Friday, 7 January 2011

Ashes to Ashes

Like a number of others, I spent the early hours of this morning sat in bed listening to the inevitable unfold in Sydney, as England wrapped up another victory against Australia to secure a 3-1 series win. What was remarkable about that, though, was that all 3 England victories were by an Innings margin.

England, of course, have been used to being on the receiving-end of such drubbings: only 4 years ago, as defending Ashes-holders, they came to Australia and suffered the ignominy of a 5-0 defeat. And although all Ashes series are played in a very competitive spirit, it seems to me that most of the time it is a friendly rivalry between the teams.

How you deal with such occasions - either giving or receiving such a sound thrashing - is a mark of the maturity of the team or of the individual. Cricket has always tried to epitomise the spirit of fair-play and gentlemanliness (is that a word? It is now!), and that for me was demonstrated clearly in images from the end of the 2005 Edgbaston Test, after England had defeated Australia by the slenderest of margins - 2 runs - as Andrew Flintoff consoled Brett Lee and shook his hand. Kipling famously wrote: "If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two impostors just the same", and all England supporters, while enjoying this moment of victory, need to remember that 4 years ago that was them, and, although we will probably tease the Aussies for a while, I hope that the friendship, honed on the field of play for many years, will not be spoiled.

At the heart of my faith is the belief that, in the midst of ignominious defeat and humiliation, comes the greatest victory. Whilst not wanting to draw too strong an analogy between a cricket match and the Resurrection of Jesus (which some might see as flippant and others as blasphemous), I would simply want to say: England have risen from the ashes: for the sake of the game I hope that Australia do too.

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