The outcome of the third Ashes test match was a dampener – quite literally at that. It was one of those matches that should have gone one way – read Australians’ – but ended up going in a totally different track. But for now, England will be content to retain the Ashes urn while Australia tries to work things out in the remaining two matches with their new-found vigour and fervour to take the battle to the Englishmen.
The English team, by far mediocre and lack-lustre, may have scrapped through to win the series with a draw but for the Australians who played their best, gave it their all, a draw was a huge let-down considering the mammoth nature of the task they had before the match. The collapse at Lord’s was left behind as Australia began their attack in earnest. The plot thickened as the match went on, Australians mightily focused while the English team still looked out-of-sorts and bemused with the attitudinal change in their opponents.
After three days of play, Australia was comfortably placed on top; eying a glimpse of shortening the victory margin between them and England. Australia looked to be the clear favourites, for the first time in the series with Michael Clarke’s innings in the first innings setting the stage. On the other hand though, umpires continued to play villains with the visitors’ fortunes, before finally costing them a much-needed victory. By the end of the match, the technological systems put in place to aid the proceedings ended up being the cause of more worries with its infallibility and accuracy being questioned; mostly in juxtaposition with the role of the on-field umpires. The pouring rain that thoroughly wetted the Australians’ dream of making a comeback into the series perhaps then wasn’t as big a disappointment as the officials and the ICC’s new-fangled initiations were.
Both Tony Hill and Marais Erasmus came across as being incompetent with their decisions invoking the ire of both the hosts and the visitors. The former especially, after a non-revoking of his decision of giving Australian batsman Usman Khawaja out, when the DRS clearly showed the Aussie to be in the clear. The arising conflict however wasn’t only about Tony Hill not retracting his original decision but rather about the umpires’ continued inability to adjust and maintain compatibility with the technological systems put in place. And if this weren’t enough to pile on the Aussies’ woes, the stopping of play during the Australian second innings on account of bad light also reflected extremely bad umpiring, considering the precariousness of the Australian position in the match at that time.
England may have ended up benefiting from the stoppage, thanks to rain intervening almost immediately after lunch on the fifth day. But fact remains that what the umpires considered to be bad light for play to continue was merely one-sided with the Australian batsmen on crease still being able to not only track the ball but time it well too. Had the umpires allowed play to be continued, the third test might have had a different outcome indeed.
Looking at the way umpires have goofed up in the Ashes series so far – Aleem Dar in the first test and now Hill and Erasmus – outpourings of non-neutral umpiring officials to officiate in matches have started to pour in from all over. While on one hand, this might be considered beneficial but the downside of such a development would yet again raise innumerable controversial issues. Bias would war with objectivity; and if it doesn’t, non-neutral umpires’ decisions would always be seen with scepticism and wariness to the team at the receiving end of such a decision. More troubles then indeed for the ICC, which already seems to be saddled with quite a few problems of its own.
But for now, it’s onwards to Chester-le-Street for the fourth test. The penultimate match of the series, though by no means its decider. After the Australians heartened display at Old Trafford, many would expect them to bring the same zest to the table. They might have drawn the third test but they have indeed staved off a 5-0 whitewash. Who knows, a win may just be on the cards for the Aussies.