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Dirty but dazzling England won't give up entertainment as ash rain seals Australia |  UK News

Dirty but dazzling England won't give up entertainment as ash rain seals Australia | UK News

Sky's Rob Harris has seen wet weather guarantee a disappointing result in this summer's Ashes series. But the key figures in English cricket have no intention of changing their approach to winning over new fans and making headlines.

village Rob Harris, sports reporter @RobHarris


Sunday 23 July 2023 at 22:39, United Kingdom

The destination of the urn of ashes was ultimately determined by the weather.

Not even the bold positivity of England's 'buzzball' tactics could overcome the rain to complete the fourth Test.

But weather is always a factor to consider.

When do you announce?

Too early, certainly, in the first Test – allowing Australia to complete a thrilling chase at Edgbaston.

Perhaps it was no mistake by captain Ben Stokes and he held on to reach 592 in the first innings on Friday at Old Trafford.

Only the obvious decision after not playing on Sunday resulted in a draw.

Australia take a 2-1 lead into next week's Oval final keeping the urn at least a draw.

The 8-8 draw saved the women's series for Australia, with the tourists involved in a multi-format series.

So all that's left to fight now is to deny Australia a first men's Ashes series win in England in 22 years.

But the bleaching process appears to have been an unsatisfactory method of identifying the series.

Fans sheltering from the incessant rain have expressed frustration at the lack of extra reserve days being built into the Ashes program to complete the Tests.

And the forecast for Monday after a wet weekend? Sunshine all day in Manchester.

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But the series is already crowded – it has been shortened to six weeks by the end of July to allow the ECB to give its 100 rivals a chance to shine.

“It reaches people it never reached before.”

However, this was the Ashes that showcased the best of the five-day format.

The bolder, more daring style encouraged by Brendon McCullum has captured audiences far beyond cricket fans in a short period when domestic football did not completely dominate the sporting agenda.

Stokes recalls a conversation in the spa's changing room – a man popped into the bar for his first test for a quick drink.

“He ended up getting behind a few of the other guys and said he was gobsmacked by the game,” Stokes recalls.

“So when you hear things like that, it obviously makes you feel good about what we're doing, it brings a new fan base to the game and it reaches people you might not have reached before.”

Test cricket has become more attractive and friendly – umpires former Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara.

“That made it quite palatable to a bigger audience – the new generation, the younger generation,” the Sky Sports pundit said.

The controversies have taken cricket to the front pages, leading to a back-and-forth between politicians – with Rishi Sunak jostling with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese over Australia's controversial Jonny Bairstow stumble at Lord's.

This second Test has already seen its moment of drama with Bairstow's unexpected catch of the series – The protesters just stopped the oil Instead of the Australian attack.

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For all the criticism Bairstow has received for his ability to keep wicket, memories of fumbles have been replaced by flashes of combative brilliance in Manchester.

The 99 not out off 81 balls here propelled England to 592 which registered their highest Ashes score at home since 1985.

Impressive cricket but without the recent string of successes produced in New Zealand and Pakistan.

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How was the fourth test revealed?

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“Buzzball” isn't going anywhere

“We have stuck to our guns all the way. We will continue to play as we are, because we know the direction we want to go in and there is a bigger picture in Test cricket,” Bairstow said.

This is to maintain Test cricket as the pinnacle of the sport – with the Twenty20 revolution this summer seeing the US tap into expansionary opportunities through Major League Cricket.

So 'buzzball' will continue as the flamboyant English approach.

Zak Crawley is all for that approach – even if his 189th at Old Trafford amounts to little in the end.

He said: “We have shown that positivity suits our players. At other times we absorb pressure.

“But most of the time we're trying to put the pressure back on them.”

England will rue the missed opportunities.

“They played good cricket, but they were sloppy,” said Nasser Hussain, the former England captain turned Sky Sports pundit.

He added: “They were very aggressive in their batting at Lord's and believed the hype that they were here to entertain.

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“They will look back on these moments and feel they could have done better but you make mistakes.

“You have to learn from them. If you smell Australia, you'll smell it.”