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2009 Ashes - Fifth Test at The Oval

Category: Cricket. Published: 24 Aug 2009

For the fifth and deciding Test of the 2009 Ashes series, played at The Oval, Australia went in with an unchanged team -- again without a specialist spinner. England made two changes -- Flintoff replacing Onions and Bopara left out to allow Trott to make his debut.

Day 1

England won the toss and batted. Cook out early, again hanging his bat out and being caught in the slips off Siddle. Strauss and Bell batted well on a pitch that showed very early signs that it will break up well before the end of the game. Strauss was then out in a similar fashion to Cook. Collingwood hung around for a while without looking threatening then swiped at a wide ball, again, not using his feet, again, and was caught in the gully, again. Bell played on after looking set. Prior out to a slower ball from Johnson. Flintoff caught behind playing a loose shot. Trott, in his first Test innings, looked to have a better technique and temperament than most of the English batsmen, was brilliantly run out by Katich. Coming forward to North, Trott hit the ball to Katich at short leg, who quickly threw the stumps down before Trott could regain his ground. Swann was then caught behind off what became the last ball of the day.

In summary, England's batsmen generally got themselves out on a pitch that did nothing to help the pace bowlers. A good spinner on this pitch will take a lot of wickets -- but there aren't any good spinners playing. Siddle bowled well to take 4 wickets. On this pitch hard work is required to take wickets and that's what Siddle is good at.

Day 2

Australia quickly ended England's innings, taking the last two wickets for 25 runs. Australia's batsmen then handed the Ashes back to England being all out for 160.

Katich and Watson battled hard for a 73 run opening partnership, although Watson could have been out LBW three times. Australia then lost all ten wickets for 87 runs. Although the pitch was dry and dusty, none of the batsmen could blame the pitch for their dismissal. The bowling was tight but not brilliant, with Broad taking five wickets and Swann four. The umpiring was poor, but not the reason for the low score -- North and Stuart Clark were unlucky, but Watson and Hilfenhaus were very lucky several times.

England finished the day on 3 for 58, a lead of 230, which is probably already enough.

Day 3

England's batsmen show Australia's batsmen how on bat on this pitch. It was noticeable that, whereas Australia's batsmen spent more time "gardening" and worrying about the pitch than they did actually batting, England's batsmen appeared unconcerned about what the pitch was doing and just got on with batting.

England declared at 9/373 then Australia finished at 0/80 -- almost 400 runs scored in the day for the loss of six wickets. Strauss and Trott looking particularly good

Australia's bowling tactics and field placements were rather strange. Johnson bowled the first two overs of the morning then was taken off. Clark then bowled 8 overs without looking like taking a wicket, bowling wide of the stumps, obviously under instructions to do so. Katich didn't bowl until the over before tea. If you're trying to win the game you have to try to take wickets, not sit back and hope that something will happen at some stage.

Australia appears to be obsessed with the pitch, believing that wickets will just come. The pitch is still not responsible for a single wicket.

Day 4

Australia start the fourth day poorly, losing Katich and Watson in the first four overs. Ponting and Hussey then put on over a hundred before Ponting was run out -- Hussey called but Ponting hesitated. That was really the end of Australia's hopes, although Hussey and Haddin added a 90 run partnership. Hussey batted well to score his first century in a long time and may have saved his place in the team. Swann took four wickets and Harmison cleaned up the tail with three.

Despite the constant criticism of the pitch by all commentators, not one batsman could blame the pitch for their dismissal. England scored over 700 runs for the loss of 19 wickets. Australia scored 348 in the last innings when batting was supposedly impossible. Commentators said that winning the toss played too big a role in the outcome -- but Australia scored more runs in the last innings than England did in the first.

The numbers don't support the arguments:

  • 1213 runs for the match at 3.5 per over.
  • 39 wickets fell for the cost of 31 runs each.
  • 23 wickets to pace bowlers, 12 to spin and 4 run outs.
  • 2 batsmen scored centuries, 6 made half-centuries (6 others made scores over 30).

I thought the pitch made the game interesting, with batsmen having to battle for runs. Too many times, around the world, pitches favour batsmen too much. In this game, batsmen who were prepared to work hard scored runs, bowlers who were prepared to work hard took wickets -- and that's as it should be.

Plain and simply, England out-batted, out-bowled, out-captained, and, most importantly, out-selected Australia.

Cricinfo scorecard.

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