Australian captain Ricky Ponting mounted a defensive rear-guard worthy of General Moore's retreat in front of Napoleon's troops (1808) in the Peninsular War to secure a draw at Old Trafford today, denying England victory in the third Ashes test.
It could be said that a draw was a fair result, acknowledging how finely-balanced the two teams are in this series (one win apiece, and this draw, with two matches to come) - neither side quite good enough to beat, and yet too good to be beaten by, the other on this occasion. It could also be said that had they not lost almost a whole day to rain, the match would not have ended in a draw; but then, rain disruption is all part of the game. Whatever - and disappointed though I am that England didn't take one more wicket to win the match and go 2:1 up - it was just about as exciting a test match as one could wish for.
And yet, I never like to see a side play a defensive game, in an attempt to reach a draw instead of chase a victory. At one point, when Ponting and Clarke were at the crease, Australia did have a go at chasing the winning target; but once Clarke's wicket fell, and left with the tail-end, Ponting fell back on a defensive game. At one point he even had words with Shane Warne, who - true to himself - was attacking the ball, ordering him to defend his wicket instead. And here is a difference in approach: for Warne it is not enough to not lose to England; he hates to not win against them. Whatever he may say on the record, I reckon he would have rather attacked the target and failed, confident that his side could come back from 1:2 down to win the series 3:2, than accept the draw. My Australian friends may disagree with this opinion (and I may even be wrong), but it is, after all, the way he bowls - not minding how many runs he gives away in taking wickets, because he knows that he has taken more wickets than any other cricketer in the world...
Are you a Ponting, or a Warne? On one occasion I came in to bat with my team needing 8 runs to win, and the other team needing one more wicket. I was told to play defensively, see out the over, and allow the other batsman to score the remaining runs. But it is not in my nature to play defensively. The first ball I faced, I knocked for 6. The second removed my bails. We lost, by 2 runs. And had I played defensively, yes, we might have won. But I'd rather give it a go and fail than play it safe and possibly survive. Every time.