Cricket, – Some comments on The Ashes and its newfound popularity

Cricketmania is due to reach fever pitch (so to speak) tomorrow, with the deciding test of the 2005 Ashes series, win or draw, England will regain the Ashes which hasn’t been done since 1986/7 – a prestigious feat, if achieved. To date, a total of 62 Ashes series have been played with Australia winning 30 and England 27 of them. This weekend’s series is a culmination of an exciting summer, but why has cricket become so popular and who’s going to replace the superb bowler Simon Jones now he’s on his way back to the green green grass of home (that’s Wales, for all of you that didn’t get that)?

To answer my first question – I’ll admit as a girl growing up in South West London, I had no interest in cricket whatsoever, watching the local boys’ school play rugby was far more appealing, yet off I went to university and cricket appeared on my radar, partly due to a boyfriend and partly due to a couple of friends from university being on the varsity team. There is something so quintessentially English about the whole sport that appealed, who else would create a sport that involves breaks for drinks, lunch and afternoon tea? Socially it’s fantastic, the banter is nothing like that of the terraces of my local football club, the sport has got its bad boy celebrity players (Kevin Pieterson and Shane Warne come to mind) and it’s heart throbs (Simon Jones and Freddie Flintoff) – yet this Ashes series has brought cricket into the nation’s hearts and homes – why?

One reason could be the aforementioned players, who bring a celebrity status to the sport with their antics off the field. Yet there is something massively exciting about this test series. The closeness of the matches, Edgbaston is the best example, with England winning by 2 runs to the drumming we gave the Aussies in the most recent test at Trent Bridge, the passion and excitement is something like a World Cup final. The team mentality is superb, somewhat like a rugby pack, Michael Vaughan’s men group huddle before and after every match, making them perhaps stronger than their Aussie counterparts, who seem to be full of arrogance (and abuse in the case of Kasprowisz and Captain Ricky Ponting).

England face the daunting task of replacing the superb swing bowler Simon Jones, who failed a fitness test yesterday – replacements come in the form Paul Collingwood or Jimmy Anderson. In my opinion and Richie ‘I’m a Cricket Legend’ Benaud might I add, Paul Collingwood is the better candidate. Collingwood is a solid fielder and quality batsman, so if England win the toss, he could help us rack up the points before we field, on the other hand, Jimmy Anderson is somewhat back in form, but he had his pinnacle season in 2003 and hasn’t really seen that form since, he is though a safe option for 12th man, despite being a not half bad swing bowler.

For Australia to see a happy conclusion of this Ashes series – they need to pull together and focus on winning this test to retain some form of dignity when they return home next week, although it is unlikely to be a hero’s welcome win or lose the Ashes, as they have been shown to have not been remotely in the same superb form as their English counterparts. My money is on, (if you haven’t already figured it out) England, a solid team, a stalwart amount of support and on the whole a better performing team could see an extremely happy Captain Michael Vaughan (incidentally his captaincy has been nothing short of brilliant) and team parading through the streets of London with a trophy that is the same size as an egg cup.

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