Given that the 2013-14 series is in Australia, I’m not following it as closely as 2005, 2009, or this past summer. Instead, I’ve been waking up each morning to the first two words I learned about cricket: “England collapse”.
And collapse they have. All they need(ed) to retain the Ashes was a series draw: any combination of five results that did not give Australia an advantage in test wins would suffice. However, going into the third series, they’re down 2-0, and in neither test was the result in doubt after the first day. In the third test, Australia’s 326-6 was the highest first day total at The Waca in Ashes history.
To retain the Ashes, England need to win no fewer than two of the remaining three tests, and do no worse than draw the third. At the time of writing, they closed Australia out for 385, and are on 180 for 4. In other words, they’re not in great shape. Indeed, the current odds at one on-like bookie is 22/1 for an England Ashes series win, and 9/1 for a series draw. 9/1 is stingy. An Australian series win is paying out 1/20. Meaning, if I rushed out and placed a £200 bet on Australia winning the Ashes, I’d make an entire profit of £10.
So, what the hell has happened to England? They’ve won four of five Ashes series dating back to 2005, losing only 2007 (by an embarrassing 5-0) in Australia. 2005 was one of the best sporting series that I’ve experienced, in any sport. 2013-14 is basically over already. Going into this series, most assumed an easy England victory. Australia’s squad was in disarray, they hadn’t rebuilt following some key retirements over the past six years (think Warne, McGrath, Ponting), and their ICC world test ranking was falling fast (currently fifth). There were some warnings in the uneven 2013 series in England, but most chose to ignore them.
It should also be noted that Kevin Pietersen, in two and a half test matches (five innings total), has scored 18, 26, 4, 53, and today was out for 19. It’s not just his fault of course, this has been a top to bottom, attack and batting, collapse.
It was a good run, winning four of five Ashes. But now, maybe we can return to the warmth and security of an American’s understanding of cricket being a bunch of numbers and meaningless words strung together, followed by “and England lose”.