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Benaud astonished Aus can still win Ashes

"I want to see either England or Australia win the match.I don't want it to be a draw," said the Aussie.

india Updated: Sep 01, 2005 14:28 IST

Richie Benaud is "astonished" Australia still have a chance of retaining the Ashes after being outplayed by England in the last three Tests of an enthralling series.

Australia held on for a draw in the third Test at Old Trafford, a result that came in between tight England victories at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge.

That left England 2-1 up ahead of next week's fifth and final Test at The Oval where an Australia win would see them square the series and so retain the Ashes they've held for the last 16 years.

Former Australia captain Benaud, who led his country to three Ashes series wins in the late 1950s and early 60s before becoming a highly-respected television commentator, could not believe the series was still live.

"The astonishing thing is that Australia are still very close to England, and if they win at The Oval they will retain the Ashes," Benaud, 74, said onWednesday. "England have outplayed Australia in three of the Test matches."

"England were by far the better side at Edgbaston and Old Trafford - and then again at Trent Bridge," said Benaud, who as a leg-spinning all-rounder was the first player to complete the Test double of 2,000 runs and 200 wickets.

Forecasts suggest rain may play a major role at The Oval although Benaud for one hoped the weathermen were wrong.

"I want to see either England or Australia win the match. I don't want it to be a draw; it will be fitting if we can finish this great series with a result."

If England avoid defeat at The Oval, Ricky Ponting will become the first Australia captain to lose an Ashes series since Allan Border in 1986-87.

The pressure appeared to be getting to Ponting at Trent Bridge, where he lost his temper last week after he was run-out by substitute Gary Pratt.

His dismissal came following his frequent criticisms regarding England's repeated use of substitute fielders, which are within the series playing regulations, but which Ponting believes are an underhand way of giving the home side's fast bowlers extra rest periods.

Benaud agreed with match referee Ranjan Madugalle's decision to fine Ponting 75 percent of his match fee for but predicted the International Cricket Council (ICC) would look again at the rules covering substitute fielders.

"Ponting voiced his complaint at the wrong time," said Benaud. "The right time was before the match and before the series started - although I know he did that too.

"The situation where he was run out was irrelevant, because Simon Jones was off the field with an injury. But one thing that can be guaranteed is that the ICC will change this rule."

Current worldwide regulations allow any player to leave the field and be replaced by a sub for up to 15 minutes - while in this series an eight-minute limit has been agreed.

"What happened is perfectly legal. Even so, although I am not a betting man on cricket, I think the ICC will definitely change this law," Benaud said.

Looking at the two teams Benaud, whose latest book, 'My Spin on Cricket', is published next month, added: "England are certainly on the up, and the Australia selectors have some work to do."

"But in Australia there are plenty of good young players around. If Australia are beaten this time they will fight back very quickly."

"What is not clear is how many other English players are good enough to come in if someone is unavailable."

After 42 years commentating on cricket in England, Benaud told the CricInfo website Thursday that the Oval Test would be his last match as a broadcaster in England.

Next year satellite broadcaster Sky, the company founded by Rupert Murdoch, takes over the contract for live international cricket coverage in England.

Benaud, in Australia, has been the cornerstone of Channel Nine's cricket broadcasts, a company owned by Murdoch's rival media mogul Kerry Packer.

First Published: Sep 01, 2005 14:28 IST