Two weeks to go and the five match Test series cricket between England and Australia, for many still the pinnacle of the game, will have started. I am rather looking forward to it, more so than I had earlier thought. It wasn’t so long ago when English cricket, Test and limited overs, appeared not to be looking good, and this following on from a 5-0 trouncing by Australia in 2013-14, an ignominious defeat in the 2015 cricket World Cup and internal disarray. But following an exciting one day series win against New Zealand, the emerging of fresh new talent that looks as to have what it takes to compete at this level, unphased by the quality of the opposition, and putting behind us recently big names standing down, KP and other people problems and defeats by modest opponents, there are signs we may have turned a corner, even though it is never wise to be over optimistic about such things and nothing should be taken for granted.
Listening to the sports slot in the Radio 4 Today program this morning, I was interested to hear from two of those who played in the England side that won the second test in 2005, and that by a mere two runs. This was, as they say, a critical stage in England regaining the Ashes (albeit on home soil) after many years of losses, which set up a short period when England were seen as the best side in the world. But such are the changing fortunes of cricket, this period of ascendancy was short lived and soon after they lost on the Indian sub-continent, followed by an Ashes defeat in Australia less than eighteen months after their earlier Ashes win. But going back to that turning point victory, which so easily could have been a defeat, I was holidaying in Scotland with my family at the time and I remember well the nervous excitement I felt while listening on the radio to commentary on that game. It proved a turning point and great cricket followed. I feel some of that excited anticipation again.
If I was to stick my neck out, I would say that England, who again are on the ascendancy and possess match winning players, as well as exciting new talent, in all but the spin department. I predict they will edge a closely fought series against a rejuvenated Australian side, who have credibly rebuilt following the recent retirement of some big named players, who as far as neutrals go must be considered favourites. But what do I know, especially as my record as a cricket pundit is modest at best? Even so, there is much to look forward to and no doubt I will be following developments live and via podcasts, thanks to the superb service provided by the TMS team. May good cricket be played and may the best side win and, as an armchair devotee of English cricket, I hope that side will be England.