Wednesday, September 14, 2005

It Was Brum What Won It

They may have won it and celebrated in the capital, but let's face it; the Ashes came home thanks to Birmingham. On the morning of the 4th August 2005 at Edgbaston two events changed the whole momentum of the Ashes and led eventually to the change in destination - the injury to Glenn McGrath and the decision by Ricky Ponting to put England into bat without his best pace bowler. The two tests won were both in the Midlands; and let's face it, our two worst performances were both in the Capital.

It was a privilege to have been in the crowd on the final day of what turned out to be the greatest test ever, in what turned out to be the greatest series ever. The test will be brought up for years to come; the scorecard will be as familiar as the 937-7 declared or whatever it was at the Oval way back then with Len Hutton's contribution of 374. Just like then, we turned over a seemingly invincible Australian side to win back the Ashes after the best part of two decades.

As well as the euphoria of the win, I must admit to feelings of sadness as well There are three main reasons. Firstly the loss of Test cricket from terrestrial telly to Sky, and in particular the loss of Channel 4's excellent coverage. Sure, they annoyed us with the racing on Saturday, and the early finishes on weekdays to accommodate Friends and Hollyoaks for the evening schedule, but let's not forget the fantastic innovations like HawkEye and the Analyst which brought a new level of understanding to the game.

As frustrating as they have been it is also sad to think that we will probably not see Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne bowling live in this country again. Both masters of their respective arts if not the best ever, I personally could watch Shane Warne work his magic (on the wicket) every day. The crowd at the Oval had it right - we do wish he was English. We wish him well for the future, and hope his personal problems don't bring an early end to one of the finest cricketer's of all time.

Finally we bid farewell to the old sage, Richie Benaud. After 46 years, he brings down the curtain on his commentary in this country, and despite costing Warwickshire the C&G trophy (see Boycott Bangs On), again we wish him all the best for the future. A man of principle, he refused to take the Murdoch dime and commentate on coverage that is not free-to-air. It's part of his charm, and part of the reason why we love him.

All in all then, the series ends with some mixed feelings. I guess the thought of beating the convicts in the Cricket and the Rugby will however cheer me up.

Now let's win it on their own turf.

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