Things rarely fall out that way, of course, but take that scenario as a basis, repeat five times and you’re going to have a cracker of a series because even if the eventual score line reads 5-0 every game has gone the distance, and both sides have been right in it until the death.

Anyway, that’s Hughesy’s definition of a close series, and if you’re looking at a score line that reads two-all as you go into Game Five I’m willing to concede that you’re probably looking at one of the greatest series ever.

Maybe I’ve been spoiled because the first Test series I remember consciously following was that great series between Australia and the West Indies in 1960-61 that started with the Tied Test and included the nail-biting draw in Adelaide as Slasher Mackay and Lindsay Kline held out against Wes Hall and Lance Gibbs. 

I don’t recall too many series over the subsequent fifty years that went close to matching it.

With back to back Ashes series kicking off tonight, somewhere during the next day or two we’ll have one side gaining the ascendancy, and, hopefully, from my point of view, it’ll be Australia. 

At this point it’s time for Hughesy’s favourite metaphor when it comes to these situations. It’s like a loose set of floorboards where the nails that secure things in place keep popping their heads up, and whoever’s standing on top of them bangs them back down. Eventually the nails will either stop popping back up or they’ll all come loose and the bloke with the hammer will fall through the cracks.

When I look at 2005, I see Australia as the bloke standing on the floor after the First Test, with a whole pile of nails springing out of their nail holes on the first morning of the Second, which put England on a roll that we weren’t able to counter, though it was a very close run thing.

Given the current state of affairs you might be disinclined to make a prediction, but I think things are going to be very close, which will probably mean a 5-0 score line to the home side in six and a half weeks’ time, but I’m reasonably upbeat.

I like Lehmann as coach, and I think we’ll see a much more focussed side than we’ve seen in recent series.

I like Clarke as an innovative captain, and I suspect we’ll see something like the short midwicket Alan Border regularly set in place against Graham Gooch in 1989. That, and the suggestion that Terry Alderman bowled out-swingers, did a lot to secure a famous victory in that series.

You can see the mind games already in the decision not to announce the actual side until the morning of the game. I liked that yesterday, and I like it even more when I read articles like this one.


© Ian L Hughes 2021