June 26, 2009

Ashes 2009

It's all El Nino's fault

Will Luke

The Ashes is but 12 banter-filled days away, and English fans already have the perfect excuse prepared if the unthinkable should happen and England fail to regain the Ashes. It's all due to El Nino.

It's quite a relief. Before 2005, a generation of fans had only the flimsiest of reasons to lay bare at England's calamitous displays against Australia. Their inability to play spin; a weakness against the short ball; county cricket protecting too many average losers; the fact they can't catch, can't handle the pressure, the heat, the rain, or simply can't play the game very well. Now, triumphantly, scientists have the answer.

According to a study published today in Weather, the El Nino Southern Oscillation phenomenon has two phases which have had dramatically influenced Ashes results. During “El Nino years”, Australia won 13 out of 17 series (76%) but only 5 out of 13 in “La Nina years”. Remarkably, England have won just one series in the last 100 years following an El Nino event – the Bodyline series of 1932/33.

"This study shows it may be possible to tell by next winter whether England has a better chance of success in the following Ashes series than previous tours," said the study's author, Manoj Joshi, from the Walker Institute at The University of Reading.

"The study could even influence whether the England touring team should include more fast bowlers or more swing bowlers," Joshi added. "However, it must be emphasised that this climatic effect is small compared to the human element, so whoever loses in 2010-11 can't use El Nino as an excuse.”

Oh yes they can.

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Will Luke is assistant editor of ESPNcricinfo

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