Certainly this is how the England team felt after Headingly . After a chastening, humiliating experience in Australia 18 months ago, who, honestly, hand on heart, would have put money on England regaining the Ashes this summer?
There were many at the start of this summer who thought the Aussies, number one Test side, would land on these shores and roll a weak England side over. So we went to Cardiff – controversially as this ground had never hosted an Ashes match and was not even sure what its name was. Were we playing at Sophia Gardens or the Swalec Stadium, or maybe even Cardiff Arms Park? The confusion seemed to play into the hands of the England and Wales Cricket Board.
After taking an early battering Paul Collingwood dug in and then tail-enders Jimmy Anderson and Monty Panesar fended off the last of the Aussie bowling attack and ensured that the sides went to Lord’s with honours even.
Lord’s was explosive. England hadn’t won against Australia at the home of cricket for 75 years and then in one unforgettable over, Andrew “Freddie” Flintoff defied history, defied his own injury and earned his rather freely given MBE from four years ago.
We went to Edgbaston - one up, in an Ashes summer. We all remember what happened four years ago. The edge of the seat win, the iconic picture of Fred comforting Brett Lee. Well this year it wasn’t a re-run. Weather intervened and the match was drawn with England on top.
So to Leeds. And least said the better. England collapsed in an abject and embarrassing way. We had two weeks to recover before reconvening at the Oval. The Brit Oval as we must now call it. When I lived next door, it was just the Oval.
It started, Strauss won the toss and naturally said “We’ll have a bat”. England didn’t post a huge total. 332 on a disintegrating pitch did not seem great. Bell’s top score of 72 was ridiculed by men who have scored far more runs. Boycott was damning, but then he always is. Matthew Hayden, the erstwhile Aussie opener, was far kinder. He said, how do you know what’s a good score until the other side bats?
England were bowled out for 332 and it was the turn of the Australians to show how damn good they are. Time to make it count and rub our poor little noses into the grub.
They forgot about Stuey. Stuart “Bless him” Broad. Son of Chris and a fine, fine cricketer in his own right. And just how did he prove that at the Oval? Stuart, son of Chris, destroyed the Aussies. Watson, Ponting, Hussey, Clarke, Haddin. A five-fer. The Aussies were going to be fighting from behind. 160 all out.
So Strauss set up a good second innings, Cook failed, Bell failed, Colly failed, but debutant Jonathan Trott was firm in defence and strong in attack. His debut for England helped win the match. 119 was a score to work with, and then several men down, Graeme Swann bashed another 66. England were in control.
So to Day Four – surely a winning day. But not all went to plan. Sure, two early wickets, before lunch, but then Ponting and Hussey were bedded in. Or not?
A brilliant, fairy-tale run out of Ponting by our own dream hero Freddie. And then the Aussie wickets tumbled.
Harmison took a few tailenders. Colly snatched a ball from the air. Fred got another catch and suddenly we were there.
The Ashes are back where they belong.
You’ve just got to love those boys, bringing the little little tiny urn home.
(I’m a bit embarrassed about the Ponting link, but it’s what you get with google!)