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Peter King
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Ashes to Ashes

10 January 2014, 11:04

There is no particularly clear reason why I should favour England in any sporting contest against Australia, I just do.

Perhaps this preference owes its roots to my childhood enculturation which included Pooh Bear, Peter Rabbit and the whole Epaminondas series. Perhaps it is more due to the fact that later in life, my family’s sporting obsessions always regarded the All Blacks (in rugby) and the Australians (in cricket) as THE teams to beat, which meant that particular pleasure was derived when either one of them suffered a reversal against anybody else.

I grew up during an age when England were regarded as the whipping boys of international sport. Except for the wife-beater Geoff Boycott, too many of the troops spoke posh, and the required mongrel was not in evidence to go toe to toe with sides constructed around historically recent convict, cannibal or slave stock. (These factors, as everyone knows, have provided a strong physical advantage to a variety of fearsome peoples around the world).

England’s perennial problem was that, though they had invented a few ball games and then foolishly taught the colonies how to play them, the dole and the BBC had obviously softened their core muscles irreparably, and they just could not pass muster in the hurly-burly of top-flight competition.  

At some point in the 1970s, England woke up and decided to poach an Old Queenian, the late Tony Greig, to bolster their middle order and provide some much-needed leadership, a trait presumably developed from growing up in the aforesaid colonies. They liked the tall blond fellow so much they promptly made him captain (a favour he promptly returned by skipping off to Oz to play for Kerry Packer).

Greig was followed by Allan Lamb (a typical woossie English name) and Robin Smith (with little finesse but a lot of artisanal grit), but all to no avail.   

 We had to wait until the new millennium for English cricket to pull its collective finger out and start producing some respectable results in the Test arena. It goes without saying that this was done with a fair amount of colonial reinforcement, not least of which was provided in the form of a narcissistic tattoed Durbanite who regarded himself as God’s gift to the international arena.

Quite recently, England had Australia over a barrel, winning back the Ashes and managing to hold on to them for a couple of years. After the glory years of Warne and McGrath, this was sweet revenge, and went down well almost everywhere except where they have a taste for marsupial roadkill in their potjiekos.

Alas, they have flattered only to deceive. After talking up their prospects for a 5-match rubber on the desert continent, once again England have capitulated pathetically, even being called a disgrace (somewhat richly) by the aforementioned wife-beater who now makes a living offering expert opinions on the correct technique for a good knock.

There should be an enquiry into why, with so many shrinks available to modern professional sportsmen, a fair number of England’s cricketers see fit to cry off sick whenever they have to spend more than two weeks away from home, or to retire suddenly in the middle of a tour.

Having dispensed with this sorry band of pansies, the insufferable offspring of pickpockets and ne’er-do-wells are now talking up their chances for their upcoming tour to Africa, even suggesting that they have the best bowling attack in the world.

They make me very cross. 

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