Oz takes heart despite misery

Michael Clarke (AFP)
Michael Clarke (AFP)

Sydney - Australia might have lost the Ashes to England but the nation's media saw enough at Old Trafford to believe the tables can be turned when the rivalry heads Down Under later this year.

England retained the famous urn after rain meant the third Test ended in a draw on Monday, denying Australia the opportunity to claw back the series to 2-1 with two Tests to play.

After losing the first two Tests by 14 runs and 347 runs at Trent Bridge and Lord's respectively, Australia had England at 37 for three on the final day in Manchester, having set them 332 to win, before the weather shattered their chances.

"The consolation? Australia has proven itself here a seemingly more determined and united team than the one that meandered into the series on the back of four straight defeats in India," said the Sydney Daily Telegraph's Richard Hinds.

"And the knowledge that they will have to wait only a few months to get another chance to regain the Ashes, rather than the usual two years. This time on home turf.

"A week ago, you might have said Australia could play the Ashes in Michael Clarke's backyard and not have a prayer," he added.

"But having forced England to rely on stalling tactics and bad weather just to get a draw here, perhaps they can make their own luck."

Fairfax Media's Malcolm Knox bemoaned the weather spoiling what was shaping up to be an exciting last day, saying Australia looked the better side throughout the game.

"England's bowlers looked jaded and their senior top-order batsmen out of form. Their wicketkeeping and fielding was sloppy, their captaincy dull-witted," he said.

"Australia looked to be the young, vibrant, rising side, the new order. That was why the Blue on Monday washout was a pity: we could not find out if Australia had the steel to finish off a live Ashes Test match."

He too was looking ahead to when England travel to Australia for the return Ashes series, which gets under way in Brisbane in November.

"One thing is certain about the series in Australia, the pitches will be different," he said.

"England may still be good enough to win, whatever the conditions, but they will have to find a different way from how they have done it here. The elements will come into play: fire, air, earth, and even a little bit of water."

With Australia's batting finally firing at Old Trafford, in contrast to England's, The Australian newspaper's Wayne Smith said it boded well for the final two Tests in England and the return series on home soil.

"While Australia's batsmen are finally starting to show signs of getting their act together, England's star act of (Alastair) Cook, (Jonathan) Trott and Jonny Bairstow is starting to fall apart," he said.

"It's all happened too late to be of any help in the current Ashes series but, providing (Ryan) Harris, (Peter) Siddle and co keep them guessing for the remainder of the series, the core of England's batting will be riddled with doubt ahead of the Australian summer."

One consolation for Australia was that the result ended a run of six successive Test defeats, their worst for 29 years, and meant they avoided equalling their all-time record losing streak of seven set 1885-88.

The series, which could yet see the first drawn Test campaign between England and Australia since 1972, continues on Friday with the fourth Test at Chester-le-Street, the headquarters of northeast county Durham.

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