So there go the Ashes (for now – they’ll be back, probably in 2019) and congratulations to Australia and Steve Smith on reclaiming the urn.
Well played the Aussies. Given a true captain’s lead by Smith, they have ruthlessly exploited their opponents’ fragility with batting and fast-bowling of high discipline, aggression and purpose. They have also left the England camp with much food for thought. The England team is, perhaps, approaching a similar stage of transition to that which Warwickshire’s entered this year.
“What the boys have done in the last few weeks has been incredible,” said Smith. “In a couple of games England had their foot in the door but we’ve been able to claw our way back and to be up 3-0 and have got the Ashes back is quite remarkable.
“It’s a dream come true, just amazing really. I look forward to having a good celebration with the boys this evening!”
A rather different evening – and future – awaits a shell-shocked England camp after the Ashes were relinquished when defeat was sealed by an innings and 41 runs in the last ever Ashes Test at the WACA in Perth.
“It’s very difficult to take,” said captain Joe Root. “Fair play to Australia, they’ve outplayed us in all three games and we’ve got to be better. We’ve got to make sure we go to Melbourne and prepare well and put in a really good performance there.”
So there go the Ashes for now – and there, in terms of Ashes Tests, goes the WACA forever. A poignant day for generations of English cricket fans who, in the days before ubiquitous TV coverage, tuned into their radios late on winter nights or first thing in the mornings to listen to commentaries from the mysterious, far-off WACA with its Swan River and Fremantle Doctor. Magical images for the mind’s eye.
Not that there was usually much good news filtering across the world from the WACA for England supporters. This latest drubbing is just the latest instalment of pain from Perth, stretching back to 1974 when England, having lost Dennis Amiss and John Edrich to hands broken in the previous Test, were again beaten up by Jeff Thompson and Dennis Lillee.
There were rare exceptions to the tale of woe. In 1978, for example, when England’s 166-run win featured an innings of which their top order of today might take note. Geoffrey Boycott amassed 77 in the little matter of seven hours, 34 minutes. He faced 337 balls, not one of which he struck to the boundary. His only four included two overthrows.
Boycott could be a pain, of course, at times infuriating his team-mates as much as his opponents. But he treasured his wicket. He hated getting out. That is the mentality which Test match batsmen require and that is the huge challenge for batsmen coming through today in an age of increasing white-ball emphasis. Twenty20 has its merits but it does not encourage batsmen to treasure their wickets…