England 238 & 330. Australia 270 & 224. England win the Ashes (hooray!)
Just when you think you’ve got this game sussed – just when you’re certain that Anderson is running on empty, Bresnan is a useless carthorse, and Draco Malfoy Broad needs to sort his length out or sod off back to Hogwarts – suddenly the incredible happens.
At approximately 5pm yesterday, I started writing what can only be described as an obituary. England looked spent. Our bowlers were wilting in the face of a Warner whirlwind (how’s that for an alliteration, huh) and Australia were cruising to an easy victory.
Then good old Draco found some magic. Australia lost their skipper to the ball of the century and the others collapsed like a pack of cards made from filo pastry.
I don’t really care if we won because Broad was inspired, or the Aussies bottled it (or both), England have won the Ashes series. It wasn’t a damp squib like Old Trafford – this was dramatic and memorable – a moment of pure triumph.
I can hardly believe it to be honest. For most of this series England have played like a collection of blind donkeys.
Which players can actually put their hand up and said they played well? Only Bell, Swann and Broad. The others have been pretty awful really. The batting remains a major issue – since we beat India 4-0 at home in 2011, our average first inns score is a paltry 320 – and the coaches seem helpless to stop the rot.
Meanwhile, our bowlers continue to look, well, a bit innocuous on flat surfaces. The four bowler strategy restricts us (Australia’s attack often looked better than ours because Watson gave them a better balance) and our policy of bowling Jimmy Anderson into the ground almost came back to bite our collective behinds.
Many observers also claim, with some validity, that we’re a worse side than we were in 2010/11 (remember all those victories by an innings?). We’re certainly no nearer to beating South Africa – although it will help enormously when Jacques ‘the bane of our existence’ Kallis retires. Where would we be without Ian Bell, who played one of the greatest innings of modern times on Sunday?
The correct response to these questions, of course, is “who cares?!” This is a moment of celebration. We can discuss whether England are regressing as a team, or whether the fact we’ve won without playing well shows we’re getting stronger, another day. The bottom line is we’re beating Australia 3-0 and we’ve hardly got out of third gear.
We can actually look forward to the Oval with confidence too. Michael Clarke looked absolutely distraught yesterday evening, and the Aussies look like they’ve totally forgotten how to win. I haven’t done much betting recently, but I might check out the odds at Unibet before the 5th test. I’m not sure about you, but I think the sound of 4-0 has rather a nice ring to it.
Written in collaboration with Unibet