Shane Watson again remembers how to score runs during the final game of a series; England do their best to delay the Sky commentators’ trip to the pub but succumb in a rather miserable manner. Everyone shrugs, bar the Australians who celebrate yet another famous victory – after the moral Ashes and the hypothetical Ashes, they’ve now secured the hat-trick with the Plunkett-Hastings Trophy.
Although the series was lost 2-1 and England were pretty ropey in the two defeats, there was plenty to be learned from this half-hearted knockabout. The match itself was similar to the series throughout in this respect, with a few useful performances balanced out by some piles of shite. Boyd Rankin was again very good, going at fewer than three runs per over, whilst Ben Stokes showed he can take wickets even if he’s not yet consistent enough to keep things tight for the duration of his spells.
Meanwhile Michael Carberry, in scoring 30 runs but never looking comfortable (and being involved in another run-out with Kevin Pietersen), has probably played his last international. He is undoubtedly a very fine county batsman who can consider himself unlucky to have so few chances, but with four senior established top order batsmen (five if you include Joe Root) competing for a probable three spots, his time won’t come again. As for Luke Wright, well England still don’t know what to do with him. He didn’t bowl (yet Root was given six rubbish overs) and came in at No. 5 only to give a demonstration in how not to run a quick single. His duck from one ball was a contribution that would arguably have been matched by a cardboard cut-out of David Gower.
Incredible, amazing, magnificent, triumphant. No, not Mark Nicholas reacting to his wife’s scrambled eggs, but what Australia must think about this win. We mock of course, but in conditions that favoured everyone buggering off for a curry well before sunset, they kept on top of England to ensure they at least leave these shores with more than just some decent duty-free chocolate and VAT receipts from every Walkabout bar in the country. The reason for jesting is that they managed to beat England’s second XI. Admittedly, you can only beat (or lose to) the opposition, but the point needs to be made; they failed to win a game in the Champions Trophy and there is still uncertainty over many of the positions in their ODI team, not least who should accompany Watson, man of the series Michael Clarke and George Bailey in the top six (hint: rhymes with Smeve Stith). What is certain is that Matt Wade shouldn’t be one of the lucky three: his golden duck – and a dropped catch – added to a truly memorable tour for the gobshite: his collection of saucy cartoon postcards is really coming on strong. Their bowling meanwhile is self-selecting – whomever is fit shall play. Considering they are buggering off to India for a month in October, that might just be mighty Mitch Johnson on his own.
Please can we never have series-deciders on a Monday evening in mid-September played at a ground notoriously difficult to get out of – and then charge north of £50 for the pleasure? The spectators, all of whom were wrapped up like Robert Falcon Scott, deserve a NatWest medallion each. From toss to the final wicket took almost nine hours, meaning the presentation took place in front of two groundstaff impatiently twiddling their keys and a very angry Sky crew. Which seems to be a decent sort of metaphor for a mostly rubbish series.