On the sporting field, the Poms are the enemy – just ask my Dad.
He put me to bed with stories of great Ashes battles.
Names like Lillee, Thompson, the Chappells, Taylor, Hayden, Ponting, Warne, McGrath, Gilchrist and Alderman filled my childhood. He even told me about the ‘Lambs to the Slaughter’ disaster of 78/79, when all the best players went to World Series Cricket and Graham Yallop captained a depleted test side. Rodney Hogg took 41 wickets, but we still lost the Ashes 5-1.
So, I grew up learning that the names Botham, Brearley, Cowdrey, Willis, Underwood, Gatting, Flintoff, Pietersen, and of course Tufnell and Panesar, were the names of the old enemy.
It’s funny, because from all accounts, England is a wonderful place. It just must be something about their cricketers.
This is my first Ashes Test live and Boxing Day makes it extra special.
Dad and I sit on level 1 of the MCC Reserve, about 15 rows back, at fine leg (for a left hander). We’re settled in as the morning drinks break comes to an end.
The crowd around is buzzing, the atmosphere louder and prouder than years before. This game unites us, brings us together as one nation fighting our common enemy – the Motherland.
Like a child trying to prove something to their parents.
The Ashes are secured, the urn has returned, but our nation remains invested.
We’re here for a whitewash, but it seems England has other ideas.
They’ve lifted; their intensity, their spirits, their batting and bowling, forcing Australia onto the back foot.
For the first time in the series, our tail didn’t wag and our batsmen played poor shots. We bowled poorly yesterday, dropped a chance and now England have their noses in front.
The first session sees the fall of Joe Root and Dawid Malan. One more wicket and we are into England’s fragile tail...
Over lunch, Dad tells me about the 1977 Centenary Test. He was 14 and went to all five days. That was 40 years ago, when cricket was more important than school.
Randall made 174, Lillee took 11 wickets, McCosker broke his jaw, Hookes belted Tony Greig for five consecutive fours to announce himself to the cricket world and Australia won by 45 runs, the exact same margin as the first ever Ashes win in 1877.
By coincidence, at the tea interval, the heroes of that 1977 Centenary Test were paraded around the ground – Lillee, Marsh, Chappell, and even McCosker (without his bandage).
The rest of tea break was spent in the MCC Library, reminiscing and reading about the Centenary Test. A Test so highly regarded and remembered, much like my memories of the Ashes stories told years before by my Dad.
The discussion then moves to the two tied Tests, both involving Australia.
The first tied Test memento is plastered on a wall near the Long Room.
It features an image of the final play of the game between Australia and the West Indies in the Brisbane Test of 1960.
There has only ever been one other tie in cricket history, again featuring Australia (v India in 1986, in Madras). Dad said it was a scorcher and Dean Jones made 210.
Our return for the next session sees us seated on level 3, outside the Frank Grey Smith Bar, where we see Bairstow out for 22 and Ali for 20. We’ve hit the tail end, but we still can’t get Cook to budge.
Smith drops Cook again and the Australian side are faltering.
We sit in silence until Dad exclaims, “We haven’t got too many ideas, have we?”
And he’s right. The pitch isn’t giving us anything either.
The only thing we know is that England’s tail struggles against our quicks. But with Mitch Starc out and Jackson Bird failing to step up to the plate, there’s not much more we can do.
After tea, Cummins breaks through with the wicket of Woakes and shortly after, Curran is caught behind off Hazlewood.
We thought the English were starting to unravel, but Cook stood solid as a rock to notch up his well-earned test double century. As we stand to applaud, Dad quietly whispers that he thinks Dean Jones’s double ton in Madras was better.
Along with Broad, England jump on top and begin a period of dominance to see out the afternoon.
Broad is then caught late by Khawaja for a hard fought 56.
The day ends in England’s control, with Cook not out on 244. Australia has a hard grind ahead, but we will keep the faith.
And while England may have some consolation, the urn is already back where it rightfully belongs.