Monday, September 12, 2005

The Ashes

So England take the Ashes from Australia, for the first time in 18 years. In the first four test matches, England lost one, drew one, and won two. They needed least a draw from the last match, which they achieved this afternoon, to win the series 2-1 overall.

Regardless of the result, the three middle matches were amazing. In all three, the result was in the balance right to the end of the match, resulting in sustained drama being played out over several days. (For the sake of any people who don't have their roots in the British empire, I ought to explain that a cricket test match runs for up to five days. I won't try and explain the rules - either seriously or humorously.) Most informed commentators - including the iconic but now-retiring Richie Benaud - regard this test series as one of the classics - and who would I be to disagree?

What's more, the spirit in which the cricket has been played has also been outstanding. There has been plenty of defiance, and obviously if the tension didn't get to the players from time to time, you'd have to wonder if they hadn't been taking it seriously enough. (For what it's worth, I am inclined to agree with Ponting and the Aussies that the British team were abusing the spirit of the game to some extent with their use of substitutes). However, the relationships between the teams have been evidently good; the players have commented articulately and sensibly about the play in the newspapers; and both sides have been excellent ambassadors not only for cricket, but for sport and sportsmanship.

Compare this to the fiasco of English football at the moment. The private lives of some of the players and managers have too much prominence, and the expectation of some of the players seems to be that their importance means that they can ignore fundamentals like working in a team. We have an outstanding bunch of footballers - who have lost to Denmark, barely beaten Wales and lost to Northern Ireland.

I'm not terribly engaged by sport - I think that this is the first post in about 170 that makes reference to it at all. But if overpaid prima donnas start to become less noteworthy in the public gaze than people who value the ethos of sport for its own sake, then perhaps I will write more.