What the papers say: the end or just the start?
A thought spared for Simon Kerrigan, unending praise for Stuart Broad and unfortunate obligation to the letter of the law characterise the media's summation of the Ashes' closing throes.
<b>John Townsend, in The Independent, reckons Australia can take plenty of consolation from an otherwise plighted series:</b> 'Good teams anticipate, identify and grasp the critical moments, which is why England retained the Ashes by a comfortable margin. Australia were playing catch-up from the instant they sacked their coach 16 days out from the first engagement.
'Of course, Australia can point to plenty of ill-fortune along the way – Stuart Broad's reprieve at Trent Bridge, the Chris Rogers full toss lbw at Lord's, Tony Hill, the Manchester rain. The reality is that the margin might be bloated but it is not mistaken.
'Australia's team profile at the end of this series is a marked improvement on the unbalanced lottery combinations that were overwhelmed in India earlier this year. Their biggest challenge now is to sustain the momentum of the past three matches when the return series starts in three months' time.'
<b>While Australia were arguably more consistent, England struck when it mattered most, insists Aaron Timms in The Guardian:</b> 'Stuart Broad, who gets about the cricket field like he's playing the on-screen role of an evil, sunken-eyed child genius who was raised on a diet of whipped cream and liver and has kept a jar collection of preserved rat brains on the mantelpiece of his bedroom since the age of 12, is alone among the England XI in presenting a straightforwardly dislikeable front to the world.
'He has embraced his role as Australia's chief tormentor with Blofeldian glee in this series; England can learn much from his example. If we are to be crushed in Australia as well, could we be crushed by more dependably villainous opponents?
'The serious point, if we need to insist on one, because let's be clear, it's been said by many others and is in any event quite bland, is that Australia and England have been incredibly closely matched throughout these Ashes. But Australia have been at their best when there's been seemingly nothing to play for; their passages of dominance have been timed to coincide almost perfectly with dead rubbers or the imminent arrival of rain.
'The English, meanwhile, have shuffled through whole sessions seemingly disengaged, before snapping thrillingly to life at the times where it has mattered most. Australia arguably won more days this series, on balance; but England won almost every decisive moment.
<b>A month to remember for Kevin Pietersen, indeed, reminds Paul Newman in the Daily Mail:</b> 'England made a mockery of all the accusations of negativity that had been thrown at them over both their over-rates and their scoring rates in a final Test where Australia have been desperate to inflict psychological blows on them.
'At the centre of it was the flamboyant figure of Pietersen who changed the whole complexion of the fifth Test on the last evening by reminding Australia that, when the force is with him, there is no better batsman in world cricket.
'Pietersen had scored the third slowest half-century of his career in the first innings but yesterday he hit the fastest by an Englishman in an Ashes Test, his 50 coming off 36 balls as England looked to be roaring towards the finishing line.
'Even when Pietersen was out for 62, with 10 overs left and 64 still needed, England looked sure to win, Jonathan Trott batting at his most fluent in this series to score 59 and then Bell finding a willing accomplish in spirited debutant Chris Woakes.
'Then, just as one of the great modern finishes seemed assured, cricket again proved itself the most frustrating of games to follow. It was like cutting short a Shakespeare play before the final act.'
<b>Malcolm Knox, in the Sydney Morning Herald, acknowledges the letter of the law – but suggests all and sundry are poorer for it:</b> 'And so cricket found itself again at a crossroads between entertainment and something (literally) darker, between an audience-chasing spectacle and a proxy clash of civilisations. And not for the first time, it was resolved, as a draw, by officials bound by the pettifogging precedents they themselves had set. Something like the European Commission without the shooting.
'But Test cricket has always been played on this uneasy junction, ever since the first properly representative match between Australia and England at this ground in 1880. It is a show – as Clarke was stating when he transformed a dreary scenario into pulsating theatre – but it is also a struggle between the representatives of two nations, whose relationship is as ambiguous and tense as any close kinship – as Clarke was stating when he pushed for the match to be abandoned.
'The result of the match was fair, by the way. England did not deserve to win any more than Australia deserved to lose. But it was another of those moments where one team showed a stronger nerve than the other, and it is solving that enigma that Australia will be looking to address between now and November.'
<b>The Telegraph's Paul Hayward spares a thought for poor Simon Kerrigan – and more:</b> 'There is a curious disconnect between this team and their public which Cook's men would do well to correct on the winter's tour to Australia. Pietersen's batting here in 2005 and Stuart Broad's bowling four years later were the rallying points in what felt like national rebirths. Now, for the most part, England go about the business of maintaining their superiority over Australia like a crack team of engineers.
'To the outside eye they are a closed society, as poor Simon Kerrigan probably discovered. They move about in hedgehog formation. They have their own codes and are suspicious of outsiders. The public can count their runs and wickets but know little of their characters.
'Managing the ball, devising ways to remove batsmen and making sure that someone always plays well enough to make up for the failures of others in the side are all now second nature. Australia have been sent home without a Test win for the first time since 1977. Such feats are not to be obscured by grumbles about how joyless they sometimes are.
'This final gave us a taste of how it could be. More joie de vivre and less calculation were on display. The punters who stuck with English cricket though the barren years should not have to put with a team being negative, prickly and remote.'
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