Unusually, Australia went into this Ashes series the underdog, with England prancing around as confident bulldogs on their home turf. What happened next was a textbook case of pride presaging a fall – or almost. It took Ashton Agar, a 19-year-old on his Test debut, to force England to entertain second thoughts. Even then the home team seemed unable to grasp that the competition they faced was real. They shared their arrogance with the home commentators. When England took the field today, the assumption was that victory would be won within the hour. It was after 3pm, with only 14 runs needed, that Australia’s last wicket fell.
How hard is it for the English to learn? Never, ever, underestimate Australia, in any sport, especially if they have nothing to lose. When battle rejoins at Lord’s on Thursday, that is one mistake, at least, that must not be repeated.