Ashes to Ashes

Ashes

When I lived in Sydney, I spent many entertaining days at the Sydney Cricket Ground, seeing a procession of international cricket teams put to the sword by the likes of Warne, McGrath, Ponting, Gilchrist, Hayden et al.

On a number of sobering occasions, I saw hopeful English teams rock up for an Ashes tour, but by the time the 5th test arrived in Sydney, the series was usually long since conceded, along with all semblance of competitiveness. Or dignity.

It takes a particularly tough touring team to take anything away from an Ashes tour down under and until the last few years, that toughness was either non-existent or else a thin veneer that was soon burnt off under the scorching Australian sun.

But then, (perhaps sensing I might be making my last trip to the SCG), something changed back in late 2010/early 2011.

An uncharacteristically robust English team turned up and blitzed the opposition, saving the best until last – a swashbuckling performance at the SCG, witnessed by around 20,000 delirious English supporters, seeing the Australian team reduced to a quivering wreck.

Now, back in the UK again, I am experiencing my first down under tour from this side of the world for many years and it is fair to say the experience has not been a pleasant one.

England’s pre-test optimism lasted about one day and since then, it has been a return to the bad old days as player after player buckles under the relentless pressure and starts assuming the body language of the defeated.

Given the inhospitable time differences involved (play beginning around midnight GMT), my best efforts to follow the series generally involve an early morning ritual of waking up, wondering briefly if overnight England have shown some fighting spirit before logging on and discovering once more that sure enough, they haven’t.

Indeed, the whole series has had a strangely retro feel to it with England resuming the customary role of sacrificial lambs, while Australia appear to be getting back to their arrogant, winningest, sledging-heavy best.

Even the appearances of certain Australian players reinforce this rather nostalgic notion, continuing to sport their moustaches long after the end of ‘Movember’, serving merely to make them look like either a 2nd World War Spitfire pilot or a member of Village People.

I’m writing this post following (yet) another English batting collapse overnight and awaiting the inevitability of Australia assuming a 4-0 series lead after tonight, before rolling into Sydney next week to complete the inevitable 5-0 whitewash.

However, I find myself remarkably sanguine about the outcome.

Maybe it’s that I never expected England to retain their ascendant position for long, maybe I expected the wounded Australians to come fighting back, or maybe I’m just a bit jaded with this whole Ashes thing, what with 10 matches in just 6 months.

Or then again, maybe I just felt that there was something a bit vulgar and un-English about winning all the time and therefore it now feels a lot more comfortable in our more familiar role of underachievers.

Talking of which, when does the Football World Cup begin?

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