Alastair Cook lifted the Ashes urn after one of the great sporting anticlimaxes on a remarkable Sunday at The Oval, as bad light stopped play – with the floodlights shining – when England were within 21 runs of a famous and historic 4-0 series win.
"It's totally unsatisfactory the way the game ended," said Giles Clarke, chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, after Australia's captain, Michael Clarke, had exchanged angry words with the umpire Aleem Dar on the field – later expressing his unhappiness that the umpire had made physical contact with him – and then been roundly booed, with all the match officials, at the post-match formalities by a noisy proportion of the capacity crowd.
Clarke said he expected the International Cricket Council's chief executive, Dave Richardson, to amend the regulations at the next global meeting in October to give umpires greater flexibility – whereas as things stand, as Cook conceded, they did not have any choice.
Half-centuries from Kevin Pietersen and Jonathan Trott had fired England on course to chase down a victory target of 227 in 44 overs after a bold and enterprising declaration by Clarke had set up a meaningful finish. But at 7.36pm Dar and his colleague Kumar Dharmasena ruled, after consulting their light meters, that the conditions were no longer playable. England were desperate to continue but Clarke had complained on several occasions that his fielders were struggling to see the ball.
"I just asked the question why we haven't got the meter out here [in the middle] and he [Dar] took a few minutes to get it out," Australia's captain said. "It was a lot darker than when we came off for bad light [in the third Test] at Old Trafford."
Asked about his angry reaction to Dar, he added: "I can't remember what I said but I remember Aleem touching me and I asked him not to. If I touched him, I'd be in a lot of trouble."
Matt Prior, who had walked all the way to the middle following the dismissal of Ian Bell, expressed England's frustration to the umpires. "For me there's been a lot of talk the whole series of people coming and watching, and when you've got a packed house it would have been good for them to see a finish," he said.
"It might have been different if we were nine down! It's a shame we couldn't play the whole game and win 4-0 - but 3-0 will do."
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