Ashes to Ashes, Brisbane to Bahrain
England have won the Ashes. They've beaten Australia - whupped might be more descriptive - by 131 runs and were gifted 80 extras in wides. Fantasy? Sort of. Forget Brisbane: this was Bahrain.
Cricket is hardly synonymous with the inhabitants of a country roughly the same size as the Isle of Man. But The Desert Ashes - as friendly a contest as there can be between English and Australians - was held on Saturday November 11, at Awali Cricket Club, with great success. "It's an annual game which has not been played in three years due to a lack of Australians on the island," Michael McKenna, the Australia captain told Cricinfo.
"It was named this year the Paul Moran Desert Ashes Memorial. Paul was an Australian freelance photographer and journalist who was the first journalist killed in the last Iraq war, in 2003."
The teams were made up of local expatriate Englishmen and Australians, all working in various guises and of varying capabilities with a willow in hand. Each player bowled a minimum of two overs and a maximum of five in their 30 overs and, for each wide, the bowling side were penalised by three runs.
"England scored 327 all out from 29 overs," Phillip, a member of the Australia team revealed, "but you must remember we did bowl 80 wides." Encouragingly for Flintoff, or not, England won the Desert Ashes, dismissing Australia for a paltry 196. Good omen? Well why not? "The pitch itself was asphalt so there was plenty of bounce and pace. The outfield was sand, though, which made fielding pretty hard; we're used to grass."
Bahrain was granted affiliate membership to the ICC in 2001 and is a member of the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) but, as yet, there have been no Pietersens, Sehwags or McGraths lured from the desert. England's build-up to Brisbane has been more stuttery-stacatto than buttery-smooth. Come January, they might even be wishing for a 30-over clash under scorching skies in Bahrain.
Will Luke is editorial assistant of Cricinfo