To bounce back at Adelaide is a big ask
Well, who saw all that coming?! A week ago this Ashes series, beginning so soon after the summer's dampish squib and some desolutory prep, seemed like it might a truly tepid affair. Armchair pundits and pro commentators alike were plumping for England but without enormous enthusiasm. Mitchell Johnson's chat was loud but a tad unconvincing. And Trotty was surely on the brink of reminding everyone how he became a run-God.
Then boom! While we were all snoozing under snug duvets, the Aussies well and truly boshed it. England, on the other hand, after one and half encouraging sessions looked unprepared, ill-equipped and ultimately dazed.
Coming back from this will take extraordinary skill and grit. At Adelaide, England will line up with three test match novices in their top six, a keeper who can't buy a run and an attack which, bar Broad, is out of sorts, or less kindly, a bit old. They can do it but, by gum, I wouldn't bank on it now.
The English attitude to mental illness is healthy
Jonathan Trott's departure from the tour came - as these things generally do - like a bolt from the blue. Given the personal ways in which stress-related illnesses manifest themselves, it is hard to know exactly what he is going through, although the prevalence of mental illness means there is no shortage of empathy for him.
Some might wonder that English players seem to suffer from psychological ill-health more than their counterparts from elsewhere. Of course, the reality is they almost certainly don't; but especially since Marcus Trescothick's well-documented problems, it may well be the case that the English cricketing culture is more accepting of the need to monitor - and be open about - players' mental well-being.
Indeed, it may even be something to celebrate that the English game is sufficiently nurturing to enable high quality players like Trott, Trescothick and Mike Yardy to make it to the top in spite of their illnesses. The work of the Professional Cricketers’ Association in promoting positive messages has been hugely significant in that regard. Cricketers of all sorts can be tough, macho and puerile but mental ill-health is something that few in this country would seek to belittle or poke fun at nowadays.
Turn on, tune in, why bother?
On Wednesday night I signally failed to stay awake long enough to listen to the start of play. My first 'headphones under the covers’ moment came at about 3.15am when England were on top, the Aussies struggling at 135 for 6. Tuning in again when the alarm went ping at just after 6 o'clock, all still seemed hunky-dory.
After that, it was like noise torture. On Thursday night we were a slightly jittery fifty-odd for two when I first turned on; then eight down at the next waking hour. The score at dawn wasn't worth further investigation. On the third and fourth days I might as well have had some proper sleep but belief in cricketing miracles kept the dial pointing at 5Live Sports Xtra.
The burbling of Boycott, Agnew, Marks et al can lead to reveries of youth and happy dozing. But when England are being utterly trounced, genuine white noise would be preferable.
Mea culpa – please no return to the ‘90s
It is said by a million cliche-coated tongues that you should be careful what you wish for. And I must therefore take some responsibility for this most recent Ashes disaster, having noted last week how much I missed the '90s.
England's performance at the Gabba was a clear and hideous reminder of actually how grim that decade was. Waking up to news from overseas tests in those days was to be caught in a Groundhog Day of stoical 40s from Athers, tailend collapses and Warne five-fers. Occasional brilliant hundreds from men like Thorpe and moments of ebulliance by Darren Gough were countered inexorably by a dropped catch, a comedy run-out or the knowledge that Alan Mullaly was coming on first change.
Then, what kept us going was an awareness of Australia's complete superiority but a belief that it must one day come to an end. To get back to that state of affairs would be thoroughly depressing.
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