Australia seeks Ashes series win after retaining urn

Australia have set their sights on winning the Ashes outright at The Oval, believing they have achieved nothing yet after rain helped them retain the urn with a fourth Test draw in Manchester.

Jul 24, 2023, updated Jul 24, 2023
Rain forced an end to day five of the fourth Test at Old Trafford. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

Rain forced an end to day five of the fourth Test at Old Trafford. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

Under pressure to try to save the fourth Test, Australia had to do little but arrive at Old Trafford on Sunday before rain washed away any chance of play on the final day.

The draw left Australia with a 2-1 series lead with one Test to play, ensuring they retain the urn as the current holders for at least another two-and-a-half years.

But captain Pat Cummins has long maintained his team did not come to England merely to retain the Ashes, rather wanting to win a Test series in the country for the first since 2001.

Most of the same group came close to doing so on the last tour in 2019, but dropped the fifth Test at The Oval after celebrating retaining the urn at Manchester with victory days earlier.

Cummins admitted earlier this month that he felt unsure about those celebrations, and confirmed on Sunday it would be much more understated this time.

With the urn now certain to be in their keeping, Australia’s players left Old Trafford without singing the team song and their mind solely on Thursday’s fifth Test.

“I don’t think there will be huge celebrations,” Cummins said.

“Maybe a bit of a pat on the back for retaining the (Ashes). There’s been a lot of work gone into putting us into a position where a draw does make us retain the Ashes.

“But there’s a Test match starting in three days, so that’s going to be our full focus.”

Asked if he felt like the side hadn’t achieved anything yet, Cummins said: “That’s fair.

“In some regards, whatever happened today wouldn’t really change how we look at next week. We want to win it to make sure we win it outright.”

Australia can feel their efforts contributed to saving the match, after Marnus Labuschagne and Mitch Marsh batted for the majority of crucial 30 overs available on a rain-marred day four.

Together they kept England’s bowlers at bay, and while Labuschagne was out late it ensured the match would go into the fifth day still alive.

And with Australia set to resume on 5-214 and still needing 61 more runs to make England bat again, the rain appeared to almost tease the hosts on Sunday.

There was close to an hour of clear air before the scheduled start of play, but the wet weather returned before a scheduled inspection of the pitch at 11am.

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Then,when umpires agreed to resume the match at 1pm, the rain reappeared and never let up.

Eventually, the death knell was sounded on England’s Ashes hopes at 5:23pm.

“It’s a bit of a strange one,” Cummins said.

“As a group, proud that we’ve retained the Ashes but it’s off the back of not our greatest week.

“We know we’ve got a fair bit of work to do for next week, a few improvements to make.”

Australia’s effort to retain the urn for a fourth straight Ashes added to England’s frustrations during a series of high drama and close matches.

England already felt aggrieved by their controversial 43-run loss to Australia at Lord’s earlier this month, furious when Jonny Bairstow was stumped in the run chase.

They also walked away from the first Test claiming it felt like a win, despite a 55-run ninth-wicket partnership between Nathan Lyon and Pat Cummins that steered Australia home.

And after England hit back to make it 2-1 after a three-wicket win at Headingley, Ben Stokes believed his side played a near-perfect game at Old Trafford after bowling Australia out for 317 in the first innings and hitting 592 in reply.

But after all that, they are guaranteed to finish the series without the urn.

“It’s a tough way to not be able to get the urn back,” Stokes said.

“We did literally everything we possibly could … and the weather didn’t help us. It’s a tough pill to swallow.

“We were completely and utterly dominant throughout the hours of play we had.”


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