Saturday, December 09, 2006


So, after the worst Test defeat I've experienced, is there any point in following the Ashes to their denouement? Waking up on Tuesday left me feeling more hollow than I ever have before (at least where sport's concerned). I'd checked the score at 8am-ish, with Aus on 148-4, and assumed it had closed on a draw... but as I began to scroll down the WAP page on my phone, my retinas flicking over our scorecard, the gripping in my stomach began. Some rudimentary maths told me the Aussies had come very close to winning; then it dawned that the match might still be playing. Refreshing the page saw Australia move to 151-4. Shit, shit, shit!

I listened to the death rattle with the TMS team, as Aggers and Mike Selvey observed the proceedings with a sort of funereal resignation. Truly the most gutting day's cricket that I've never watched (probably best - seeing it live would have been like some sort of Chinese water torture). Last summer, the closest I came to despair was when Bell went for a golden duck on the final morning at the Oval, and my heart tried to explore the boundaries beyond my chest. But Adelaide plumbed a Mariana trench.

Today/last night's tour performance was okay (BBC), but with only the Don's Australian team of '36-7 ever having come back from 2-0 down to win the Ashes, it all seems a little forlorn. Even last night's examinations really only reflect positively on Anderson. 309-8 from a Sheffield Shield side isn't exactly blowing them away, and Harmison's 1-99 at almost five an over isn't encouraging, coming at the WACA, venue for the 3rd Test. I certainly think that Panesar should get the nod, even if his own figures of one for sixty-odd weren't great either. Giles has served England extremely well, but this is a bridge too far for him; his bowling average has crept into the forties after the first two Tests, and unfortunately he's not even that good anymore. Panesar should get the chance to learn on Australian pitches, in preparation for him being the first choice spinner in 2010-11, when conceivably the entire home top order will new(ish).

I'm not going to give up on us getting something out of this tour, even if it's only valuable experience for a young side (only Hoggard, Harmison and Giles have played down under before). We've shown we can bat (sometimes), we've dealt with Warne (ditto), Collingwood's proved himself (without doubt), and Hoggard's taken another step towards English fast-bowling immortality (more useful than Gough, more reliable than Harmy, not as silly as Caddick). Now, let's draw two, and win one boys, eh?


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