AFTER a thoroughly enjoyable Ashes series played in excellent spirit it was a terrible shame to see a thrilling final day’s play halted before its fitting conclusion, leaving cricket looking silly.
England fans hoping to see a first ever 4-0 home series victory were up in arms, quite understandably, when the match was abandoned due to bad light with the hosts needing just 21 runs from 24 balls.
Unsatisfactory though it certainly was, it wasn’t the fault of anyone at the Oval on Sunday.
Australia captain Michael Clarke received some wholly undeserved stick, as it is to his eternal credit that he took the initiative, declared when he did and set England a target at all.
The chances of Australia winning on that pitch, based on my experience, were tiny, and as England took on their second innings with relish, it became increasingly clear they were going to reach their target. Kevin Pietersen was particularly terrific, though each batsman had his moment.
Suddenly Clarke was staring down the barrel of a defeat. He cannot be blamed for slowing the game down, which he did within the rules. Any skipper would have done the same, and it was only a contest in the first place because he made it one.
Equally, it was not the fault of the umpires. You can argue whether they should have exercised common sense and allowed play to continue, but ultimately they are there to apply the rules objectively and they followed them to the letter. It is not their job to help England win.
Clearly this scenario does the game no good at all and from a PR perspective is a disaster. We love the sport, and therefore the regulations must be looked at to avoid repeats of situations such as this.
That said, England did not really deserve to win the series 4-0 following five matches when they have frequently been short of their best.
Australia proved more competitive than most decent judges had predicted and one thing is for sure: England will have got it loud and clear in both ears that they cannot afford to play anything less than at their highest level Down Under this winter or they will slip up.
Andy Lloyd is a former England Test cricketer who has also been captain and chairman of Warwickshire.