England will bid to complete the second half of their Ashes mission when they face arch-rivals Australia in the fourth Test at Chester-le-Street starting today.
The drawn third Test at Old Trafford left England an unassailable 2-0 up in the series with two to play and meant they’d retained the Ashes.
But it left open the possibility of a shared series, something that hasn’t happened in an Ashes campaign since 1972. It took England just 14 days to hold on to the urn this time around — the quickest they’ve settled an Ashes series in their favour since the end of the Second World War.
However, England coach Andy Flower was far from satisfied. “I suppose it is (a great achievement). But for me it’s all about winning this series, so it is still alive with two Tests to go,” he said.
In Manchester, Australia produced a much-improved performance with England collapsing to 27 for three on Monday’s final day before rain ensured a draw.
The result meant Australia had ended a run of six successive Test defeats — their worst for 29 years — and avoided equalling their all-time record losing streak of seven straight Tests set by the 19th century teams of 1885-88.
England are worried: Border
Former Australia captain Allan Border said it looked like the tourists had “drawn their own line in the sand”, in much the same way his side did during the 1986-87 series, where, having lost the Ashes, they won the final Test in Sydney before starting 16 years of unbroken series dominance against England in 1989.
“England are worried,” Border said. “The way this side is going over the next few months, look out. Australia has the momentum.” Then again, Australia had even more “momentum” during the 2010/11 Ashes after winning the third Test by 267 runs in Perth to level at 1-1.
Yet England won the fourth Test in Melbourne by the huge margin of an innings and 157 runs to retain the Ashes. Australia coach Darren Lehmann put the Old Trafford draw in context by saying: “We’re not going to lose five nil, so that’s a start. I think it (the momentum) has shifted but only time will tell that won’t it?”
More win or draw and England will complete a hat-trick of Ashes series victories. England recorded a 3-1 away win in 2011 and pulled off a memorable 2-1 win at home against Ricky Ponting’s side in 2009.
More wickets and James Anderson will become the second highest wicket taker for England. In 85 matches so far, he has scalped 322 victims at a rate of 29.95. He will equal Bob Willis’ record. The latter took 325 wickets in 90 games. Ian Botham stands at the top of the heap with 383 wickets.
Number of matches England have played at Chester-le-Street. They have won all these games: by an innings & 69 runs against Zimbabwe in 2003, by an innings & 27 runs against Bangladesh in 2005, by seven wickets against West Indies in 2007 and by an innings & 83 runs also against West Indies in 2009.
Number of batsmen belonging to either England or Australia who are leading the scoring charts this calendar year. Michael Clarke (684 runs), Ian Bell (607), Jonathan Trott (603), Joe Root (573) and Alastair Cook (552).