September 22, 2018
Europe

How the Ashes were won: the WACA’s final moments

Related Story: Australia reclaims the Ashes with thumping innings victory at the WACARelated Story: Smith shows his emotion after leading Aussies to Ashes series victory

Day five at the WACA. A strange half-light across the ground, sunshine a fleeting and irregular visitor.

A tension in the air, not just from the scudding bands of cloud that threaten further rain and disruption. Riders on the storm.

Yellowed patches of grass around the edge of the square. Cracks and blemishes in the pitch. The bowling run-ups, marked in indecipherable blue scrawls like Sanskrit lettering. English batsmen who can't read the bowlers.

If you enjoy the art of radio, what better than watching at close quarters as Jim Maxwell calls an Ashes win.

He famously handled Edgbaston in 2005, as Michael Kasprowicz gloved a short ball to the keeper. This contest is also nine wickets down, but that's where the similarities end.

Here there's a series on the line. A loss held at bay only by England's last stand, as Jimmy Anderson keeps getting in line with the ball, trying to support Chris Woakes.

Hit with a bouncer, the first ball he faces. Square in the helmet in a horrible clash. Shaking it off and continuing, defusing further short balls on the way.

James Anderson is hit on the helmet by a ball.

The partnership lasts 27 deliveries. Not much in the greater scheme, but on the day each of those 27 deliveries matters.

"The defence, the courage of Anderson appreciated by a lot of those English supporters in the Inverarity Stand down there," says Maxwell.

"He survives, so Woakes survives another over. England linger."

"Every over's being treated as a victory," replies Dirk Nannes.

"It's not really going to get them anywhere, but they're not handing the wicket away. No-one wants to be that highlight: Australia win the Ashes and there you are, getting dismissed down the other end."

"Two more overs before tea," muses Maxwell. "Can England survive until then?"

Well, no.

"Cummins, wants to finish the game. He bowls to Woakes, it's a bouncing ball…"

Aptly, Australia's new golden boy gets his own spot on the memorabilia tape. Short, attempted uppercut, and Tim Paine behind the stumps rushes at the umpire brandishing the intercepted ball with a cry of joy.

"He's out! A wicket for Australia to finish the match and regain the Ashes. England all out for 218. Australia have won by an innings and 41 runs.

"They have done what Australia seems to do so often, playing against England down under. Their ninth win in a row in Test cricket on this ground.

"Steve Smith's applauding the crowd and his teammates for this exceptional performance … Woakes the last man out, and Cummins finishes with the figures of 3 for 53."

Steve Smith waves to the crowd after clinchin the Ashes

The Australians converge in a writhing knot of white-clad limbs. Anderson and Woakes wait some distance away, each with helmet in hand and bat under arm, to shake hands. The rest of England's team files out from the dressing room, led by Root.

This the defining moment, one that everyone in this Australian team will take with them forever. Three wins from three games, a series won at the earliest possible chance.

The weather that for a while threatened to disrupt Australia only ended up toying with England.

The previous afternoon, fourth-day crowds leaving the abandoned final session were drenched by rain that paid no need to bus shelters. After dark, I drove up the Kwinana Freeway in a Captain Nemo crawl.

All through the night, rain came down in chunks, like the sky was dropping dog food straight out of the tin. Thundering falls drew us from sleep at strange late hours, before fading back to sprinkles.

The final morning was delayed until lunch, then later. Players warmed up and were sent away. Entered the field and were turned back. Groundsmen wrestled with tarps and pegs and the very concept of precipitation.

Covers had leaked, patches were damp, more squalls kept moving through.

A groundsman in mid-air after being knocked off his feet by the flying pitch cover.

But in the end it didn't matter. There was always the feeling a good hour could take care of England, and that a good session certainly would.

Jonny Bairstow was dudded by the sodden pitch, and the last six wickets fell for 85, a sad pattern from England's series repeating. Josh Hazlewood no longer brooks much argument.

As some people posted online, the player of the series award could be split between the national selectors. They were right, we were wrong. There are still issues with the process, but every choice turned into a triumph.

Picking Mitchell Marsh was like Woody Harrelson sinking that full-court shot in White Men Can't Jump. A success that couldn't have been more spectacular.

Tim Paine was more like a perfect free-throw game, a series of one-pointers from the foul line that added up over the longer term.

"I've just had to take my parachute off from parachuting into the third Test and winning an Ashes series," Marsh beamed to ABC Grandstand.

With another day to think about his defining innings of 181, it had sunk in.

The previous night he'd spent, "just lying in bed, and I kept on looking at the scorecard. I couldn't really believe it. That's literally what I did when I got home the other night. No highlights. Just staring at the scorecard".

It was a beautifully sweet and simple thing to hear a professional athlete say. Something that evokes teenagers and weekend dreams.

Steve Smith was similar, still choked up when he came out to speak to Gerard Whateley after a few minutes in the change rooms.

External Link: Steve Smith talks to Grandstand

"It's still sitting with me a bit actually," Smith said.

"I was crying in the sheds a bit just a minute ago, everything just sort of came out. We've worked incredibly hard.

"My first series as captain of an Ashes series, I really wanted to leave my mark and do some really great things.

"I'm proud of my performances but I'm really proud of everyone in that room.

"Our bowlers, to take 20 wickets in every game. We haven't won a toss, we've probably had the toughest of the conditions to bowl in."

Australia wins the Ashes

After the interview, Whateley said: "We've got the guard down at last. That's Steve Smith, and I've been waiting to see that for ages."

So have a lot of people. The single-minded focus was allowed to drop for a minute. An unheralded team full of questioned players had matched the feat of previous Ashes teams at home.

Johnson and Haddin and Harris four years ago. Gilchrist and Hussey and Warne in 2006. McGrath and the Waugh brothers in 2003. All had sealed the Ashes at Perth.

This latest edition of the Australian Test side now joins them. With momentum on its side, Melbourne and Sydney could become a carnival. The current England side will keep fighting to avoid that.

But for now, it doesn't matter.

"Right now I just want to celebrate what we've just done," smiled Smith. "We'll worry about Melbourne when we get there."

This is the time for celebration, and that time may roll on across quite a few days to come.

If Mitch Marsh finds himself bored with the scorecard at any time, he might want to click onto Jim's closing call. It's one worth reliving.

External Link: Ashes Third Test WACA scorecard

Original Article

The post How the Ashes were won: the WACA's final moments appeared first on News Wire Now.

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