Morning all. As I write this, and as you read it, I am in a state of mild exhaustion. The Ashes began in Brisbane this week – and naturally that meant staying up until the witching hour, listening to Test Match Special because I don’t have Sky, and because it’s better.
Unlike the last series in England, which felt unusually flat to me, this series looks like it will be a belter. Every contest needs its villains, and in the run-up to this one Stuart Broad of England and Mitchell Johnson of Australia have been winding each other up in public with barbs that were pleasingly personal.
This is a fight between two nations at opposite ends of the Earth, bound by language, custom and history. For most of its life, Australia has defined itself in relation to its English forebears. To the crowds Down Under, each wicket that Broad takes is therefore a blow for the Old World against the New.
Similarly, each wicket of Johnson’s magic spell yesterday, which caused England’s batting to collapse in a way eerily reminiscent of the 1990s, was a thumping riposte to Captain Cook’s vision of Australia as a terra nullius – no one’s land.
When in Australia, the Ashes has always presented a challenge to newspapers, because the action takes place long after we have been sent to the printers. But this being the digital age, The Independent is published on multiple platforms, so you can read Stephen Brenkley’s wonderful match reports on our website, and tablet and mobile editions. Stephen is also doing an excellent daily podcast, which pulls no punches in its criticisms of players who flop. That’s available online too.
It was particularly disappointing to see England’s batting collapse in a week when the footballers were defeated in another great sporting rivalry heavy with history, against Germany. As our man in Madrid, Pete Jenson, wrote, Cristiano Ronaldo’s extraordinary performance for Portugal against Sweden on the same night was a reminder not only of how he has flourished while former Manchester United teammate Wayne Rooney has not, but that the current England side lack a player in football’s first rank.
Next year’s World Cup in Brazil, coverage of which our Sports desk has already started to plan, might at least have the virtue of low expectations for England’s footballers. If they win in Rio de Janeiro on 13 July, I’ll eat a football whole. In the meantime, let’s hope for better from our men in white flannel. Have a great weekend.