Ashes to Ashes, dust to dust

First there was fear. Then uncertainty. Followed by delight. Which flowed through optimism, into the realms of expectancy. But doubt crept in. Confidence ebbed. Fear returned before happiness worked its way into a crescendo: England won the Ashes!!!

That last test was a bit of a roller coaster. Like a horror film baddie, Australia simply refused to give up the fight against impossible odds until the final blow was cast. Ponting was bloodied and bruised, his men, heads bowed in defeat to the poms. Somehow, we managed to sneak the series 2-1 and regain the Ashes we so heroically won back in 2005. The memory of the 06/07 series wiped from our minds way before this year started, the England fans revelled in seeing the cockiest of all nations once again beaten by the one team they hate to lose against.

But fair play to the Aussies. They’re naturally cocky because quite simply they are usually good at pretty much whatever they do. They may not be blessed with great footballing talent, but their cricket and rugby teams have dominated their sports for long periods, whilst England flatter to hold the limelight for anything longer than a blink in time. An inexperienced team came to England and outplayed us in the majority of innings, but just lost out on the few that mattered. Ponting took a lot of stick personally, but aside from a few questionable selection decisions, led from the front and was superb with his bat. Despite being clearly gutted, he spoke graciously after the match, knowing full well he was going to return home to face the music in his cricket-mad homeland.

As for England, it was job done, mission accomplished. We had our luck on the way (particularly batting first on the dust bowl that was the Oval) but we battled well when the press had their knives out. Strauss in particular was excellent – solid decisions, on the whole, and although not as potent with the bat as his counter-part, did well when it was needed. Swanny and Broad shone throughout, proving there’s a bright future both in bowling and the lower-order batting. Freddie may not have been the departing hero he and everyone so wished for, but his five-for at Lord’s and his amazing run-out of Ponting were undoubtedly key moments. And who can forget Monty and Anderson’s last stand at Cardiff that would have made Custer proud?

But enough of the report. How was it for me? Well, it was never going to be as good as 2005, when we hadn’t won for so long. Cardiff was pure relief and joy at seeing the unlikely lads survive the circling Aussie sharks to snatch a draw. Yeah, the “legal” time-wasting was a bit embarrassing, but it was fun to see the agitated Aussies whine.

I was in an important meeting at a customer site when the Lord’s test was on, wondering how I could sneak a look on the ol’ iPhone for the update without anyone watching. The clocked ticked on as I sweated through my presentation and the knowledge we might be blowing it. Finally, I had my chance – wahoo! A 115-run victory!! Get in.

Edgbaston then made me realise the hated side of cricket – the rain. Do you know of any other sport where the weather is so critical to the result? Can you imagine a 3-3 thriller at Anfield suddenly being declared a draw after 70 minutes because it’s been a bit drizzly for a while? Play in wellies, I say.

Headingley? It was like being in a time-warp, back to the bad old days of collapses of earthquake proportion (which, let’s face it, seem to be as frequent as a Tokyo tremor). Pathetic. Every batsman looked as nervous as an Upton Park steward seeing the recent cup draw, as the Aussies ripped us apart and made us look like schoolboys. One win and we’d have the Ashes, but now it seemed to be Panic City as we analysed who would fall and who would come in to replaced the lame.

I was very nervous for the last test. Semi-confident after our first innings, I was thrilled when my mate Chief mailed me at work as Australia suddenly began their transmogrification into their own inept rivals from the last test.  Up came the BBC Sports website (in the background, of course) and I shared in his delight as the wicket icon kept appearing in the automatic updates. Aussie+crumble is not two words you often find associated. I was on the phone to him on Sunday when the ball clipped its short way to Cook’s hands for the final wicket at the Oval. “Yes!!! We done it!” I didn’t quite know at the time who was bowling or who got bowled but I didn’t care; I was ecstatic. If only I was back down under…

 

I’ll leave it to Swann to sum it all up :”Well, it’s a rubbish game really, isn’t it?”

Maybe, at times, but it can also be magnificent entertainment. We got that little urn back… and that’s all that matters right now.

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