There’s a spark missing from this Ashes series
And so it begins, although it seems strangely anticlimactic. The reason for that could be because of the two week gap between matches, which was the norm until a few years ago when International tours became compressed affairs so the Test specialists could be shipped off and the one day specialists freighted in.
Now we add the Twenty 20 specialists to the mix as well, so we’re lucky they don’t run the 25 days of the 5 Tests consecutively, or play a Test during the day and a T20 fixture at night as a double header.
We used to enjoy the fact that five Tests took five and a half months to play during which time the players would play a couple of counties between Tests, get to travel to Scotland or Ireland for a couple of
beers matches on a local village green and come home in time to have a week’s rest before the first Shield game started.
Another reason might be the weather forecast, almost ensuring the match was going to be a draw before it started, although I’m sure the fine weather that greeted the players, spectators and viewers was a huge surprise to all. Additionally the pitch at the Oval, which hasn’t been the same since they sold the naming rights to a beer that no-one in Australia even drinks, has become a road.
There aren’t enough pitches that give a fast bowler much joy any more, so to see the pitch that Devon Malcolm once wreaked so much havoc on become as flat as Gwen Stefani is a crying shame. You knew that even though the series was well and truly over that the Oval Test would at least give some fired-up fast bowler a chance to settle a few ledgers after being belted around all summer by flat track bullies. Admittedly the late flurry of wickets on Day 1 does open up the possibility of a result but a strong Day 2 from Australia with the bat and the series will be well and truly over by 4am Saturday morning (AEST).
The emphatic nature of the Australian victory at Edgbaston tended to bring a sense of inevitability to the 5th Test even before a ball has been bowled. Despite all the talk it was inevitable that Australia would name an unchanged XI as that’s the way the captain operates.
Despite the claims Ricky Ponting has to be considered one of the greatest batsmen of all time, he never seems to have been truly warmed to or embraced as a great captain by the Australian public. Some of that may be his fault, but some of it almost certainly isn’t.
Part of the issue seems to be that, early on, his captaincy was able to rely on the approach C. Montgomery Burns once took as coach of the Springfield Power Plant softball team. Mr Burns called out to ‘ring-in’ Darryl Strawberry, “Hey you, Strawberry! Hit a home run!” and claimed credit for the tactic when Strawberry delivered. Replace Strawberry with Hayden, Gilchrist, McGrath or Warne and home run with a century or a wicket and you get the analogy quickly enough. It’s hardly Ponting’s fault that he inherited a team with such talent, but the end result was that his ability to lead a side where he had to rely on astute captaincy to manufacture results beyond the ability of his team was not tested. That’s not the case any more.
It stands to reason that the replacements for the retired greats were going to be unable to live up to the standard of those who preceded them, at least in the short term. Does anyone remember how long it took Australia to recover from the retirements of Lillee, Marsh & Greg Chappell? Australia have recovered far quicker this time that they did then and from arguably a greater combined loss of talent.
Even bearing all of the above in mind though, the real reason it feels different this time is because England were on top four years ago so it was different. They had a wonderful four pronged pace attack and they were expertly led by Michael Vaughan. Not only that, they managed to win despite playing Ashley Giles in their XI. Since then though, things have returned to what has largely been the status quo since Captain Grumpy’s team regained the Ashes in 1989.
What captured our imaginations, and those of the English fans, was a competitive series in which England emerged triumphant – because of how unusual it was. Imagine what would have happened four years ago had Lee and Kasprowicz hung on and scored the winning runs at Edgbaston (which would have put Australia 2-0 up after 2 Tests). It’s easy to forget how close that series actually was. This series, Lord’s aside, has been completely dominated by Australia. I’m still watching it (well duh!), but I’m not glued to every ball like I was four years ago.
When do we play India again?
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