Ashes memories of England still burn
This week's 2013 Ashes dates announcement has brought back bad memories (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)
The image is still there. Burnt into the brain. The sight of England’s captain Michael Vaughan, surrounded by his laughing men, holding up the replica urn at The Oval in September 2005.
It was only seven years ago, but it’s now difficult to remember that there was once a great Australian side that ripped the English apart on their lovely ovals.
The English grounds, nestled in their quaint surroundings, were once a joy to behold. Not now.
The 2005 series was one of the great Ashes contests, which made it worse to lose. The next English series in 2009 produced another close fought battle, and another heartbreaking loss.
I had a sense of foreboding about 2005. My fears were initially allayed by McGrath’s destructive performance at Lord’s in the first Test.
Then, on the morning of the second test at Edgbaston, he stepped on a cricket ball while playing a casual game of rugby (or was it league? Some have said it was soccer, others Aussie rules) and ruined his ankle.
But Lee and Kasprowicz (replicating the heroics of Border and Thompson in 1983) almost stole the match with a magnificent last wicket stand of 59, only for Kasprowicz to be incorrectly given out 3 runs short of victory.
The third Test at Old Trafford was remarkable, firstly, for the simultaneous blossoming of the previously insipid Vaughan (scoring 166 in quick time ) and the mysterious disintegration of Jason Gillespie (1/114 off 19 overs. In the 2nd innings he was removed permanently after conceding 23 runs in 4 overs).
And secondly, Lee – in conjunction this time with McGrath – had to survive 4 overs to save the match.
With the series at 1-1 England scraped home by 3 wickets in the fourth Test. The draw at The Oval gave them the Ashes.
England haven’t been doing very well lately. They were abysmal against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates, and drew the series in Sri Lanka.
However I watched them against the West Indies in the first Test at Lords, and they each had the smug smile of a winner – the sort that can quickly transform into a contemptuous scowl when the opposition tries to assert itself. I’d seen the expression before, of course, in our own dominant teams.
As a side note, they were supplying a constant stream of young athletic substitute fielders – Broad went off after tweaking something delicate in his boyish body – which for the commentators brought back mirthful memories (and footage) of an angry Ponting being run out by substitute Gary Pratt at Trent Bridge in 2005.
Comprising three excellent bowlers who can also bat (Broad 28 avg, Bresnan 40 avg and Swann 21 avg) and our nemesis James Anderson, this English outfit can be a formidable one.
There’s no doubt that our batsmen will struggle in England against those bowlers but I believe our attack can be equally lethal.
Pattinson and Cummins can move the ball at real pace which will trouble Strauss and Cook. Harris and Hilfenhaus are ideally suited to English conditions and Siddle has developed greater control and movement since returning from injury.
As with the English, most are handy batsmen and if this series is as close as 2005 and 2009 the tailenders may prove the difference.
Let’s hope that on August 25th 2013, The Oval once again becomes the setting for an Australian celebration.
Watch Glenn Mitchell's wrap of the second Test, where Australia were victorious early on the final day, winning by 218 runs and taking a 2-0 series lead into the third Test in Perth.