Bet Enthusiast followers probably had mixed feelings about the draw between England and Australia in the Third Test at Old Trafford. We advised a correct score bet on 3-1 to England so one way of looking at it is that the drawn match required for the bet to come in has now happened. However, the whole dynamics of the series have been influenced by the respective use of the decision review system (DRS).
Manchester has a reputation as being the capital city of rain in England. Without looking at detailed statistics I’m pretty certain that the city does not have significantly more rain than say Leeds or Birmingham. However, heavy and persistent rain from just after lunch on Monday meant England came out of a match that could have been lost with a draw.
For the first time in the series Australia put a potentially match winning score on the board in their first innings. England’s reply was good enough to avoid the follow on but after the first three days of the match the only side that could win it was Australia. They were in the process of putting England under serious pressure in the fourth innings of the match when the weather intervened.
Momentum is a major factor in sport, perhaps more so with tennis than cricket. However, Australia were bowling with great pace and penetration on Monday afternoon as they tried to win the match and keep alive their hopes of winning the Ashes. As it was a draw was enough for England to avoid defeat in the current series which means the Ashes are be retained.
The home side had reached just 37 for the loss of three wickets and with at least four hours of play remaining Australia had a great opportunity to win the match and stay in the contest for the Ashes. Alistair Cook was out for nought and Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen also lost their wickets before the total had reached 30. However, the rain began to fall and the Aussies could only watch from the stands and accept the series could now not be won.
England have not won the Ashes three times in succession since 1981. They need to avoid defeat in one of the two remaining matches, beginning in Durham this Friday. The match at Old Trafford is now gone but many will be speculate on how events would have transpired over the 72 overs that Australia could have bowled during the remainder of the match.
The next Test is the fourth of 10 matches between England and Australia over eight months. The next Ashes campaign begins in Brisbane in November as the second part of the unprecedented schedule of back-to-back series. Before then England have two opportunities to win the current series with the match in the north east followed by the Fifth Test at The Oval.
The weather forecast for the Durham area over the next week suggests the next match in the series could also be affected by the weather. Temperatures are expected to reach 20 degrees each day but there is a good chance of rain, especially from the third day onwards. England will be happier with the forecast as another drawn match would clinch the series.
In terms of the Bet Enthusiast selections for respective top bowlers and batsmen we are in a healthy position. Jimmy Anderson took 10 wickets in the first match and big scores from Michael Clarke and Joe Root have made those players favourites to score most runs for their side. If both sides each win one of the remaining matches the correct score bet will also be a winner.
On the face of it England have been much the better side this summer. The second match was won with something in hand but the opening contest in the series was won by the narrowest of margins and Australia were in great shape earlier this week before the rain began to fall in Manchester. The current state of play could also be different if Australia had used the DRS more effectively.
Having 10 straight Ashes Tests has meant more scrutiny for the elite group of four umpires eligible to stand in these matches. The Ashes series has focused minds on the decision review system but much of the controversy has been caused by umpiring errors. Both sides have faced questionable decisions but on balance England have suffered least from poor decisions and the use of the DRS.
There were three errors in the First Test, involving Ashton Agar’s stumping, Jonathan Trott’s lbw and Stuart Broad’s edge. Australia compounded the errors by referring to the third umpire at the wrong times. In the Second Test a catch off Ian Bell and Agar’s caught behind were two errors.
There were at least four debatable decisions at Old Trafford. England were the main beneficiaries of choosing when to refer to the umpire watching TV screens and decisions made on the basis of technology off the pitch. If Australia had enjoyed more luck and shown better judgement in these respects the series would probably be tied with all to play for over the next three weeks.
India is the only country that refuse to use the DRS. The argument against using it is that the technology is not perfect so why not leave it to the umpires to judge. For all the controversy the standard of umpiring has never been higher. Apparently, the top umpires get about 90% of decisions correct even without DRS.
A case can also be made for not using umpires in the middle to make lbw decisions. Even if the ball appears to be hitting the stumps the decision can still be not out if that was the umpire’s original call. As is stands the benefit of doubt favours the umpires when surely the players should be given more latitude in instances when it is unclear whether the ball would hit the stumps. In any case with a better approach to the use of DRS Australia could still be in a position to win the Ashes this summer.