Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Make the Most of This Because England Could Soon Be on a Sticky Wicket Again

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Make the Most of This Because England Could Soon Be on a Sticky Wicket Again

Article excerpt

Byline: 49 Dan Jones

ANDY MURRAY, who beat his nemesis Novak Djokovic this week having previously lost to him eight times on the bounce took the opportunity to reflect on the tennis gods' lurching mood swings when he said: "Things can get better very quickly and they can get worse very quickly in sport."

Murray has seen a lot in his life: he has been a champ, a chump and everything in between. When he talks it is worth listening. And in this instance, his words resonated far beyond tennis.

For nowhere has the Murray maxim been better illustrated in recent months (and years) than by the England Test cricket team.

Starting tomorrow at The Kia Oval, England have a decent chance of wrapping up the 2015 Ashes 4-1. To do so would be an unbelievably large and dribbly raspberry in the face of almost everyone among us who felt sure that Alastair Cook's men would endure a hiding from Australia this summer.

It would also be an unprecedented cricketing achievement. Only four England sides have managed to win four or more Tests in an Ashes series before and none were at home.

Mike Brearley's men won 5-1 during the Packer-depleted tour of 1978-79; Douglas Jardine's Bodyline boys came home 4-1 winners in 1932-33 but were not universally celebrated for it; in 1928-29 a formidable side featuring Jack Hobbs, Wally Hammond and Harold Larwood won 4-1; a much younger Hobbs played alongside Wilf Rhodes in a side which did the same thing in 1911-12.

In the interest of fairness, we should say that the Aussies have won four or more in a series on 15 occasions, including three 5-0 whitewashings. But let the point stand: if Cook's team do unto the opposition what they did at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge, then at some point between now and next Tuesday they will have made history.

This is not to say that England are yet a great side and there is no guarantee that they will grow up to become one, despite the reformed captaincy of Cook, the youthful peerlessness of Joe Root, a crunchy lower-middle order featuring Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Moeen Ali and an often unplayable swing bowling attack. …

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