about the cricket: I can't help myself

Sorry, I can't help myself...

England are on the verge of defeating Australia in the fourth Test to go 2-1 up in the 5 match series...For those not familiar with the game of cricket, I should explain why I'm staying up to watch the drama of the Test unfold.

Australia have been nailing - and I mean nailing - England since 1987. Yes that's right folks, for 17 long and quite miserable years, England have failed to beat Australia in the Ashes series. Not even draw a series. And how we English have suffered. It's one thing to be an Englishman in New York, or Seattle for that matter - all very quaint and most pleasant on the whole - but it is quite another to be sorry pomme in Sydney...more like a lamb to the slaughter as I think back to the days when I spent a summer the great city of New South Wales. There was not a day where I was not reminded by some smart-Alec-cocky-Aussie about how England's performance against Australia was like watching an asthmatic ant carrying a heavy bag of shopping (as Atkinson would put it).

'Pathetic', 'feeble', 'paltry', 'hopeless', 'shameful', 'disgraceful' and 'humiliating'. Words woven into the cricketing vocabulary when describing England's accomplishments against Australia during this era. Words generously dispensed to us by our Antipodean brethren.

The last 17 years have been one long trauma. A recurring nightmare of horrific proportions. Being beaten by Australia is bad enough, but just reminding myself of the following bleak facts is making me nauseous:

1989: Australia 4 England 0
1990: Australia 3 England 0
1993-1: Australia 4 England 1
1994-5: Australia 3 England 1
1997: Australia 3 England 2
1998-9: Australia 3 England 1
2001: Australia 4 England 1
2002-3: Australia 4 England 1

As some Australians will never be shy to remind a winging pomme, accumulatively, that's 28-7. That's not a 'trend', my friend, not a mere beating. England has been been well and truly and consistently and without mercy, simply annihilated in the last eight series.

I say without mercy and that may seem a little harsh...surely they have a heart those Aussies, don't they? They wouldn't crow, would they, those Australians...?

Oh yeah? How about this 'report' posted at an Australian-run cricket site written in during the last series in 2002 by Shane Dell: 'Cowardly England Crushed Again' is the title of the delightful piece. No mercy at all, my friend.

And so fast forward, to the eve of what could be a truly momentous day for the long suffering. Not only might England actually make it impossible for Australia to win their ninth Ashes series on the trot against England, but actually beat their masters.

Earlier tonight Kate and I had the pleasure of joining some friendly neighbours for a drink and nibbles, a few folk were there. As I was minding over a glass of red I heard an Australian accent from across the room. It was ever so faint, my ears pricked. I was sure it was Australian. I wanted it to be Australian. I looked over and started imagining one of those hats with hanging corks on his head and a Fosters in his hand. And khaki shorts. I asked my wife if he was, and she informed me, to my regret, that he was in fact from New Zealand. The hat, corks and shorts vanished, and so did my desire to go over to him and gloat like a silly little boy.

But they've not given up yet. As Justin Langer writes:

"For two days England have shaken us around like a dog with a rag doll in its mouth.

But as we have shown in the last few weeks, there is plenty of fight in that rag doll when we have ripped ourselves out of the jaws of our opponent."

Brave talk.

Now, I realise we haven't won yet, and it all could go horribly pear-shaped. But you see, I know how much an Australian hates (well, most of them) to be beaten by the pompous English. It riles and incenses them. Remember the Rugby World Cup? Losing to the English not only is something they detest, they've also forgotten to know what it's like to lose to us at cricket. And with all the grief they've liberally applied over the years, this win will be so very sweet.

So if you are an Aussie, I warn you ahead of time. If we meet in the next few weeks I'll try not to mention it. I will try not to gloat. But if I do, forgive me, and try to remember that we haven't won in such a long time that we've forgotten how to behave we do win ;-)