since Don Bradman’s farewell Ashes
series in 1948, has England
awakened to the prospect of a first day’s play against the old enemy with such
a keen sense of anticipation.

But if 1948
was all about the valedictory of the game’s greatest ever player and a nation
starved of Ashes cricket at home, tonight’s opening session at Lord’s
is less about seeing one of the greatest ever teams going about its business,
than the unabashed optimism that just maybe England has a team to put
the Aussies in their place.

Except that
place is usually reserved for a triumphant Australia who has only ever lost one
Test at Lord’s since 1896 and that was back in 1934, and has won the last eight Ashes since 1989.

But from
tonight’s first ball England expects it finally has a team that can take it up
to Australia, and given that Premier League football now so totally dominates
the sports pages of the UK press, to suddenly find cricket the topic on
everyone’s lips is a wonder to behold. Even cynical UK
sports writers have entered into the spirit of national optimism and who can
blame them?

A full preview is on the site here.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey