The Battle of the Ashes

England v Australia 5th Day 2nd Ashes Test @ L...Image by 6tee-zeven via Flickr
England's victory in the last Ashes series in 2009
means they are defending the Ashes in Australia
this summer.
I find myself in the rare position of reading Australian newspaper commentators praying for rain ahead of day 5 of the second Ashes Test in Adelaide tomorrow. This has been a tough year for Australian sport.

Notwithstanding Ian Botham’s supreme confidence that this English side will be the first since 1986/87 to retain the Ashes on Australian soil, my own expectations were for another Australian victory. Australia got off to a good start too, with Peter Siddle’s Hat-trick and Brad Haddin and Mike Hussey’s three-ton partnership in Brisbane, I was able to rattle off a gloating email to some colleagues in the UK.

“Doesn’t this seem familiar?”

But I spoke too soon! England fought back with a determination I don’t remember seeing in an England squad in Australia. After England finally managed to dispatch first Haddin and then Hussey they pulled themselves together and dismissed the rest of the team for 481 - this was after having reached 5/450 at the height of the Haddin/Hussey partnership. Even as my emails were traversing cyber-space I was blithely ignoring the ample evidence of English resolve.

The next day proved un-ignorable. England’s opening batsmen Alistair Cook and Andrew Strauss together produced a century each. The day after, another two centuries, and only 1 wicket. Alistair Cook himself proved invincible to all the attacks of Australia’s bowlers. By the final day of the first test, far from thinking that this test was following a rather familiar pattern of the last two decades, I thought that England were being overly cautious in not putting Ponting’s men in to bat earlier and having a crack at winning the test.

Ricky Ponting at a training session at the Ade...Image via Wikipedia
Australian Captain Ricky Ponting has been feeling
the pressure in this Ashes series
So how did we get to this role-reversal? How did we get so far from the familiar the situation that I can recall from childhood, where if I went home to my older brother after losing a game in any sporting competition, my “did my best” defence was only met with jeers and comparisons with Mike Atherton, whereas now it seems like it’s the Australians who are full of excuses for their poor performance (some commentators, oblivious to what blind freddy could see, are claiming that the pitch has been the cause of these indomitable English batsmen).

Now this morning Australia are 4 for 238 and looking to the skies for rain to interrupt the game and save them from a defeat at the hands of the English.
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Arto said...

Hey Tom!
Was I that mean?! :-)
I don't remember paying you out for your sporting efforts... Maybe occasionally if I was playing & Andre or Kirill were there too... If so, I apologize unreservedly! :-)

Chibi Janine said...

Go England, I don't like sport much but there is national pride LOL.

JJ said...

I must learn more of this sport.

Nick said...

Thanks for the update. Don't get to following it much now I live in the US - but go Aussie go.

Akseli Koskela said...

Arto, no you weren't mean. You just had a ruthlessly severe assessment of the English cricket team and had no time for excuses.

Chibi J., it looks like England are going to returning home victorious, thus far they have undoubtedly been the better team!

JJ, I definitely encourage you to try to learn more about cricket. I'm not sure if any sport has as long traditions as cricket - although your baseball might come close. Melbourne had its first cricket club within two years of its founding as a city and the Ashes have been fought over by Australia and England since 1882 - when Australia was still just six colonies of the British Empire.

Nick, thanks for leaving a comment. I hope my post has enlightened you a little as to the state of play!

Akseli Koskela said...

Thanks for the comments everyone! Sorry I've been away from the computer all week and haven't had the opportunity to respond to any one of them.