Friday, December 17, 2010

The English disease

Yesterday morning, I had succumbed to it. Hubris, that is - not necessarily a historically English affliction but one that right now seems dangerously seductive to those of this isle concerned with the fate of the Ashes. Or at least it did until the events of last night, triggered by a weakness that is as English as train delays and tea cups swimming in custard: the batting collapse.

The possibility had lurked like a hell beast in a storm drain, despite England scoring 517-1 and 620-5 in consecutive innings. I wasn't prepared to believe we could wrap up the series without suffering at least one nightmare out in the middle - previous tours Down Under have marked out their territory in the darkened corners of my subconscious. But even as that redoubt remained standing I was steadily beguiled. The ordure heaped on Australia in recent weeks had firmly tipped the scales; England were in the ascendancy and, perish the thought, I had even mused openly on the possibility, however remote, of 4-0.

Such were the heights to which my expectations had soared that as Australia's tail ski-jumped their side to a respectable 268 I was already thinking, 'That's 70 runs too many'. Not, 'That's a decent effort against any Australian side on their own patch'. No, having reduced the hosts to 69-5, I wanted more; a brutal land grab, a beer hall putsch. The English boot was on the Australian throat and the prospect of resurrection was a non-runner, not with this bunch, this rabble of Raggy Greens, incompetents and half-blokes.

And then the dawn broke, with the news that we'd been Waca-ed by Mitchell Johnson. A glimmer of hope remains, but we have been been forced to reassess our opponent's capabilities. This should serve as a wake-up call, a reminder that we cannot slumber easily until the job is done and the Ashes are retained. The Boogie man still resides under the bed, at least for now.

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