Choose your own ending

In Australia there are few truly sacred rituals and days, but I defy anyone reading this to say that the first day of the first test isn’t one of them.  On other websites this might be a dangerous, or at least provocative, assertion, but I feel I am on solid ground here at

But on this night before the Ashes gets going, does anyone really know what to expect?  Good cricket I hope.  Competitive, passionate, combative, desperate cricket.  I think it is fair to say that there are two teams with a lot to play for, and that is a great place to start.  Who’s going to win though, I think is hard to predict.

England have had an almost perfect start so far, and have all the momentum they need. The people they wanted to take wickets have done so; the right batsmen have got runs; they are winning easy games and putting dents into incumbent and prospective Australian players alike.  Like Australia versus the West Indies in the early post-Border years, they have been building up to a win for years.  This tour they are organised, winning, confident; everything Australia has been for so many series before.  If they convert that into a comfortable win over five tests, looking back to now, it will seem obvious that that was exactly what was about to happen.

On the other hand, they haven’t won here since 1986-87, and after they first beat Australia back in 2005 they got flogged 5-0 when they came out here.  They’ve only had to play some pretty weak state sides and then got the good end of the conditions against Australia A in Tasmania.  No matter how good their build-up looks, you have to remember that they are England playing cricket in Australia, and Australia really want to win.  Their pace bowlers are untested here, and while Swann is good, he isn’t going to win it on his own.  Australia’s quicks should do some damage, and only Strauss can really say he is coming here with the confidence of a proven performer in form.  When Australia win easily, looking back to now, it will seem obvious that that was exactly what was about to happen.

The other possibility is that it will be a close series, and both teams will win one or more tests. Both sides seem pretty desperate to win, and both probably feel they have a team that can take care of the opposition if they just get it all together at the right times.  Both have some world class players, some good players out of form, and some guys who need to prove whether they are going to be household names or trivia questions.  You’d expect both will dominate at times, and be ripped apart at others.  So – two highly motivated teams who think they can win, but who probably fear the alternative.  Both with strengths and weaknesses, and performance which is likely to fluctuate.  If we get a closely fought series with both teams a show of winning, looking back to now, it will seem obvious that that was exactly what was about to happen.

I reckon that at the end of the series there will be lots of us saying that whatever happened was exactly what we expected.  It’ll make us feel good about ourselves, and it will probably even be true.  Whatever does happens, there will be a very obvious story that has already started and which inexorably leads to whatever happens.  It’s just which ending that it is leading to that we don’t know yet.

[Personally, I am leaning to the England win scenario.  I am a big believer in momentum in sport, and especially in prolonged sporting events.  There is almost nothing they would change about their start so far I reckon. Aside from their own performances, they would be just loving watching the Australian selectors being humiliated into a farcical naming ceremony in the rain, state teams being bowled out in a couple of sessions, players being forced to play grade cricket to try to prove themselves, injuries, public debates and all the rest.  If they can win the opening exchanges of tomorrow’s sacred rituals, then they are going to be hard to stop.]

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