Ashes triumph to cap England's glorious summer?
Sir Winston Churchill said “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” And England, inheriting the never say die attitude and steel from their greatest leader have gone about conquering the sporting world this summer. The old colonial masters have been at it in cricket, tennis, golf, rugby, racing and football, asserting their supremacy.
South African born English golfer Justin Rose set the tone for the summer, becoming the first Englishman to clinch the US Open since Tony Jacklin in 1970 at Merion’s East course and his phenomenal feat saw him being recognised as the Golfer of the month for June.
England fans did not have to wait long for their next champagne moment as the British and Irish Lions caned Australia 41-16 in the third Rugby Test to taste their first such triumph in 16 years.
But all that was pushed into the shade by a certain Andy Murray at Wimbledon’s Centre Court on a balmy Sunday afternoon (July 7th) when he ended Britain’s 77-year drought for a men’s singles champion after besting world number one Novak Djokovic of Serbia. Sporting spirit boiled into patriotic fervour, emotions crashed in frothy waves in Britain and the new champion, Murray, roared in delight before sinking to his knees.
In the interim, the all-round England ODI team very nearly won the Champions Trophy and only a spirited bowling display from India denying them victory. Though hosts England were piped at the post, the so called farewell edition of the Champions Trophy was a resounding success with regards to quality of action, entertainment and crowd turn-out.
The second and final match of the brief T20 series between England and New Zealand was ruined by rain but the first encounter, a thrilling run-fest, provided the rambunctious crowd wholesome entertainment.
Now, it’s time for the Ashes challenge, where everything will be at stake. England armed with experience and thorough knowledge of home conditions have been unanimously anointed as favourites against the callow, declining Aussies, who are now a mere pale shadow of their former-selves.
The departures of the Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey have punched holes in the set-up that is suffering an acute shortage of talent for the first time in decades. Michael Clarke cannot help Australia seal the deal all alone. It remains to be seen if Darren Lehmann, Australia’s newly appointed coach, reignites the old spark.
“History will soon be made,
Upon the board,
Their honours engraved.
Nerves on the edge, muscles tighten
Jaws are set, knuckles whiten
A dot ball passes, atmosphere heightens.
Those left standing: gods among titans
They’ll deliver the fight session by session.
The nations pride their only obsession.
For one, for all
Old scores, new clashes.
Together we’ll Rise
For the Urn
For the Ashes.
The aforementioned poem from the ECB is the first of many weapons to destroy the Aussies.
Alastair Cook, widely regarded as the modern day David Gower, is a complete, consistent batsman. Just like old wine and Sachin Tendulkar, Cook gets better and better. Cook’s inspiring captaincy and man-management has been an invisible ingredient in England’s rise.
Kevin Petersen, who marks his return to the side after a lengthy injury lay-off has boldly predicted that Cook will surpass Sachin’s illustrious records by the time he calls time on his career. As always Petersen’s breathtaking chutzpah and game-changing skills are bound to have a high impact on the outcome of the series.
Meanwhile, young Joe Root, who has been thrust to open the batting with his skipper, is a rock-solid batsman with a watertight technique and a strong mind, impervious to distraction. No wonder, he comes from the Yorkshire school of batsmanship. Jonathan Trott is another vital cog in the English batting machinery.
The bowling attack led by swing king, James Anderson is capable of taking 20 wickets in any conditions ranging from rank turners to seaming Bunsen’s. Stuart Broad can be menacing when in rhythm, Tim Bresnan is a reverse-swing specialist and the wily Graeme Swann has proved time and time again that even spin could sting in England.
And Australia must also be wary of Matt Prior, whose batting as well as keeping ability keeps multiplying in direct correlation to the shininess of his pate.
Victory in the battle for the Ashes urn will cap a glorious summer for England.