The most important cricketing contest of 2009 is over. We had the T20 World Cup & Champions Trophy will be underway soon. But the Ashes was the most eagerly awaited contest of them all. The end result: England beat Australia 2-1 to retain the Ashes (somehow I tend to forget the 5-0 thrashing given by Australia in 2006-07).
"When we were bad we were awful, but when we were good we managed to be just good enough" These words by English captain Andrew Strauss gave the best possible description of the series. Unlike the 2005 series which was faught between two great teams full of great players this time it was played between two average teams. Players like Trescothick, Vaughan, Simon Jones, Hayden, Langer, Martyn, McGrath, Gilchrist & Warne were really missed this time around. Even Pietersen, Harmison & Flintoff were not as good as they were in 2005. But still this was a great series to watch for the neutral viewers like me (though with an English bias).
This series was full of some great moments. The Jimmy-Monty last wicket stand to save the Cardiff Test (which proved the most decisive in the end), Flintoff's destructive spell at Lords, Broad's spell in the first innings at Oval, the batting of Clarke, North & Strauss throughout the series, Phil Hughes announcing on Twitter that he had been dropped before the team was officially announced, the dramas of the keepers' injuries, Haddin getting replaced by Manou after the toss at Edgbaston (this after I had named him as my trump player in the Cricinfo fantasy league), Prior's injury delaying the toss at Leeds, calls to get Ramprakash/Trescothick to shore up the faltering England batting for the final test, end of Anderson's awesome non-duck record, Trott's century on debut, and the biggest of them all, Freddie's retirement. If there was a player whose sheer presence could lift up his team, it was Andrew Flintoff. Statistically he wouldnt qualify as amongst the all time greats but his impact was always huge. He was the only one to come close to being Botham's replacement. Now people are already asking if Broad is the next Freddie (no one is looking for the next Botham anymore), such has been Flintoff's impact.
And lastly, whether one likes him or not but one does feel a bit sad for Ricky Ponting. After all he is the first Australian captain in over 100 years to have lost two Ashes series in England. And he has had to carry physical scars of both defeats. A scar on the cheek causd by Harmison's bouncer on Day 1 at Lords in 2005 and the getting hit on the mouth by a Prior shot at the Oval in 2009.
And the English papers are celebrating in the manner in which only they can. (Check the pic below)