Category: Ashes (page 1 of 28)

Regrouping between Ashes series

Fans celebrate a bilateral one-day series obligation

Let’s get an early moan in about the five-match one-day series that’s taking place between England and Australia this summer. It’s not just the fact that it’s pointless and elbows aside the build-up to a Test series against South Africa. It also sabotages the experience of watching next year’s Ashes series as well.

The anticipation is half the joy of an Ashes series. Even though England and Australia play each other every other year, there’s still ample time for the teams to develop in between. When the touring side arrives, there’s a lot of excitement. They might have new players or older ones might have suddenly started excelling in Test cricket. There’s an element of mystery that adds to our experience as fans.

Having an England-Australia one-day series the year before the Ashes undermines this almost completely. It’s like tearing off a hunk of bread before it’s finished baking. It tastes entirely unsatisfying and the loaf will be all buggered up when it finally is ready to eat.

With the 2013-14 Ashes series in Australia following just a few months after the 2013 Ashes, we’d better prepare for a lot of shitty bread. However, we don’t particularly want to prepare by practising. This summer’s one-day series is unwelcome. Who invited it?

Ashes series were already too frequent

We’d like to add a slightly more sober footnote to our post from last Friday.

We described back-to-back Ashes series as being ‘quite literally the worst idea of all time’. We stand by that and would like say that it’s actually the worst idea by an even greater margin that we had previously thought. Here’s why.

Every other year?

Ashes series have long been played every other year, give or take a few months as a result of the different seasons in England and Australia. However, up until fairly recently, there was only an event once every four years.

Up until satellite TV and the internet, only home Ashes series were a phenomenally big deal. Yes, you could get highlights at midnight on BBC1 and you could read the newspaper reports a day late, but an away series wasn’t all-pervasive like a home series was.

An away Ashes series didn’t unfold before you. It was something faintly unreal and distant. You really had to make an effort to keep up with it.

This meant that a home Ashes series was even more significant. The home series was the one you watched. This was the one people most cared about and it only happened once every four years.

Home and away

These days away series are almost as big a deal. You can get up early or stay up late and watch live coverage. You can read a million news reports via the internet. You can follow it on Twitter or on an obscure English cricket blog which unexpectedly goes all serious during the first Test.

An away Ashes series is now that much more vivid, it might as well be a home series. In effect, the big event is every other year, not once every four years. It’s slightly less special.

Now twice the same year? That’s really not special.

10 Ashes Tests in a row

Sweet fucking Christ, does everyone in the world of cricket suffer from all three major forms of retardation? This is quite literally the worst idea of all time.

Back-to-back Ashes series. Ten England v Australia Tests in a row. Does no-one who has control over anything have even the most basic understanding of sport?

We should have seen it coming

The fresh, punchy Twenty20 World Cup that was far, far shorter than the 50-over World Cup was really popular. The overlong 50-over World Cup was massively disappointing.

They decided to shorten the 50-over World Cup and for a very short while we were all full of hope. Lesson learned?

No. They then announced that the Twenty20 World Cup was going to be longer, because that was the popular one.

But back-to-back Ashes? That’s something else

We get that the next Ashes in Australia can’t be played the same year as the World Cup that’s also taking place there. But quite honestly, we’d rather miss a series than have two back-to-back.

Yeah yeah yeah, commercial concerns and all that. We get it. But we also don’t give a shit about that.

Let us spell it out clearly and simply: the Ashes is a big deal because it is an event. That’s the whole fucking point.

It’s not about England v Australia. That’s why no-one gives a toss about these one-day matches. The Ashes is special because it doesn’t happen every day. Looking forward to it is half the point.

You can’t have the best thing all of the time because it rapidly becomes devalued. Too much of anything and it becomes mundane.

Any idiot knows that your 10th slice of cake isn’t as good as your first. And don’t you dare disagree – we’re not in the mood. Eating cake all the time would be fun for about half a day. Then it would be boring. Then it would be miserable.

What possible excuse can you give for having the same two teams play 10 Tests in a row against each other?

Let’s ask ECB marketing boss, Steve Elworthy. Why, Steve? Why?

Why the fuck are you ruining one of the last decent events in cricket?

“It’s important to maintain momentum.”

Jesus. This is what we’re up against.

We are completely fucked. Cricket will be dead within a decade.

Overheard in our local

Three of the least cricket people you could ever imagine. One guy had been explaining how he could never move abroad because he’d just bought a 50 inch plasma TV.

Here are some sample quotes.

“It’s like the World Cup, but the Ashes is only ever played between England and Australia. It lasts for weeks and weeks and it’s all one thing. This last one that’s just finished – with England beating them down there after God knows how many years – it was ab-so-lute-ly mag-NIFicent.”

“You know me, I’m not into sport, but this Ashes was just magic.”

“The one-day stuff that’s happening now is good, but with all the different types of bowlers and the field changes and that, an Ashes series is something else.”

Bet these guys have never taken part in market research carried out on behalf of the England and Wales Cricket Board.

Casual cricket fans giving the impression that it’s the nuances of cricket that are the real draw? Don’t they want ‘maximums’ greeted by upbeat pop music (the sporting equivalent of sitcom canned laughter)?

Are they SURE they don’t want that?

England’s Test selectors got everything right

It’s not cool to say that. But we’re not cool. We once did a live Twitter review of a cricket computer game while drinking real ale.

On the face of it, picking a Test side is simply a matter of finding your 11 best players and then saying their names out loud in front of some microphones, but in reality there’s far more to it than that. We’d say England’s selectors got it bang on leading up to and during the 2010-11 Ashes, so hats off.

Ian Bell at six?

Not strictly speaking a selectorial decision, but linked. Some people will say that Ian Bell should have moved up the batting order and while we think that’s ultimately a good idea, it wasn’t a bad move to leave him at six in this series.

England traditionally use number six as a dumping ground. All-rounders, wicketkeepers and debutant batsmen slot in there and four wickets down so often seems like it’s going to be five wickets down.

In the fifth Test, England lost their fifth wicket and because there had been a nightwatchman, Ian Bell strolled out in the form of his life. How dispiriting must that have felt for the Aussie bowlers? Bell promptly hit a hundred, as did Matt Prior, batting at eight.

That they achieved this from down the order probably had more impact than if they’d been batting at four and five. Plus, it didn’t undermine Paul Collingwood, which was wise (even if it didn’t actually work out in practice).

Dropping people

Ian Bell was in the side after a famously galvanising dropping. The same thing happened to Andrew Strauss. In effect, selection decisions made good players better.

Perservering with people

Alastair Cook HAD to be dropped before the Ashes, according to quite a large number of people. We disagreed and so did the selectors – thank Frigg.

Selection and rotation of bowlers

Chris Tremlett – masterstroke. Tim Bresnan – masterstroke.

Picking the right players in the first place

James Anderson could have been abandoned plenty of times in years gone by. Graeme Swann was actually quite a leftfield selection when he first appeared.

Matt Prior was identified as England’s wicketkeeper some time ago and has ridden it out, even though barely a day goes by without someone pushing some county keeper’s case on the grounds that he hit a six in a Twenty20 match once. Foster, Kieswetter, Read, Davies? None of these would have been a patch on Prior in our opinion.

The players made the selectors look good, but the selectors allowed them to do that.

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