Alex Massie

Trotting Towards Victory

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Sorry for the light posting: a house full of friends and family explains that. Normal peace and quiet has returned this morning. Which means that, yes, as some readers have suggested it's time to say something about the Ashes and, for that matter, Jonathan Trott. I had, after all, suggested that England's decision to choose him (and retain Ian Bell) was gutless, pusillanimous and asking for disaster. Well, you calls 'em as you sees 'em. Selectors 1 Me 0. Which is, of course, a Very Good Thing.

This wasn't a classic series in terms of the quality of the cricket. But it was rarely dull and often fascinating and gripping. In the end, when it mattered most England were able to press home their advantage and Australia were not. The 69 balls Jimmy anderson and Monty Panesar survived at Cardiff changed the summer. Had Australia won there - having dominated the game -  it is much less ikely that England could have bounced back at Lords.

Australia had been so dominant at Cardiff that they must have felt it would be only a matter of time before they had a chance to reassert their supremacy. Perhaps something like that contributed to their casual, slack, careless batting display at Lords. Flintoff's heroics in the second-innings were splendid, but it was Australia's feckless batting in the first innings as, if memory serves, eight wickets fell to ill-judged cross-batted shots, that put England in a position to win the game.

At the Oval the combination of the toss and Australia's startling decision to omit Nathan Hauritz didn't decide the game, but they did leave Australia with more work to do than England. And, of course, Stuart Broad chose the moment of Flintoff's retirment to demonstrate that he's ready to emerge as a proper player himself. It is not fanciful to suppose that, in time, he may end up with better career figures than Freddie.

As for Trott? Well, he batted rather well didn't he? He looked understandbly nervous in the first innings and could easily have been out cheaply. As it was, it took a marvellous piece of fielding from Katich to remove him.  Nonetheless, let's not get carried away. A hundred on debut  - and especially in an Ashes test - is nothing to be sneezed at but nor is it any guarantee that there's a long and glittering future for Trott. Just ask Dirk Wellham about that. Trott may be something of a late developer. That is, perhaps he's only now maximising the talent that has always been hinted at. Nonetheless, his career so far suggests that his test career will be akin to Paul Collingwood's. Which is to say, decent, solid, admirable, demanding respect. But not often series-changing or dominating. (Though, of course, Collingwood's Rorke's Drift effort in Cardiff was vital.)

I thought there were far too many "how does this compare to 2005" questions flying about on Sunday. This is entirely different, not least because the cricket hasn't touched the same heights but, crucially, because in 2005 England hadn't held the little urn for 16 - count 'em - years. That leaves you demoralised and thirsty at the same time. This year was a little different: splendid to win, but not quite as special.

Next assignment: South Africa. A challenge, not least because they can actually bowl. On the other side of the ledger: Strauss and Pietersen have excellent records against the land of their birth. All this, however, is stuff for another time. For the moment it's quite nice to think about planning a trip to Melbourne to, one hopes, see England retain the Ashes next winter...

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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