England v Australia, 4th Ashes Test, 9th – 12th August, The Riverside Durham
In case you didn’t know England have beaten the Aussies at the first Ashes Test match ever staged in the North East. The victory, achieved within 4 days, seals the series for England and after retaining the Ashes in Manchester (two up with two Tests play – so we couldn’t lose) England have won the series outright going 3 0 up with just one Test match left to play. I really enjoyed writing that sentence so here it is again. England are three nil up in an Ashes series and we have more cricket to come. This is the first time this happened in my life time. In fact this is the first time it’s happened since 1977 and before that it was 1929.
The game itself was a cracker. The favourite phrase these days is a ‘great advert’ for Test Cricket but this was a magnificent game. England started well, imploded and were skittled for 238. Yet again we gave away a cluster of wickets and allowed the handy but none descript Nathan Lyon to collect 4 wickets on the first day on a track that didn’t turn at all. England then made inroads into Australia early on the next morning before Aussie 76 year old opener Chris Rodgers made his first century in Test cricket to put England under real pressure of having to try and save the game on an excellent Test match pitch. Back we came on the third morning and dismissed the Aussie tale for nought before we found ourselves in the familiar place of being three down on Sunday afternoon for 50 odd. Step in KP and Ian Bell for a 100 run partnership which really set the game up for England. Bell got his third century of the series and looked every inch the world class player he’s finally become. For players like Bell, KP and even Trott cricket comes so naturally to them it seems too easy at times and they lack the application which got them to the very top level. When they dig in and play the situation there isn’t a better middle order in world cricket.
What followed could only happen in Cricket. England’s wagging tail meant Australia were chasing 299 to win batting last. Panic was setting as the Aussies batted without much trouble to 100 without loss and then made it to 150 odd for 1. What happened after tea was the stuff of legend as Stuart Broad set about doing to Australia what Mcgrath and co. did to us for years. He tore them apart. We got rid of them in 1 hour and twenty minutes.
Australia went from certain victory to embarrassing defeat in a matter of minutes. Great stuff to watch and the Durham crowd lapped it up. Broad ended up with 6 second innings wickets and 11 in the macth. Pace, bounce and crucially in the final session, Reverse Swing meant that Broad was pretty much unplayable,. If he can start producing this more often he’ll be the best in the world. And the Aussies despise him, which makes it even better.
It really was an incredible few days cricket and everyone should be delighted that we keep letting them get so close – so they think they aren’t useless – and beat them anyway. This way we get enjoyably tight games and then when we turn it on we humiliate them. Jokes aside it’s great to be three up. It feels strange. We’ve won the LAST THREE series.
There’ll be some of you reading this who don’t remember the last time they turned us over in England. There are a whole generation of England fans who aren’t scarred by England being 100-3 against them and viewing it as a great start. We aren’t even playing well and we’re still winning. Drink it in.
It would however be great to go to the Oval and score over 400 for the first time in the series. We’ve won three tosses so far and I’d back us heavily if we win a fourth. Trot has a better strike rate this series than KP so if he and Cook could score 200 runs in 90 overs between them and day 1, then I’ll be happy.
Overall I think the words of the commentators, media and players were full of praise for Durham and their hosting of a truly epic test match. It’s great there’s so much positivity around at least one team in our lives and long may it continue.
The last time one team had such an upper hand in the Ashes it was possibly the greatest cricket team of all team; and we could console ourselves with that. England are good, not great. We could be great, but not yet – and we’re still hammering them.
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