Third Test, Perth December 18, 2006

One blows, the other sucks

As in 2005, the trophy was won by the team that wanted it more, and that planned, selected and executed accordingly.

Sixteen years to win them back. Fifteen days to lose them. That’s one press box formulation I’ve already heard for England’s Ashes defeat. In fact, it doesn’t do the Australian effort justice. This campaign to recapture the Ashes has genuinely been 462 days in the making. It’s been fascinating to watch the systematic nature of the Australian preparation for this series – not least because of its contrast with England’s ‘it’ll-be-all-right-on-the-night’ thinking.

I remember the first inkling I had of it. In England last year, I had been taken aback by how casual the Aussies’ net sessions seemed to be. Then, during the ICC Super Series one-dayers at Docklands, the Australians began coming out during the intervals and doing seriously sharp fielding routines, severely showing up the Fred Karno’s Army of the World XI. I’ve felt that note of intent and intensity in their cricket since. Having not seen England between times, I’ve been taken aback by the slippage in their standards. As in 2005, the trophy was won by the team that wanted it more, and that planned, selected and executed accordingly. No real cricket fan can be other than satisfied with that.

I’ve written about the contrast in preparation for tomorrow’s Guardian, so I won’t say more here. Having been toasted on the front and frozen on the back for five days, furthermore, I’ve buggered my neck and need some physio, so I’ll save further musings for after the three-hour flight to Melbourne - which I’m now really looking forward to! As I write this, Michael Hussey is in the middle of the ground sharing beers and posing for photos with the WACA support staff. Nice bloke. Feel free to lavish praise on him and others.

Gideon Haigh is a cricket historian and writer

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