So to the Oval we go again with all to play for. Less than 10 days now before England and Australia go toe to toe in South London to decide who gets to keep a little urn.
Unlike 2005, this series has not made the front pages of every newspaper on a weekly basis. Fred’s knee has taken a few headlines. The booing of Ricky Ponting has garnered a few column inches of tut-tutting but this series has failed to capture the interest of the public. We all have agreed to forget the whitewash when we went Downunder, but why has this series been so different from 2005?
When you look at the bald facts, nothing is wildly different. A nail-biting draw at Cardiff this time (a fantastic first innings from England at Lord’s but a loss in 2005), to Lord’s this year for an historic win for England – we go 1-0 up in the series. Edgebaston again and of course you could never get a repeat of 2005, but the Aussies were as excited at the draw there as they were at Old Trafford four years ago.
Imploding at Headingley was not what England intended or needed – obviously but when they lost so badly at Lord’s in 2005, the papers cared, it seemed as though the people cared. England got behind the team, supported them. I see nothing of that now.
There is discussion amongst the sportswriters and cognoscenti about what should happen next – should Mark Ramprakash or Robert Key get a call up to the England side, but it’s hardly making headlines.
And yet there is no other national sport to support at the moment. England football will play Holland in a “Friendly” – something I really don’t understand. Surely an International is important? England are no longer part of the Badminton World Championships having come home from India because it’s too dangerous – Scotland and Wales are still there along with many other countries. I found the English excuses horribly confused – they said they feared being attacked like the Pakistan cricketers were.
Get it sodding right – it was the Sri Lankans. I found that offensive to Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka, let alone anyone who was caught up in that atrocity.
So why, why is there no Ashes Fever in 2009?
Is it too simplistic to say it’s because of Sky? Four years ago everyone could have the cricket on the TV from ball one to stumps. Now thanks to Rupert sodding Murdoch and the EC fucking B, all we get is 45 mins at a rigid 1915 slot. So even when play was still going on at Cardiff and Edgebaston, there were recorded highlights.
It’s not good. I spent the last overs of both of those matches worrying how Sunset and Vine could get the highlights on rather than enjoying the cricket on Test Match Special. Mind you I’ve spent a fair amount of time during this series wondering and worrying about why after years of hating Matthew Hayden as the Queenslander destroyer of England bowlers, I really like him now as a commentator.
If I had Sky, I’d probably feel warm and fuzzy about Shane Warne – and that’s a place I don’t want to go!
But despite these personal views, there is something in this Ashes series that has failed to catch the public attention and I’m at a loss to know why.
The more I think about it, the more confused I am. Today I have spent my afternoon studying where other sports are and there really isn’t much. Hot news is that Casey Stoner is taking three races out – well, we’re not MotoGP-ing at the moment anyway, and Casey was hardly in contention for the win. Oh there is the Schumacher come-back but he’s not going to contend for the title. The Armstrong story is over for this year – bloody well done though Lance and RESPECT, but there’s no headlines.
I think Brad has had a hair cut and a bit of a shave, but however much me and my friends whooped and yelled about his fourth place in Le Tour, and Cav’s fantastic win on the Champs – no headlines were made.
So you would have thought that despite the utter awfulness of Headingley, the press would get behind England and the country would care about the Oval.
Have we, as sports fans, just given up? Was Headingley so disasterous that there is no hope at the Oval? Is the only passionate sports fan one who gets stopped at the airport on their way to Holland?
Is cricket a busted flush that can never relive 2005 Ashes Fever?