It’s a wonderful time to be in England. If you’re a cricket fan, that is. The Australians are in town, trying to have a go at getting the Ashes back, having not had a whiff of them since 2007. England are reasonably confident at the moment, coming off the back of a series victory in India. This wouldn’t have meant too much, except that Australia also played India a few months ago, and got whitewashed 4-0.
As is usual, the English media have gone absolutely hyperbolous. England are fantastic, Australia are rubbish. Pietersen is a demi-god; Hughes is an amateur. Anderson is the best bowler since George Lohmann; Siddle is weak and will break down after the first test and have to be replaced. England are settled and consistent; Australia are in disarray, having just fired their coach, picked an ageing Rogers who last played in 2008, and a debutant spinner (because all their other spinners are ineffective). After a few articles, one needs to just switch off and wait for the cricket to start, because it gets very tiring very quickly.
There’s not much that’s worse than an overconfident English journalist. The problem is that when England win, they get even more obnoxious. Almost as bad, that is, as a winning Australian. Which leaves me in a bit of a quandary as to who to support. I’ve always taken the default position of backing anyone playing against Australia, and anyone playing against England. But given that I’m living here, and have to put up with my fellow citizens, I sort of have to display at least a little enthusiasm for their cause. So I’m hoping that they’ll win, but narrowly. Preferably as a result of a lot of luck to keep their feet firmly on the ground, and with a large portion of humble pie on a nearby table, wafting its delicious odour right in front of their noses.
And so it was with a bit of relief that today arrived – the first day of the first test. After a week of wonderful summer weather, there was some cloud in Nottingham. Perfect for seam bowling. And what a day it was. A good start for England, a strong comeback from Australia, and a good finish from England. Nicely balanced, with no clear winner on the day. Highlights for me were the two balls that bowled Joe Root and Michael Clarke. If the standard of cricket over the next few weeks is anything like that, it’ll be a great summer.