Thousands of Australians will be at work today carrying a dirty secret in their hearts.
They’ll be quietly barracking for England to pull off a miraculous comeback in the Third Test in Perth to keep the Ashes series alive.
Not for the first time England is all but relying on the colonies to get them out of a pickle (oops, did I just mention the wars?) with South African Kevin Pietersen and Captain Andrew Flintoff the last line of meaningful resistance to Australia taking an unassailable 3-nil lead in the series.
This silent treason perpetrated on our brave warriors in the Baggy Green is a product of Australian cricket’s rampant success over the last decade or more. Winning has become routine, tiresome and predictable. We wanted a change of scene. So we asked the Poms if we could borrow failure for a little while. They were only too happy to oblige.
After the heroics and drama of the 2005 series in England some masochists in this country actually got their rocks off tasting the agony of defeat. And so they started wanting more. What if we just lost one Test to make the series a contest, they bleated.
They dream of another grandstand finish with your heart in your mouth in the final over on the final day of the last Test. They lust after cricket as spectacle, an Aaron Sorkin production with requisite sucker punch ending.
Fools. If you want entertainment, go see the new James Bond movie. This is the Ashes, the hundred-year war now happily trundling on into its second century. A conflict that has no finish, just endless chapters where one side or another gets to savour supremacy knowing that there is always a next time. Defeat is never far away in the scheme of things.
I learnt that lesson very early. I remember Mike Brearley’s team humiliating Graham Yallop’s no-names during the World Series split of 1978-79. I cried on my pillow listening to the disasters from Headingley and Edgbaston when Ian Botham destroyed us in 1981. I still have nightmares about Geoff Miller’s juggled catch to get Thommo out at the MCG in the summer of 1982-83 that left Australia three runs short of victory.
These are all chapters in the same story. That’s what makes the Ashes great. And that’s why all I want for Christmas is a 5-0 sweep.