Tanya's Take

Tanya Aldred

England are shining but is anyone watching?

So they beat the old enemy, but did anyone notice in the noise of the football and the tennis?

Tanya Aldred

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Andrew Strauss had raced to 37 before he was caught behind off Shaun Tait, England v Australia, 4th ODI, The Oval, June 30, 2010
Not in picture: trademark drooping shoulders as defeat beckons © Getty Images
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Dear Reader

It may have escaped your notice but England won three one-day internationals in a row against Australia recently. That's a bagging, a whipping, a thrashing, and possibly even a walloping. But unfortunately this triumph coincided with the busiest period of the British sporting year.

Exhibit one, the football World Cup: a handbag and a half of human frailty squashed brilliantly into a tight schedule. A sensational episode of Gallic stroppiness (had they been talking to West Indies?) was the prelude to a pathetic England uprising, some horrible games, a grizzly inquest, and armfuls of spare St George's crosses going at a bargain prices somewhere down your way. Was Fabio too strict, were the players too tired, were the public too hungry, was Wayne Rooney preoccupied by Stuart Broad's batting form? Would this four-year cycle of hope and despair ever end? With the Nigerian and French governments wading in, and the Italians holding a national day of mourning, it has been a theatrical masterpiece.

Next, Wimbledon. This is an event that knows it is all in the timing. It is played during the same two weeks of June every year, when the days are long and lovely and the sun, when it comes, is fierce, when the strawberries are ripe; and which attracts fans who watch no tennis at any other time. It, by playing on its essential Britishness, demands terrestrial television and by virtue of that becomes a topic of conversation at the school gates and in the corner shop - though the English players show an impressive aptitude for defeat. The top players - commiserations Roger and Venus by the way - need no second name. It is wonderful.

When you add to these show-stoppers an austerity budget dominating the news agenda, plus a heatwave of British proportions and all the usual sporting adventures, you see where cricket falls between the tracks.

And yet the cricket has been great. Although they lost on Tuesday, England seem to approach each game in expectation, not hope. I looked in vain on the television for the drooping shoulders and the increasingly frantic but vain exhortation of the wicketkeeper as the asking rate grew too high and the lads examined the fastenings on their shoes in great detail. They were confident. They were good. They showed graciousness in defeat and in victory. Easy, you might say, but something previous England teams have occasionally not thought important.

And there has been more that is good, hiding in the long grass of the newspaper sibs columns. The Roses match at Old Trafford ended in a tense draw as two young and talented spinners, Adil Rashid and Azeem Rafiq, bowled in tandem with seven fielders greedily pressing in around the bat. Those two join Adam Lyth, the left-handed opener from Whitby, to make this Yorkshire side the most exciting it has been for years.

For the defending champions, Steve Harmison shrugged back the years and whistled up seven wickets for 29 runs against Warwickshire. England women are playing New Zealand, and the England Lions play India A. Pakistan are here, too, to warm up for their Twenty20 and Test series against Australia, before turning their fire on England later in the summer, when there may be space for their triumphs and disasters and possibly their bust-ups too.

But perhaps this midsummer box of delights is for the best. To wrap up a series win against the green and gold, but without too many trumpets, sounds like a perfect Andy Flower strategy. He'll let you know, come November, whether it has been a sound one.

RSS FeedTanya Aldred lives in Manchester. She writes occasionally for the Guardian

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Tanya fell in love with cricket during England's Ashes-winning summer of 1985. She went on to be features editor at Wisden Cricket Monthly and a regular-ish contributor to the Guardian. She once hit a six over a sea wall on the Isle of Wight.

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Tanya Aldred Tanya fell in love with cricket during England's Ashes-winning summer of 1985. She went on to be features editor at Wisden Cricket Monthly and a regular-ish contributor to the Guardian. She once hit a six over a sea wall on the Isle of Wight.
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