Ashes to ashes

Despite having not won the Ashes since 1987, England are now in with a realistic chance of triumphing in the Ashes, writes Sam GeogheganThe most open Ashes in recent memory got underway in Australia last Thursday in Brisbane. The Ashes is a five test cricket series between Australia and England. Australia have 31 wins compared to England’s 29 victories with five series’ emerging as draws. It is played every two years, hosting series alternatively in the two countries. This time, it is the turn of the Aussies to play host and force England to travel Down Under for the next six weeks.While England are the on-form team at present, defending the Ashes on foreign soil will prove to be a difficult task. England have not won the Ashes in Australia since the 1986/87 series and have not won a meaningful test against the Aussies in Australia since that series.Although Australia are struggling to find their form, the Ashes may provide the impetus to ignite passion back into cricket in Australia. Australia do not want to experience the embarrassment and humiliation of being the first Aussie side to lose an Ashes series on home soil in a generation and no home side has lost an Ashes since England were thrashed in 2001. After all, to both countries, the Ashes is bigger than the World Cup.This year, England and Australia met each other in the Twenty20 final in May with England emerging comfortable victors. The two countries also played five one-day internationals in England during the summer, with England winning the first three ODIs and therefore claim the series with two ODIs remaining.The fact that Australia won the last two games this summer shouldn’t be of any significance. Australia then lost to Pakistan in two ODIs and tied a test series 1-1 while England enjoyed a very successful summer following their defeat of their fiercest rivals.England enjoyed a 2-1 defeat of Bangladesh in an ODI series and emerged victorious against Pakistan in three different series’ – 3-1 in the test series, 2-0 in the Twenty20 series and 3-2 in the ODI series. Prior to the Ashes, Australia played cricket in a more familiar setting at home against Sri Lanka and India and despite enjoying home-field advantage, they lost both series against the visitors.On the English squad is Eric Morgan. Morgan is an Irish cricketer who switched allegiance and declared to play for England. He went to school in Dublin at CUS on Leeson Street and played for Ireland at under-15, under-17 and under-19 level. He played in two under-19 World Cups for his native country and captained his nation at his second World Cup. He enjoyed his greatest success with his adopted nation when he scored an unbeaten century in a test match against Pakistan at Trent Bridge that helped England win by a grand total of 354 runs.In addition, Morgan currently plays cricket for Middlesex and has been selected for his first Ashes series. His first English cap was against Bangladesh earlier this year. When Morgan will be called upon, he will be batting for England in the middle order and can be a dangerous weapon that Australia have never faced before. While cricket may be alien to many Irish people and following England at any sport even more so, Morgan will surely have the support of every Irish cricket fan.England are captained by Andrew Strauss, while Ricky Ponting is Austalia’s skipper. The series could come down to these two men. Both are excellent batsmen but many agree that Strauss is the better captain and his cool head and consistent batting will be needed if England are to successfully defend the Ashes. Strauss has thrived since being appointed captain and the added pressure has had a galvanising effect, which cannot be said for previous England captains with Michael Vaughn a prime example.This is the most open Ashes in living memory. If England can win the five-game series or even tie it and thus successfully defend it, it could be the biggest news over the Christmas break. Look for the series to go down to the wire with the fifth test scheduled to take place from January 3rd to 7th in Sydney.