Stick a Fork In Them…

They’re cooked.

English fans with pictures of a weeping Ricky Ponting (Australian captain). Photograph: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

England have won the test series against Australia 3-1. The Australian media are indulging in an orgy of apocalyptic doom and gloom. Sample headlines: An Embarrassment of Historic Proportions; Can’t bat, can’t bowl, can’t field and can’t even think straight; Worst Effort in Ashes History; and Summer of our ultimate humiliation.

The English papers are self-congratulatory and smug, but politely so. English cricket fans and writers have done their time in the trenches – the English cricket team was absolutely dire all through the 90’s.

Here’s The Guardian‘s Mike Selvey, himself an ex-England player, gloating just a little…

It was set up on the fourth day by Anderson, not just Good but Brilliant Jimmy, indisputably the bowler of the series with daylight second. Anderson plunged the knife into what life was left in the twitching carcass of the Australian cricket team. The old ball reversed, as it always seems to do for England – the same England, said the sages here in the pre-series propaganda war, who would not know how to use a secondhand Kookaburra – and not for Australia.

But Anderson did not just use it, he had it talking, gabbling away, a ball with verbal diarrhoea. With it, he produced one of the best cameo spells of the series and knocked the heart out of the middle of the Australian innings: the left-hander Usman Khawaja, tyro and promising but given a strong lesson in this match that there is a giant step up to the top level, seduced outside off stump as the ball wafted away from him; the right-handed skipper Michael Clarke, destined perhaps to try to pick this side from the basement and not a great player in sight, put through the wringer, utter torture, before he found no answer to an away-swinger and mercifully also edged to Prior.

I’ve really enjoyed this Ashes series and not just for the schadenfreude. Although no New Zealander can resist at least a little of that any time an Australian team gets beaten at something, especially when that something is cricket. Australian cricket teams have been putting the hurt on New Zealand for decades and to make it even worse, the recent lot have been a cocky, snarling bunch.

It’s mainly been a pleasure to watch because the English team seem to be a very likeable group. They’ve been gracious and polite whether winning or losing. They look as though they’re enjoying both the cricket and being part of the team. Each time they’ve won there have been hugs and jumps all round. And when Andrew Strauss, the English captain, got hold of the ridiculously small cup that is the ashes urn, he thrust it in the air and the entire team leaped and bounced and squeaked looking a lot like Petra does when she receives a particularly spectacular present. It was an endearing performance.

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