The Ashes 2012-13: Changing times in the fight for the urn
A huge picture of Andy Flintoff with arms aloft is accompanied by the message: “In Affectionate Celebration of English Cricket, which was reborn at Edgbaston on August 7 2005”.
Pictures of Flintoff and his celebrating team-mates appeared on front and back pages of newspapers the following day, with the start of the football season coming off well and truly second best in the battle for column inches.
The turning point came even before the game had started as Glenn McGrath trod on a ball and Ricky Ponting convinced himself that the pitch contained such demons that his opponents must bat first- only once had a team won batting first at Edgbaston in 13 occasions since 1991.
At the end of five days, the fate of the Ashes summer had changed as Harmison’s bouncer flicked Michael Kasprowicz’s glove and looped towards Geraint Jones. England‘s two-run victory was the narrowest result in Ashes cricket history. This victory led to gleeful confidence in the English camp.
Three weeks later they would successfully regain the Ashes for the first time since 1987 in their biennial attempt to win the urn-winning the series 2-1. For many, this was the turning point in English cricket history.
Despite England’s occasional successes in the early 19th century, it was fair to say that the real power in the game had shifted from England to nations such as South Africa, Australia, India, Pakistan, and the West Indies.
If the 1980s were a low point for English Test cricket then the 1990s were only a slight improvement. The arrival of Graham Gooch as captain in 1990 forced a move toward more professionalism and especially fitness, though it took some time for old habits to die. But the real confidence was restored by the aggressive captaincies of Nasser Hussain and Michael Vaughan.
England went on to lose the the urn in the following seaon of 2006-2007 Down Under – they were wiped out 5-0. Major concerns was raised in England after a dramatic capitulation just 15 months after winning the coveted urn.
This was followed by a transition period – where England fielded an improved side comprising of young, developing players like Aliastar Cook, Swann and Broad. They were backed up by a handful of older players providing stability and leadership.
It was during this time Strauss picked up the reins from Michael Vaughan (after a brief stint from Pietersen) on a permanent basis for the tour of West Indies in early 2009 in a new partnership with Andy Flower, who initially succeeded Moores on a temporary basis.
England’s first Test under the new regime ended in an ignominious defeat in Jamaica, but within months the Ashes had been regained on home soil. Strauss then joined a select band of England captains to have beaten Australia at home and away with success on the triumphant tour of 2010-11.
Strauss, not much known for his captaincy skills as much as his exploits with the willow, had at his disposal some of the finest players England had fielded in two decades. He had declared his intention to lead the team through two more Ashes series that would be played between 2013-14. But he later abandoned that dream and passed the baton on to his opening partner Alistair Cook.
Never since the 1880s have England been so far ahead of Australia. England lead the series 2-0 going into the third Test at Old Trafford and chances of an Australian fight back looks slim. Neither country has come from behind to win three Tests in a row in England, and the only case of such a turnaround that took place was when Australia clawed back to win three Tests in a row. But, that was so because the Tests then were timeless.
As the Australian revival looks out of the cards, the English will enjoy their time under the sun listening to the lurking dramatic appeal of the whitewash and thence, the double-whitewash Down Under.