The Ashes themselves are a 15 cm tall thimble of a trophy, who origins date back to a small add placed in The Sporting Times in the summer of 1882, where Australia essentially rubbed England’s noses in a defeat. The story goes that after placing the above small ad, the Australians symbolically burned the bails and saved the resulting ashes in a little urn, and took it back down under.
Since then, this up to 25 days of play biennial contest, who’s objective is the winning back or retention of the little trophy has been one the most celebrated rivalries in all sport. To me, it’s the ultimate contest, the best thing sport has to offer. The pinnacle of all games.
By far the main way that I follow the sport, is via BBC’s Test Match Special (TMS) radio broadcast – mostly on a longwave radio. Over the past 4 days, I’ve locked on to TMS whenever possible and followed the action, avidly. Being something that’s on for several days, one can’t get away with not doing anything else, but it’s there, often in the background as I’m driving, cooking, walking the dog.. even snoozing. For the latter, I think I’ve trained my brain to wake me up when anything significant is happening. One of the typical things about the Test Match format, is the ebb and flow. There’s often hours goes by when not a lot happens. It’s these bits that are probably responsible for people’s misconception that cricket – test cricket in particular – is boring. This ebb fascinates me though. Things are poised, often on a knife edge. The psychology, the tactics, the asking questions, the analysis and statistics – are at home, in the ebb. Then the captain may just nudge his field a touch or the ball may start to turn a smidgen, then BANG, the game can change dramatically within minutes, even seconds.
Over these last 4 days though, there hasn’t been very much at all, in the way of the traditional ebb. It’s all been flow. As TMS summariser Phil ‘the cat’ Tuffnell put it earlier today – This test has been like a good book that you can’t put down. There’s been so many plot twists and turns that you couldn’t see – right up until the very last ball, how the game would end. It’s had intrigue and controversy – where Stuart Broad controversially didn’t walk after an obvious error on the umpires behalf – he didn’t technically cheat.. but the sub plot was it’s just not cricket(?) There’s been surprise in the form of a ‘never been seen’ before 19 year old Ashton Agar scoring a record for a number 11 player of 98 runs which firmly tipped the scales of potential, back into Australia’s favor. There’s been tension and drama by the bucket load.
I’m publishing this after the highlights have aired, so this won’t be new news to anyone – but England won the First Test today after a nail biting finale at Trent Bridge. The pre match speculation was by and large, very pro England. They were odds on, favorites for the series win. England are still firm favorites for this, but I’m glad to see that Australia have got a lot of fight in their tail. Game on.