England’s Ashes ambitions dashed by rain in a heartbreaking letdown

The fifth day of an Ashes Test was completely washed off at Old Trafford ten years ago in the summer of 2013, resulting in a draw. Before the game, England led 2-0 and was reeling at 37/3 while chasing a goal of 332, but the weather had other plans. It implied that England had been extremely lucky to have kept the urn. In 2023, they found themselves at the opposite extreme of the spectrum at the exact same location.

It was always anticipated that the last day at Old Trafford would be cloudy, and that is exactly how events turned out. Rain was persistent from the start, and the outcome was predetermined long before it was made public. Even though England’s daring attempt to keep their Ashes hopes alive was foiled by the weather at the finish line, it was still a Test match to remember.

Ben Stokes’ choice to bowl on an excellent batting surface surprised everyone, but his bowlers upheld it by holding Australia to a disappointing score of 317. The Old Trafford pitch was favorable for batting because it had strong pace and carry and moderate movement. Many Australian hitters made good starts but fell short, mostly because of some careless shot selection and England’s organized bowling assault. Mark Wood distinguished himself with significant advancements, while Chris Woakes shone out with his first Ashes fifer.

England had a race against the weather because of the frighteningly dire weather predictions for days four and five, and they used their Bazball blueprint effectively to build up the situation. Over the course of their innings, it became clear why Stokes preferred to bowl at the toss rather than the more conventional strategy of batting first. At virtually run-a-ball, England hammered their way to 592 runs, with Zak Crawley taking the lead. 

Six of England’s top seven batters reached scores of fifty or more as a result of Crawley’s assault. As the Australian bowlers were put to the test, Joe Root’s poise and Jonny Bairstow’s blitzkrieg stood out in addition to the opener’s heroics. Even though Josh Hazlewood finished with a five-wicket haul, it was a very difficult one. The Aussies may have been missing a specialist spinner on a dry surface with a little spin. The early innings also didn’t go according to their plan to prolong the batting order. With a big lead of 275, it was left to England’s bowlers to do the job. To be fair, they were excellent in the third day’s drive to Stumps, taking four wickets. 

Australia was brought to the verge of collapse by Wood’s flaming spells before rain saved them. Marnus Labuschagne and Mitchell Marsh deserve praise as well for their partnership on the fourth day, during which Australia lost just one wicket in the 30 overs they bowled.

Unfortunately, England only managed to get that 30 overs over the last two days. They would have hoped for at least another 30 overs or so despite the bleak prediction. Australia did appear to be in good shape during their vigil on the fourth day, but teams sometimes behave strangely when under pressure to win the trophy and bat on the final day. It ultimately never arrived because Manchester’s weather had the last word. Australia hopes to win their first series in England since 2001 as there is still much at stake.

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