England can start enjoying their two wins over their Ashes rivals. Australia is wrong to wring their hands over their consecutive defeats. Why?
As far as the Ashes go, Australia have been, almost always, the better team. If they recall that legacy, their ordinary team may yet achieve the extraordinary.
Set aside the Ashes 2013 for a moment.
Of 66 series clashes only five have been drawn; 61 produced a result – 30 English victories and 31 Australian.
Both evenly matched, right? Not really. There’s something beneath the plaster. Of 312 Tests, 225 produced a result – Australia won 123, England 102. And there’s more.
As many as 11 English victories were before 1897 – there was only one Australian victory before 1897. Come 1897 Australia had transformed. Of 49 Ashes with a result, Australia lost only 19 but won as many as 30. If you ignore 19th century English supremacy, Australia won 61 per cent of the time. For a better part of the 20th century, it seems that the only thing they were any good at was hammering England. If these head-to-heads were a Tom and Jerry clip, England must have felt like an aggrieved but impotent Tom being brutalized by a rampaging Jerry.
But just as Australia did in the late 19th century, England are clawing back in the early 21st century. Australia have won on three occasions (2001, 2002/03 and 2006/07) and England on three (2005, 2009 and 2010/11). Both evenly matched, right? Again, not really.
Australia have been so used to bludgeoning England into submission that it’s going to take more than a few delirious sessions at Lord’s or Nottingham for England to be back on top.
1989: England lose four Tests, once by an innings and once by 9 wickets.
1990/91: England lose three Tests, by 8 wickets, by 9 wickets and by 10 wickets.
1993: England lose four Tests, twice by an innings and once by 8 wickets.
With a bit of effort you can see where this is heading.
1994/95: England lose three Tests.
1997: England lose three Tests.
Monotony sets in.
1998/99: England lose three Tests.
2001: England lose four Tests – twice by an innings.
2002/03: England lose four Tests – twice by an innings.
In that 14-year period England lost eight successive Ashes.
In the Ashes 2005, England appeared to have seen a brief revival but it is more ‘brief’ than ‘revival’. They win two Tests, lose one and draw the other two.
Then they are at it again… getting hammered.
2006/07: England lose all five Tests, once by an innings and once by 10 wickets.
The Tom and Jerry routine had morphed into a full-blooded horror flick. The laughs had all but drained out of the frame – the humour had become hemorrhage.
England’s recent flourishes are just that – recent.
Australia’s recent losses suggest they’ve hit a bump not a brick wall. They can pause, reverse, change gear and hit the pedal again.
Of course it’s never that simple.
Australia don’t have a Cook or a Pietersen but they have Clarke. And Clarke has 247 fewer runs than Colin Cowdrey but from playing 20 fewer Tests.
Australia don’t have an Anderson but they have… well, actually they don’t have a bowler of that class.
OK. Australia are weaker. But they can bounce back if they believe in their legacy – as heavyweight champion of the Test world for over 100 years.
Young Ashton Agar’s defiant 98 was a spark. Here’s hoping that somehow, somewhere, a fire has been lit and Australia’s flame will burn bright again.