FIN 1989, an Australian team captained by Allan Border took the Ashes back Down Under in an emphatic 4-0 test series victory over England. Who would think that 16 years on the Ashes would still remain in the hands of Oz? However the 2005 Ashes brings new hope, England have arguably their best test team for decades, and an ageing Australian team in the past fortnight have wilted in games that a few years ago would have been in the bag before the first ball was bowled.
As Ricky Ponting’s team stood in the sweltering sunshine after their embarrassing defeat to a Bangladeshi team on Saturday evening they must have been left with plenty to ponder. After all the world-champions had just been outclassed by a team described by the English press as being ‘no better than a minor counties side’, and who’s victories occur about as often as Tim Henman winning a major competition. This wasn’t a one off occasion though, with two other successive defeats to England in the Twenty20 and Somerset just a few days earlier and defeat then again to England this Sunday this has to go down as the worst week ever suffered in Australian cricketing history.
The unwritten rules of sport state that all great teams come to end, just look at Manchester United’s and Wigan Warriors decade of dominance in their respective sports. And the fact that Australia has followed the same ugly path as these two teams, of not replacing their aging veterans with new blood fast enough must be a high cause for concern at this present time for the ACB. Of even greater cause for anxiety for the Australian Cricket Board right now may be that the most obvious successors to their crown of cricket’s number one team are their most hated rivals England.
Although it would be foolish to get carried away with saying that this summer’s Ashes is already won, and that England are now officially superior to the Aussies, it is fair to say that Michael Vaughan’s side have all the makings of a truly great cricketing team. They are young, determined, and in the likes of Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen they possess a killer instinct that English cricket has been without since the days of Ian Botham. It is not as if England’s rise has not been coming for several years now though. With emphatic wins in the West Indies and victories both home and away against previous world number two’s South Africa, England have removed the image of being distinctly average and replaced it with a team who are generally feared by everyone, even the Aussies in the cricketing arena.
So with the Test series just weeks away, and with England unbeaten in their five previous encounters against the Australian’s I would suggest watching the Ashes with a pint of extra cold lager would be an excellent way of spending your vacation. This could prove to be a truly momentous occasion in English sporting history.