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Final morning provides much-needed entertainment

Posted On 25-08-2013

After the circumspect England batting of the third day and the washed out day that followed, the Investec Ashes series reached its final day in jollier fashion. As England made merry with 103 runs in a morning session restricted to 90 minutes, at nearly five an over, Australia took three wickets and the crowd shared in the fun, even James Faulkner would not have demanded his money back.

Faulkner's jibe that refunds had been in order after England's defensive approach on an interminable Friday had been well aimed, judging by the outcry it caused in social media among England supporters.

Once England had passed the follow-on figure, and removed Australia's last, faint chance of winning the Oval Test, the match became the precursor to impending England celebrations. They did not agonise over it, as those who witnessed their third-day plod might have anticipated, they scampered there, ticking off the additional 42 runs they needed within 12 overs, and then putting their minds to not just winning the series but winning a few hearts and minds.

Not every England player had an entirely successful morning. The Test had more significance for Chris Woakes than most, with the chance to convey the impression that he could hold down a spot batting at No. 6 (he could start by batting there for his county), but he had moved from 15 to 25 when he drove hard at Ryan Harris and was caught at second slip. Another boundary, off Mitchell Starc, had flown conveniently over gully.

There was time for a couple more duvet-contented cover drives from Ian Bell, at the end of the most successful series of his life, before he gave Faulkner a wicket when Brad Haddin took a sparkling leg-side catch, a wicket which left Haddin only one victim short of Rod Marsh's record 28 dismissals in a Test series.

His chances of equalling the record were not enhanced by Stuart Broad, who lost his middle stump as Starc swung one back a shade to defeat non-existent footwork.

Graeme Swann, in frisky mood, drove Starc resoundingly through the off side, sounded the lunch gong prematurely as he took a ringing blow on the helmet from the same bowler, but showed no ill effects as he skipped down the pitch to Nathan Lyon's offspin and planted him in the crowd. Eighteen came off the over and, as the crowd cheered, they had been treated to more light entertainment in three minutes than Friday's gathering had witnessed in an entire day.

There was purpose in the morning session, too, for Matt Prior, who has followed up his England player-of-the-year award with an unproductive batting summer. He has not been helped by the slow, dry pitches, he has struggled against Peter Siddle's slanted attack and, when Australia have fed his strength square of the off side and packed the area with fielders, he has obligingly holed out more than once.

Prior was determined to provide something gratifying to bring him sustenance ahead of the return series and by lunch he was unbeaten on 35, cutting with a