| Benaud: Thank you
London, Sept. 12: The Oval erupted with joy this evening when Michael Vaughan, the England captain, was handed the small urn containing the symbolic “Ashes” of English cricket after a drawn fifth Test ensured that Australia were beaten 2-1 for the first time in 18 years.
In unprecedented scenes, ticker tape showered down on the victorious England players, who will take part in a victory parade on an open-top bus tomorrow, ending in Trafalgar Square.
All-rounder Andrew Flintoff was declared both the man of the series and the England man of the series, while Australian spinner Shane Warne was nominated as the Australian man of the series.
The Australian captain, Ricky Ponting, was gracious in defeat. “England were just too good for us,” he said.
In the aftermath of England’s Ashes win, the country will bathe in the glow of feel-good for weeks to come. In a country where soccer stars are celebrities, the new glamour boys may be Vaughan and his team.
The fifth Test ended in a draw when the Australian reply to England’s 335 was called off because of bad light. The game was put beyond Australia today by the batting of Kevin Pietersen, who was declared man of the match for his 158.
But in the way unexpected drama occurs in Test cricket, for which the script can never be written in advance, Richie Benaud was just winding up his final stint in the commentary box in England when Pietersen fell, bowled by Glenn McGrath.
Benaud, who was saying farewell after 42 years, was not especially emotional or even verbose, unlike Geoffrey Boycott, who was in the commentary box with him.
As usual, Benaud, who will be 75 on October 6, had been sparse with his words. His philosophy has been never to add unnecessary words when the pictures tell the story.
“Full house here today,” he said, referring to the 23,000 crowd lucky enough to get into the Oval. “It took a while to get in (because of extra security checks), once they got in they hardly moved.”
There had been scares about a possible England defeat at certain points during the day. But ironically it took a South African, Pietersen, to rescue England just when it seemed Ricky Ponting’s men had a chance of squaring the series.
There had been a lot of music during the day, including the patriotic Jerusalem and Land of Hope and Glory, said Benaud. He had very much liked another piece of music best ' Trying to say goodbye.
This was the cue for him to say goodbye, too. “Thank you for having me.”
It had been an absolute delight doing it for 42 years. “I have enjoyed every moment of it, going into every drawing room.”
The time was just after 5 pm and the shadows were lengthening across the Oval and over the new stand, which, Benaud said, added “a lovely touch to the ground”. Just as he was handing over the microphone to the next pair, Pietersen was bowled.
Benaud was to the point. “308 for eight. Too late for Australia.”
As the batsman returned to the pavilion, he added: “Deafening roar (for Pietersen) if ever there was one.”
With that, Benaud was gone. In the commentary box, there was a round of applause for Benaud, reported Mark Nicholas, who took over.
The departure of Pietersen and Benaud was “a double whammy”.
There was a farewell for Shane Warne, too, as he left the ground after England was bowled out for 335. Warne took six for 124.
He doffed his hat as he left the ground, with McGrath beside him ' the pace bowler had taken 3 for 85.
“We will not see Warne play Test cricket again in England,” commented Michael Atherton, the former England captain. It’s unlikely McGrath will play either.
The camera cut to the English dressing room, where Warne’s close friend, Pietersen was applauding.
“It has been that kind of series,” said Atherton.
As Warne received his award today, Atherton, who presided over the presentation ceremony, described the spinner as an all-time great.
“The word ‘great’ is overused,” he said. “We won’t see his like again.”
Those who have followed the series, which began with an easy Australian win in the first Test at Lord’s, believe they will not live to see another contest that will be as closely fought and exciting. At critical moments, grown England men were reported to have forgotten their famous reserve and cowered behind sofas.