First, a macabre coincidence. The last Ashes series, the eighth straight pitiful England capitulation, started days after the Bali bombing which killed 88 Australians and 26 British travellers. Now, as the Lord’s Test begins, London reels from the atrocious targeting of morning commuters.
The recent bombings have evoked enormous and deserved admiration for stoical Londoners. Down in the convict colony, headline writers and cartoonists have utterly exhausted the clichés depicting ye-olde-Dart-never-surrender-stiff-upper-lipped-British-bulldog spirit. Still, as cricketing hostilities resume, you’d think there’d be scant room for sentiment. Australians, you’d reckon, would be rooting for Ricky Ponting’s worldbeaters to humiliate the Poms over the coming months. And you’d be dead wrong. Many of us, I’d argue a comfortable majority, pray that the current Test series is close. Of that bunch, a significant minority indulges in the probably vain hope that Michael Vaughan’s side can conjure a preposterous victory.
Prime Minister John Howard is merely the most prominent Aussie hoping that England scares the creams off the tourists. ‘It’s silly to pretend it’s good for things to be so one-sided,’ Mr Howard told Wisden Australia. ‘It’s good for it to be close, everybody likes a bit of competition.’ The PM isn’t an idiot; he hopes Australia retains the Ashes. But the unstated logic of Mr Howard’s sentiments is undeniable; our four-time election winner and self-confessed cricket ‘tragic’ won’t be unhappy if Australia loses a brace of matches.
With respect, PM, I’ll take those two Tests and raise you a series-clinching one. An England victory would be terrific for two reasons — competition and comeuppance.
Nostalgia makes mugs of all of us. In truth, practically every sport is better off now than it’s ever been. Cricket, especially Ashes cricket, is patently worse. I grew up in Perth, the most isolated city on earth.