As England Has Refused To Recognize The Only Option For The Ashes Alive > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more
Cricket news - How England refused to take the only option to keep the Ashes alive
England needed to win this Test to keep the Ashes alive. When Australia declared on 420 for 8 with 15 minutes to go before lunch, there was only one way to achieve that win.
Factoring this was day three of a four-day match, usurping the opening innings was never going to happen. Time and indeed history was not on their side: Australia's opening score is the highest in Tests on these shores since 2003. And their attack is not for flaying.
But there is one thing that offers hope to all sides under a mountain of runs - the follow-on target. Here, it was. A palatable 271.
Once getting to that score, with Australia having to bat next, England would declare in arrears. Then, the tasks at hand would be twofold: bowl out the tourists as quickly as possible and go hell for leather chasing it down.
Now granted, the record books are not awash with tales of declare-from-behind wins. But you can still find them.
At Canterbury in 1979, England stopped a solitary run short of West Indies's first innings, with three wickets remaining, and caught them cold at the end of the penultimate day of the match and reducing them to 48 for 6. They went on to dismiss them for 67 and win by nine wickets.
Eight years ago in Sydney, Australia pulled themselves out 48 behind England's 207, eventually seizing the win with a quite masterful chase of 198 on the final day.
Both examples were tactical and, here, England would have needed to do it out of necessity. But there were factors in their favour.
For starters, they had 85 overs to bat on day three, with 108 scheduled for Sunday's conclusion. As tricky a heist as this sounds, 193 overs is about enough time to pull it off, especially if the batters are as assertive as Amy Jones and Heather Knight were when they put on 79 runs inside 21.1 overs. At that rate, 271 would be passed in 74 overs.
The move would also put the onus back on Australia. Coming into this match, they talked up how much they wanted to win even if the two points for a draw would be enough to retain the Ashes trophy ahead of the three Twenty20s. Playing to win is the Australian way, we were told. Now they'd have to show us.
Both sides have campaigned for more Test cricket, yet the spectacles on 2015's mudpie and 2017's motorway did little to convince others this was a proposition worth indulging. So with the buck firmly with Australia, the future of Test cricket would be in their hands.
OK, a tad dramatic. But you could ham it up, couldn't you? Especially if they refused to play ball. England might not regain the Ashes, but at least they had a shot at winning the PR war.
Knight's team would, of course, focus on trying to bowl them out and, heck, we've seen enough crazy in the last week alone to know the possibility of England facing a chase of 200-ish with plenty to spare on the final day would not be out of the question. But perhaps more realistically would be a second declaration: one which offers the carrot of, let's say. a six-an-over chase of 300 in 50 overs if Australia were feeling particularly miserly.
But at the very least, there we would be. As straight a shoot-out as we have had in this format for a long old time. A shot in the arm the women's four-day game needs. But also England's best chance at keeping this marquee series alive.
Instead, England passed on such an idea. When Jones and Knight's stand was ended in the 24th over, the first of debutant Sophie Molineux's three wickets, so did their ambition.
When Sarah Taylor departed at 47.3 overs, the score was 132 for 5 and, by close some 35.3 overs later, only 67 more were scored. The final 23 overs after drinks drew 31 runs. The last 115 deliveries were boundary-less. Even anecdotally, England's passivity did not wash.
Talk of a tricky pitch was torpedoed when Molineux referred to it as "pretty dead". Amid a few deliveries that beat the outside edge, Sciver and Brunt were playing possum towards stumps only for the latter to let one squeeze through her defences to end her vigil on 75 balls for just 15. That's just not Brunt.
Sciver, by the way, will reconvene on 132 balls against her 62 runs. The same Sciver whose top five ODI scores include two centuries at a strike rate of 148 and 116, a 73-ball 93 and a 53-ball 80.
Even 30 more runs would have all four results on the table. Now, the chances of an England win hang on the thinnest of threads. And that's through rose-tinted specs.
On a number of levels, the evening session did as much harm to England's Ashes chances as it did to the case for more women's Tests.
Test cricket relies on teams seizing initiative, sensing moments and, when all other options are exhausted, going for broke. There was just one option open for England and they simply refused to take it.
Maybe it was out of inexperience. Maybe fear of how the public and press might react. Whichever one it may be, was it really worth giving up the Ashes for?
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