’s first innings total at Lord’s was an example of Bazball going wrong in a poor batting collapse.
Lord’s especially was a case of a more level headed approach to the first innings would have got England over the line- less than 50 extra runs would have made sure England went to Headingley with the series level at 1-1.
England have been fun to watch this summer, with some particularly brutal batting displays from Ben Stokes at Lord’s and Jonny Bairstow in Manchester standing out as stunning cricketing efforts. Both innings were ones which you couldn’t take your eyes off, but sadly neither were in a winning cause- a couple more of these and Ben Stokes’ may have been taking his side to The Oval with a chance of winning this series.
For me, England haven’t had the strongest team possible in almost any of the four Ashes tests so far. Jonny Bairstow is a top batter who has won many matches for his country almost single handedly. As a keeper, I don’t think he has ever been the strongest option for England and with the glaringly obvious absence of Ben Foakes from any squad has made our batting and fielding weaker.
Moeen Ali was a surprise addition to the first squad following the news that Jack Leach would be out of the series before it started, and the spinner contributed with bat and ball. However, the lack of a genuine front-line spinner who is experienced in Test cricket cost us- this is however a deep rooted issue and one which the ECB needs to address.
Heading into the third Test 2-0 down was evidence of the series not going right for England. The first two matches were close, with results being confirmed in the afternoon of Day 5 on both occasions. This here is proof that Australia didn’t blow England away but, despite the entertainment value, there were two losses for the hosts and two positive results for an Australian side who know how to win Ashes tests.
The Ashes will not be returning to England, and the wait for the urn to return to English hands will now extend to a decade with the next series taking place down under in 2025-26. Despite this, England still have something to play for when the fifth and final Test begins at the Oval on Thursday- preventing Australia from getting a series win in England for the first time since 2001.