MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - Cheers from a handful of drenched fans and a presentation held indoors hardly matched the glory of retaining the Ashes in recent series but England captain Alastair Cook was just happy to get away with a patchy draw.
England, in trouble at 37 for three chasing 332 after lunch on Monday’s final day before rain intervened, will keep the urn as holders after the third test stalemate at Old Trafford meant they stay 2-0 up in the series with two matches left.
Fireworks at the Oval and sprinkler dances at the MCG and SCG marked England’s success in 2009 and 2011, but in traditionally rainy Manchester the sprinkler was in the sky.
“If you’d have said 14 days ago to me that you’d be sitting here and it might have rained the last day but you’d have retained the Ashes after three games I’d have snapped your hand off,” Cook told a news conference.
British sport is enjoying a purple patch much like the 2012 UK summer with Andy Murray winning Wimbledon, Chris Froome the Tour de France and the British and Irish Lions vanquishing Australia. Now the Ashes are staying in England.
British Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted: “And to think some people criticise the British weather. Congratulations to our cricketers on retaining the Ashes.”
However, Cook is not satisfied with merely retaining the Ashes because of a drawn series, he wants to make sure they beat an improving Australia outright for the third straight time.
“It’s showing this test match how competitive Australia are,” he said. “We need to up our levels a bit at Durham (in the fourth test starting on Friday).”
Cook, who played down reports some players were late to the ground on Monday, hailed Kevin Pietersen for his first innings 113 which made him England’s record scorer in all formats.
“That’s a great honour to have as a player and a great achievement. He’s a great player, you can put him in that category now,” the captain added.
Pietersen featured in yet another DRS controversy this test when he was given out on Monday after appearing to edge behind for eight despite no hot spot showing up on the review.
Cook hopes the ICC will clarify the situation, with hotspot seeming fallible and no one sure if third umpires should be giving the benefit of the doubt to the batsman or to the on-field umpire who made the original decision.
“Both sides, especially in this game, have been quite confused with some of the decisions. In practice DRS has worked really well... apart from maybe this series,” he said.
“I don’t know if it’s just because it’s the Ashes the cricketing gods have thrown up some inconclusive evidence. Hopefully the ICC can iron them out.”
Australia captain Michael Clarke also said he was “confused” by DRS but was more upset with the English weather.
“You know when you come to the UK that rain may play a part during the series,” he smiled.
“We played very well in this test match, the team did a wonderful job.”
Having avoided the dreaded 5-0 and come close to winning in Manchester, Clarke’s aim is now to level the series 2-2 before the reverse encounter Down Under starts in November.
“If we play with the same attitude and same intent, I‘m confident,” he said.
Editing by Martyn Herman