The Embers win and the fifth Test at the Oval is dead glue. In a way, Lord Copper. In fact, there’s a lot at stake. Big questions and nuances have yet to be resolved, and the resolution could have far-reaching consequences for the team and many players.
Alastair Cook has a series scoring average of just 31.85, but his touch is arguably better than his numbers. It was a different story for Michael Clarke, who had a poor tour, scoring just 117 points with a 16.71. As far as he’s concerned, the statistics tell the whole story; it’s typeset, sent to a printer, bound and sold on Amazon. Clark was beaten and overtaken by his opponent. The Hunky Skipper is growing. A hipster captain made of age.
If Clarke walks the middle like a boxing champ, it would be too much in the final stages of the fight. Bruised, bloody and dead on his rubber legs, he was determined to hold his ground on the final lap. After 114 Tests, he can barely change his legacy now, but the cards may fall, but he’ll use what’s left of his rather depleted reserves and try to make his own.
If Pup can tap into his inner dog, he’ll restore his personal pride and possibly lead his team to a better place. The welcome he received from the crowd when he left the field for the last time will stay with him in one way or another for years to come.
Only Ponting, Border and Steve Waugh have scored more Test runs in Australia than Clarke, but there is a feeling, especially in his own country, that he is somehow not one of Australia’s greatest cricketers. Clark needs an unlikely 222 runs to end his Test career averaging over 50; if he’s only out once, 172 will suffice. Nothing special, he can quietly retire when he deserves to shine. I suspect this test will be like dead rubber to Michael Clarke.
Cook looks like someone who just won the lottery. He’s found some form at the racket without pushing himself too hard, and with the arrival of Farbrace and Bayliss, his captain has gained some level of competitiveness.
Andrew Strauss hinted after his appointment as director of cricket that Cook could step down after the Ashes. With a truckload of monkeys on his back, Cook promised to keep going. There’s never been a better time for him to play his natural game and make a lot of runs. A hundred dads will do well with his series, thank you. I suspect this test will be like dead rubber to Alastair Cook.
Joss Butler and Adam Rice also have reason to question whether their names will be on the flight list as players seek business-class seats to the UAE. Lyth, in particular, probably needs at least a fat man in his fifties to keep his place. It’s not dead rubber for him.
Aside from last summer’s dead-cat-feeling series win over India, Alastair Cook’s so-called New England team has done little to address some of the sophistry and hyperbole surrounding their meager to mixed results since season 5: 0 Australia.
England enter the series as second favourites, and have played that way at times. Joe Root’s authoritative batting and bowling finally found good areas in good conditions, giving England a good result. Frankly, Australia played like the third favourite, which his father’s army didn’t like.
There is no doubt that, in Paul Fabres’ own words, England have encountered a more aggressive style of play. In particular, Root and Ben Stokes intuitively took their stand during big game rounds. Not all players are able to align this newfound intent with their natural play style or game situation. But with Farbrace and Bayliss, you feel England have mentors who can develop the team further.
When Wood took the final wicket at Trent Bridge to secure the series, Nasser Hussein’s sky cry of “Joy, Joy, Joy” or something of the sort seemed to be an attempt, after almost two years of library time. Gram heralded Salvation Deception and Separation. Sure, it wasn’t like that, but it was a recycled ashes and a solid platform for a potentially demanding series in the UAE and South Africa.
England’s ambitions should go beyond simple series wins. All injuries since Sydney 2014 are carried by each player and placed in a BUPA sponsored bag along with their sticks and boots. England really wanted revenge. Triple Two would be a throwback, a dilution of performance, witch fodder in a pickle sandwich. It will be Michael Clarke who will invite England to his dressing room for the Fosters game.
While England have never won more than 3 games at home in the Ashes, a 4-1 win was not enough. Brendon McCullum said a win here and the rest of the world will be taking notice, suggesting everything else will be Snoozeville.
Victory for England would swap roles with Australia, not only in terms of the final humiliation suffered by Sydney and the subsequent sad split of the team, but England would overtake Australia in the ICC Test rankings. Who would have thought England would be the runners-up Test team after their defeat at the Kensington Oval last May? As Jim Royle said, “Dead rubber? My ass!”
In a column for the Sydney Daily Telegraph, Clark said:
The oval pitch for Test 5 is the greenest pitch I’ve seen in the entire series and I believe we have a good chance of finishing our third game in a row in three days.
He is an unfortunate man. He never had the class he wanted, the team he wanted or the weather he wanted. If the odds were already against him, they would tip over and land on him as he tossed. In cloudy, sweltering conditions, Cook, now a very sure captain, opted for a bowl. nobody