Yesterday afternoon, as I rushed impunctually home on the tram to catch the final burial of English cricket, I assuaged my encroaching panic by reading Richard Dawkins’s paean to atheism The God Delusion. As such, I was convinced at precisely the same moment as the English cricket team, and by an equally crushing logic, that there is no god.

There may be a Satan, however, and because there’s a goat for every ’scape, the English have already begun painting horns on coach Duncan Fletcher.

“Fletcher should hang his head for putting us through this hell,” in London’s Daily Telegraph, is a pretty representative sample of English fan reaction on the net, and indeed he may hang, as his boss, English Cricket Board CEO David Collier, has confirmed the coach’s position will be reviewed after the World Cup early next year.

Opinion of Fletcher among the English cricket elite is divided – chairman of selectors David Graveney and paceman Darren Gough for; Graeme Gooch one of many more against – but this is the kind of debate which exists only as a desperate means to give shape to despair, out there in the void of loss.

We occupied that void, just 14 months ago at The Oval. Andrew Flintoff and his men will undoubtedly clutch this fact as the talisman of their journey to the next Ashes series in 2009, brandishing it to banish the what-ifs over Michael Vaughn’s knee, Marcus Trescothick’s depression and Monty Panesar’s long wait just as we tried not to blame the disaster of Glenn McGrath’s ankle at Edgbaston.

England has learned, as we did, that there are no miracles. If you don’t have the better team, and if you don’t prepare adequately, and if you don’t field the best team you have, you’re not likely to win. As Australia learned in 2005, there is no cricket god.

Perhaps I shouldn’t trust Dawkins. Perhaps there is a guiding intelligence, and perhaps he smiles on me. For though the Ashes have been decided, Shane Warne has 699 wickets, and I have tickets for Boxing Day. Hallelujah.

Peter Fray

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