Well, that didn’t last long, did it? In November I wrote this piece in anticipation of this winter’s Ashes series, planning my sleep patterns and my mornings to keep up with sporting events in Australia. Less than a week ago, as we approached the halfway point of the five Test Matches, I wrote this piece about the England cricket team’s progress so far, hoping that the series would still be alive at Christmas. As the latter post noted, if you have no interest in sport in general, or cricket in particular, you can stop reading now. After this piece I won’t be writing any more about the Ashes for the foreseeable future.
Last Saturday morning (16 December), as planned, I was on the sofa by 3am to watch England try and bowl Australia out. I witnessed the one wicket to fall, and that was it. No more wickets for the rest of the morning here in the UK and I spent the pre-dawn hours keeping an eye on the cricket on my laptop (legally – I have BT Sport), and flicking through programmes on the TV, recent recordings on our multi-channel box that have now been deleted. I didn’t need to devote all my attention to Steve Smith and Mitch Marsh amassing big hundreds.
All those quiz shows and episodes of “Countdown” take up a rather a lot of digital space (we still only have 6% free) and I also watched the first part of the Christmas edition of “Top of the Pops” from 1984. I had forgotten that it featured so many artists that didn’t get to #1 that year, or any year (Thompson Twins, Nik Kershaw, Howard Jones), none of whom I particularly wanted to see again. After breakfast I walked down to the High Road for my little bit of Saturday morning shopping (including the day’s paper and a free coffee), and to check the aftermath of the previous evening’s disruption. There was a burst water main near the old police station and the large plane tree that had contributed to the damage had been cut down. The road was still closed but there was surprisingly little traffic in the surrounding streets. I kept an eye on the dispiriting events from Perth on my phone and soon after returning home headed west with my son for his BMX session. We heard the last few minutes of the cricket in the car, on Test Match Special.
For Sunday morning’s cricket I refused to wake at 2.30am again, so missed England take a few quick wickets and then Australia fighting back with a 93-run stand. I got up in time to see the replays of James Vince’s dismissal and for the rest of my morning’s viewing England managed not to lose another wicket, Malan and Bairstow still there at the close. I woke at a normal time yesterday morning (7am) to find that England hadn’t lost the match yet. Rain had delayed proceedings. Play had begun at 5am, 150 minutes later than scheduled, but England were already 9 wickets down and I was able to witness the moment that the Ashes were officially regained by Australia, a rather tame shot by Chris Woakes and another catch by Tim Paine. 3-0 down with two to play.
And that’s it for another four years. I don’t devote the same amount of time and attention to England’s other overseas cricket tours, and thinking back over all the series in the last 30 years it’s now clear that the victory in 2010-11 was a blip, a rare time when England had a stronger team than Australia and were able to win in Australian conditions. I’m glad that I was able to enjoy that one victorious series at the time. All we can hope for now is that England avoid losing this one 5-0 but I’ll be sleeping through most of the remaining 10 scheduled days of play, midnight till 7am UK time.