Australian hopes washed away as England retain urn
A drawn Test due to rain is a drab way for England to retain the Ashes in record time, but Alastair Cook and his team will take them while the going is good after Australia at last found enough bite to draw English blood.
A wet Monday in Manchester is nobody's ideal for cricketing glory and only a smattering of bedraggled fans hung on to glimpse Cook spraying the champagne.
Compared to the singing and cheering hordes who turned out in Melbourne two-and-a-half years ago and the Oval in 2009, it was as if England's captain had won a prize for best cake at the village fete.
This was the third successive series that England have held the Ashes, a feat last accomplished between 1953-56. Cook's side are 2-0 up with two to play, and will want to seal the series victory in the next Test which begins in Chester-le-Street this Friday.
This time it took England 14 days to keep possession of the Ashes, the fewest ever needed at home in the era of five-day Tests.
After a largely dry morning in which England were made to look distinctly vulnerable, rain returned three balls after lunch to have the final word – which was 'draw'.
Not for the first time this summer, England's top order looked shaky, as Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle added frenetic purpose to their propulsions.
Cook was lbw to Harris for nought.
Jonathan Trott was almost lbw to Harris when on nine, but the umpire's call saved him when Australia reviewed, despite Hawk-Eye having the ball strike the outside half of leg stump. He soon tickled Siddle down the leg side and was caught by Brad Haddin.
Kevin Pietersen's return to form in the first innings would have been a welcome sight but his record in second innings for England has been patchy for a while. The 68 he made at Trent Bridge was his sole half-century in a second innings for two years.
His dismissal, caught behind groping at one off Siddle, brought a review from him after Tony Hill had given him out, and then ire, after the TV umpire upheld the decision on minimal evidence from the Decision Review System.
It might have been a pivotal moment had Root also been held by Michael Clarke off Siddle and the weather stayed dry, but its poignancy will be limited to just another misgiving over Hot-Spot, which has been discredited in this match.
England's batsmen have been 30-3 or worse in three of their last four innings, but Root and Bell held fast long enough to see England past lunch when the conclusive rain band arrived to seal Australia's fate.
Two Australian teams of recent vintage managed to retain the Ashes in 11 and 13 days, in 2001 and 2002-03, but those contained several all-time greats of the game.
This one is more modest but their ability to come back from their abject showing at Lord's should not be underestimated and might yet have a bearing on the rest of the series. (© Daily Telegraph, London)