Tuesday, June 6

2011 and all that: England’s latest win over the Ashes in Australia still feels like a dream | The ashes

ORn On Friday, January 7, 2011, Mike Skinner posted a brief video on YouTube; It showed him asleep on his couch, an empty teacup by his head, a crumpled pack of beer at his feet, as he read aloud the opening paragraph of Mike Selvey’s Guardian party report from the last day of the Ashes. . “They came by the thousands to form an English corner of a foreign field for climax.” It’s a sweet, pretty, strange thing, one last surreal twist on a winter cricket so full of them it felt like a long dream. “Where I am?” Skinner finally asks as he opens his eyes.

Following the ashes in Australia from here in England always feels a bit like this, clouded-eyed snippets of action seen on fluorescent television screens while everyone else in the house is asleep, or snippets of radio commentary shouted through. of a headset that wakes you up with a start. at two or three or four in the morning. Most of the time it all becomes a bit of a nightmare. The 2010-11 series was the exception. England have only won four events in Australia this century. Three of them were on that tour.

It wasn’t just that they won. It was the way they did it. They played with a conviction and cruelty unfamiliar to anyone who grew up following them on these tours. They became the first team in Ashes history to score four totals out of 500 in a series, the first team in Ashes history to win three games by one inning in a series; they broke, or threatened, records that had stood for more than a century. 517 for one at the Gabba, two for three in Adelaide, 98 in Melbourne, 644 at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Looking back now, 10 years later, everything feels even more fantastic.

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At that time, people thought that victory would be a turning point. “The Australian era of greatness has come to an end,” reported the Daily Mail, “as another takes hold, the era of English rule.” England reached number one in the world when they beat India at home the following summer. But the English are not good at being at the top, they have not had enough practice. And things got very shaky when they were defeated by Pakistan in the UAE next winter, and then completely collapsed when they lost to South Africa in the summer of 2012. Back in Australia in 2013-14 they were beaten 5-0 , that is a disadvantage. time of their own administrators who had decided to whip them through Ashes back to back home and away.

The slump that followed, and the failure to win even one of the 10 events they have played in Australia since then, makes what happened in 2010-11 seem even more unlikely.

There were lessons there in 2010-11, especially in the way England performed their cricket, which was patient but positive, marked by stamina and a royal taste for the contest. They channeled their aggression into dry bowling and long hitting, subjected the opposition to thankless days on the field, and then made sure they didn’t get easy breaks when they were hitting. Jimmy Anderson was trying to explain it in the BBC’s Ashes Project podcast this week. “You have to be patient, but not defensive,” Anderson explained. “You have to be aggressive in terms of the fields that you establish and in terms of the lines that you throw. You can’t just throw it off the stump and try to play maidens; you have to be challenging the bat all the time, and you have to hit the field. “

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But really, it’s hard to use 2010-11 as a template. He owed too much to the unique circumstances of the time. It was the result of two teams meeting at a very particular time and place in their development. Australia was still trying to figure out how to fill in the gaps left by all the great players – Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer, Adam Gilchrist, Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne – who had retired in recent years. They were so confused about what to do that they ended up dropping their regular spinner, Nathan Hauritz, to replace him with another who had never played an event, Xavier Doherty, and then scrapped him for a third, Michael Beer, who had only played five first. . -Class games.

England, on the other hand, were an established team, with a very clear idea of ​​their strengths, weaknesses, roles and the way they wanted to play. They had only lost two of the 12 events they had played in the 12 months leading up to kickoff, and nine of the 11 they chose for Ashes’ first game in Brisbane had started all the events they had been available for in that time.

Alastair Cook was in the shape of his life, Graeme Swann was in his pomp, and Jimmy Anderson had just hit his prime.
Alastair Cook was in the shape of his life, Graeme Swann was in his pomp, and Jimmy Anderson had just hit his prime. Photograph: Tom Shaw / Getty Images

Andy Flower had led the team for two years. Eventually, Flower’s intensity would start to affect players, but at the time they were still buying into her way of doing things. He had the team go through a grueling five-day military training camp in Bavaria the month before the flight which, most of them gleefully admitted afterward, they absolutely detested. Even Flower began to regret it. But it brought them together, if only because when it was all over they laughed at how horrendous it was. They tried something similar again in 2013-14, and this time, the players ended up ridiculing it as a “sham.”

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But in 2010, when they still had a lot to prove, the players were willing to accompany the coaches. Not just Flower. Richard Halsall had drilled them in a crack field unit, and Graham Gooch emphasized the idea of ​​scoring “hundreds of daddies.” Then there was fast bowling coach David Saker, who brought a bit of good humor and a lot of local knowledge. Strauss had actually wanted to hit first the morning Australia was pitched at MCG, until Saker took him aside before pitching and said, “Do that, and I’ll never talk to you again.” It wasn’t clear that he was joking.

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There was a real and very rare feeling that everyone enjoyed each other’s company. Kevin Pietersen was still enthusiastic, lean, and eager. He still hadn’t gotten into a fight with Strauss or had enough of some of his teammates. Graeme Swann was in his pomp, the lynchpin of a four-man attack led by Anderson that had just reached its prime. Alastair Cook, who would have been eliminated had he not turned a century in the final test of the summer of 2010 against Pakistan, suddenly took the shape of his life. Jonathan Trott, who had not yet been brought down by the relentless pressure of international cricket, could not put a wrong foot. Very soon, all of this would start to change. But 2010-11 was a happy journey, a record in English cricket. Do we dream it?


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