Sport Comment: Set your alarms: this series just got interesting

John Inverdale
ENGLAND’S resounding thumping is good news for cricket and very bad news for the partners (you suspect mostly wives and girlfriends) of cricket fans.

The sport’s obsession with railing against the “less is more” philosophy, which ensures that marquee events remain special and long-anticipated, had meant that the Australian leg of back-to-back Ashes series began last week with a degree of indifference from the British sporting public.

England’s summer dominance ensured a measure of smugness on the part of their fans, reinforced by the likes of Sir Ian Botham predicting a potential 5-0 series whitewash. The perennial agonising over whether to stay up or get up to watch/listen to the cricket is always made a lot easier when the matches are one-sided. “It’s ok, I’ll just wake up a bit earlier and watch the last hour.”

Ambivalent? Not now, you’re not. Now we have a contest of Carl Froch proportions. We have England knocked down in the first, and on the ropes, with Jonathan Trott among others taking a standing eight count. We have gloating Aussies telling us they always knew things would be different Down Under and they’re going to rub the Poms’ noses in it, and we have former England stars anticipating an apocalyptic fall from grace by what was supposed to be the second best team in the world.

When of course we have none of those things. We have a good England team that have underperformed and dawdled in the stalls, and a good Australian team that has shot out of the traps, fired up by their own thumping a few months earlier.

And what we most definitely do have is four weeks of misery ahead for the partners of those of us who were quite happy to opt out of participating in this series, as it meandered its supposed inevitable way towards an England victory.

Stand by for a month of alarm setting, in-and-out of bed just to “see how it’s going”, considerable sleep deprivation and grumpy cricket fans at home and the workplace. You won’t want to miss this now. It’s going to be a long winter.