England (644) beat Australia (280 & 281) by an innings and 83 runs.
This is what it’s all been for. The months of hope and expectation, tinged with anxiety; the seven long weeks of frayed nerves and sleep deprivation. It’s been worth it. Because, finally, we can stop worrying and simply enjoy the moment. We have beaten Australia, in Australia.
When Tremlett bowled Beer to complete victory at the SCG this morning, he didn’t just knock back an off stump, but open the floodgates to a torrent of emotion. If you’re English, the Ashes are cricket. Beating Australia, in test series, is all that really matters. For twenty years we were pumped, drubbed and humiliated – made to feel second class citizens by condescending, arrogant Aussies. And now this.
Before the series began, everyone knew we had a chance. But most of us expected a very close contest, which could be nicked by either side through good luck or the occasional dramatic session. What no-one forecast, certainly us careworn, long-suffering England supporters, was anything remotely approaching what actually happened. We didn’t just shade past Australia. We absolutely annihilated them. We embarrassed them. We bullied them. We humiliated them. Three victories by an innings, for god’s sake! Which by the way, has never been achieved before by a touring side in the history of test cricket.
In the case of the 2005 series, Aussies were still entitled to bicker and quibble about English triumphalism. It was nip and tuck. They were unlucky. Kasprowicz’s glove, and all that. In 2009 they moaned that we shouldn’t really have won, as they scored more centuries and took more wickets. What exactly are they going to say this time? An innings and 71 runs at Adelaide. An innings and 157 at Melbourne. An innings and 83 at Sydney. Come on, talk your way out of that one.
Until this morning, and like anyone who’s ever seriously followed the England team, we were reluctant to extol the achievements of the series so far. We were scared by the triumphalism, wary of the gloating. The series was not yet won. It could all still go wrong. This is Australia v England for goodness sake – don’t tempt fate.
No longer. The job is done, and now the party can really begin. We can celebrate, jubilate, sneer, gloat, and generally show off, to our heart’s content. Make the most of it. Stick it in the face of any Australian work colleague who sits conveniently near you. We have just subjected Australia to one of the worst series defeats in their entire history.
We are of course immeasurably proud of our team. Perhaps the most impressive aspect was the recovery after Perth. Whereas other English teams would have lost confidence and morale, this one bounced back in emphatic style. And rather than losing momentum after the highs of Melbourne, we played even better at Sydney, and certainly more ruthlessly. Lads – you were brilliant. Cooky, Straussy, Trott, KP, Colly, Belly, Prior, Swanny, Broady, Bresnan, Jimmy, Finny, Tremlett – we salute you all.
There are so many cricketing issues to discuss in the wake of this triumph, but they can wait. Let’s just savour one of the most glorious days in the history of English cricket. After all we’ve been through together in the last twenty four years, we deserve it.